A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wing Commander is a 1999 sci-fi movie with clichéd characters and a slow-moving, hard-to-follow story line. Characters talk of sex and masturbation, make innuendoes during (clothed) post-coital cuddling, and debate whether or not testosterone or estrogen make one a better fighter pilot. Profanity is used fairly often: "son of a bitch," "bulls--t," and "piss," among other expletives. A newly arrived fighter pilot tries endearing himself to those around him by breaking out a bottle of scotch; characters drink and act drunk. There is sci-fi violence: battles between spaceships, between laser-gun-toting humans and aliens, and some blood and death. The only redeeming aspect to this movie is that women are strong leaders who display as much (if not more) courage and valor than men, unlike in so many sci-fi and war-themed movies in which women are little more than damsels in distress.
What's the story?
It's the 27th century, and the Terran Confederacy is at war with the Kilrathi Empire. Two fighter pilots, Christopher Blair (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and "Maniac" Marshall (Matthew Lillard), have just arrived on the starfighter carrier TCS Tiger Claw. The Kilrathi have taken a NAVCOM unit with jump coordinates that will send them right on a path to destroy the Earth. Since reinforcements can't arrive in time, it's up to the Tiger Claw to find a way to stop the Kilrathi. Marshall also must learn to curb his excessive cockiness, especially when his actions endanger other pilots, and Blair must contend with those who fear and distrust him because he is half-"Pilgrim," a descendant of the very first explorers to colonize the Earth. They face long odds, but there is no other way but for the Tiger Claw to fight back and save mankind.
Is it any good?
WING COMMANDER is a bad mix of clichéd characters, slow-paced and hard-to-follow action, and gratuitous sex talk. It's difficult to feel much involvement with the story when "the bad guys" aren't really shown until the last half hour or so of the movie and "the good guys" aren't especially likable. It's also difficult to feel much fear for said bad guys when they look like giant cats walking on their hind legs while talking in the same voice as a source who wishes to remain anonymous during an investigative news segment.
There's just not much to care about here, even with the world at stake. This is the classic example of a movie that tries to do too much with too little. Time that could have been spent in space battles is wasted on attempts at love or romance or to preach about how wrong it is to hate someone based on his or her heritage. And instead of a sci-fi story, what emerges is a lot of complicated space talk and gadgetry along with basic archetypal characters we've all seen so many times (the "cocky flyboy," the "misfit with something to prove") that the result is a confusing mess.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies based on video games and other forms of entertainment. Why do you think movies that are based on popular video games, toys, theme-park rides, and the like are made?
Does the talk of sex seem relevant to the overall story, or does it feel as if it was put in to try to keep the story interesting?
Which similarities and differences do you see between this and other sci-fi movies?
- In theaters: March 12, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: August 6, 2013
- Cast: Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, Saffron Burrows
- Director: Chris Roberts
- Studio: Starz Media
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Sexual references and sci-fi action/violence.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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