Wing Commander
INVASION. 1997
Director: Armand Mastroianni

WING COMMANDER. 1999
Director: Chris Roberts

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Invasion The unoriginal idea for the telefilm Invasion (1997) is part Andromeda Strain (1971) & part Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 1978), but the execution is just plain dumb.

Originally aired in three parts, on dvd it runs a little shy of three hours. The only interesting thing was seeing how the folks involved with this fiasco could make a super-long & tedious science fiction epic without having to waste money on special effects.

Any scene that might have required FX gets, instead, a close up of a pile of dirt, people walking slowly, or the camera lingering on small black rocks supposedly from outer space.

I admit I weary of films that are all FX & no story, but this one has neither FX nor story. And the set designs make Ed Wood's sets look artful.

The director, mostly responsible for tv episodes, lacked anything resembling a vision. The screenplay was by one of the authors for the much more imaginative Farscape series, but for Invasion, humdrum "stars" like Luke Perry, Kim Cattrall, & Rebecca Gayheart could do nothing with the potboiler dialogue. And author Robin Cook should be ashamed to have had his name all over this dorky mess.



An effectively butch space opera, Wing Commander (1999) structures its interiors of spaceships to resemble the sets for submarine movies. Having Jurgen Prochnow of Das Boot (1981) signal in the support cast underscores this resemblance. Outer space is animated with a certain degree of realism to give the impression of naval battleships & airforce bombers transformed into spaceships.

Wing CommanderBomber pilot 1st Lieutenant Christopher Blair (Freddie Prinze, Jr., supplanting Mark Hammill who "stars" in the earlier game versions) is the orphaned son of a Pilgrim mother. The Pilgrims, a nearly extinct race of humans, were the first settlers in space five hundred years prior, but were eventually eradicated in the space wars.

The vanished Pilgrims are remembered in part as a heroic race, but also deplored for having come to think of themselves as superior to ordinary men. Chris Blair takes considerable guff & lack of trust because "Pilgrims didn't think like we do."

The Pilgrims had a genetic distinction that made them able to pilot ships through black holes & quasars, an ability Chris will discover in himself, sufficient to save Earth from the pending invasion.

His best friend is Lieutenant Todd "Maniac" Marshall (Matthew Lillard) who provides the pure "Top Gun" cliche character of happy-go-lucky hotshot pilot. Chris's wing commander is Lt. Commander Angel Devereau (Saffron "Chinny Chin Chin" Burrows), who provides most but not all the Girl Heroics as the film wanted future-war to be egalitarian, as otherwise war could be a bad thing rather than so darned much fun.

Wing CommanderWe see too little is Tcheky Karyo as the old warhorse Commander James "Paladin" Taggart, the father figure of the piece whose moody stoicism lends a degree of seriousness to the film whenever he appears on screen.

Having been based on a video game, the plot is super simple: Important information has to be gotten across the galaxy regarding the Enemy Plans for arrival in the Sol system. With this information, the evil conquering aliens can be picked off video game style.

Chris's Pilgrim ability is Earth's salvation, then it's a deep space shoot-out for climax, ending with our 1st Lieutenant hero & the Lieutenant Commander heroine's romantic kiss, which should get the commander in considerable trouble hatching a romance with one of the men she commands, taboo in the armed forces.

There's nothing imaginative about Wing Commander. It very simply assumes the main thing human beings will be doing in space is killing aliens that look like cat-costumes from the Broadway production of The Lion King, but lit with spooky green lights lest they look friendly. Yet it's an entertaining sci-fi war flick, even if largely a cheapo Star Wars knock-off for children, a tiny speck darker than children's films usually are.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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