Wing Commander (film)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

As part of the agreement between Electronic Arts and Chris Roberts, in regards to the departure of the latter from the former, he was given contractual permission to make a movie based on the Wing Commander franchise. In 1998, the result was released to the public.

New pilots Christopher Blair (Freddie Prinze Jr) and his best friend/rival Todd "Maniac" Marshall (Matthew Lillard) are assigned to the TCS Tiger Claw [sic] as the Kilrathi fleet prepares to mount a massive assault on Sol Sector, using navigational information gained in a raid on a major Terran Confederation naval base. Time is short for Admiral Tolwyn (David Warner) to mount a defense, and the Tiger Claw is ordered to buy them more time. Whilst integrating with the Claw's flight wing, led by Jeannette "Angel" Devereaux (Saffron Burrows), Blair finds himself fighting some of the most crucial battles of the war--and trying to keep secret the fact that he's half "Pilgrim," a sub-species of humans subject to Fantastic Racism.

The movie did not fare very well in theatres: it is a Video Game Movie, which didn't help its general reception, and its departures from the video-game canon drew ire from some fans. Roberts has not directed a film since (though he has found work as a producer), and whether coincidentally or not the video game line drew to a close by the end of the decade.

Tropes used in Wing Commander (film) include:

  • Adaptation Dye Job: Maniac started out, in the game series, with darker hair. While the jump to Full Motion Video kept close to that with Tom Wilson, in the movie he was depicted as blond.
  • Artificial Gravity: Done in such a way that it affected objects even as they left the ship, as long as they were within a few meters of it. Caused many a cry of Ruined FOREVER when a wrecked fighter is pushed off the flight deck, causing it to "fall" off the edge into space. To be fair, the Artificial Gravity is at least consistently shown to affect objects leaving the flight deck that way.
  • Artistic License Military: Commander Gerald goes with the Marines on their raid against the Kilrathi Command And Control ship, citing his distrust of Blair and Taggart leading the raid. Never mind that he's the commanding officer of the Claw at this point, and really should not be abandoning his post.
    • Not to mention several pilots going on the raid as well, despite the fact that, well, pilots typically just don't do that sort of thing, just like how Marines don't tend to fly fighters. [1]
  • Asteroid Thicket: The Ulysses Corridor
  • The Battlestar: TCS Tiger Claw is a carrier that is capable of fighting enemy capital ships toe to toe, but anything from a cruiser on up is considered long odds. She relies on her fighter wing to keep the fight away from her.
    • Admiral Tolwyn's flagship, the TCS Concordia, is indicated to be a straight example of this trope in the Novelization, described as a Supercruiser.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Averted. See The Cavalry.
  • The Cavalry: Subverted. Admiral Tolwyn's fleet manages to get to Sol System before the Kilrathi do, and take up orbit over Venus to await the Kilrathi arrival. When Blair arrives in Sol System pursued by a Kilrathi Cruiser, Tolwyn can't send any ships to help Blair without tipping off the Kilrathi to the presence of the Enigma Sector Fleet in Sol System. Even considering that their non-intervention will leave the Kilrathi cruiser free to open fire on Earth, the cost of springing their trap early before the Kilrathi fleet had stepped into it would be much worse. Blair's broadcasting the Kilrathi fleet's intended jump coordinates does allow Tolwyn to move his fleet into position to wail on the Kilrathi as they are forced to make the jump one ship at a time.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Beacon 147 in the outer reaches of the Sol System.
    • If you look closely, you can see the distinctive chain from Taggart's Pilgrim's Cross hanging from his neck through the entire movie.
  • Classical Mythology: Quite a few references throughout the plot to The Odyssey
  • Coming in Hot: Complete with the crashed fighter being pushed off the edge of the deck and falling into the ocean, er, space
  • Creator Cameo: "Welcome to Sol Sector."
  • Curb Stomp Battle: The Kilrathi attack on Ulysses Station in the beginning of the film as well as Enigma Sector Fleet's ambush of the Kilrathi fleet in Sol System in the film's climax.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Used in reference to a rather dangerous but impressive example of hotdog flying by one of the pilots.

Rosie: It was Better Than Sex.
Angel: Bullshit.
Rosie: It was better than sex with myself.

  • Deflector Shields: Though they only hold up to so much punishment for the Tiger Claw, given that she isn't designed to get that up close and personal with enemy ships. These shields appear impervious to torpedoes, and the shields must be down for either the ship to launch torpedoes or for enemy torpedoes to hit them. Much of the anti-ship tactics in the film revolve around either timing their shots just right, or goading the enemy into lowering their shields somehow.
  • Delaying Action: The Tiger Claw's primary mission in the film, harassing and delaying the Kilrathi fleet by whatever means possible so Admiral Tolwyn can make up the few hours he needs to be in position.
  • Don't Think, Feel
  • Fantastic Racism: against the Pilgrims.
  • Finish Him!: Give him a broadside, Mr Gerald!
  • God Help Us All: During the film's opening montage, which is capped with an audio snippet of the president of the Terran Confederation informing the Senate that all attempts at a peaceful resolution with the Kilrathi have failed:

It is my sad duty to inform you... that as of six AM this morning, we are formally at war with the Kilrathi. God help us all.

  • Highly-Conspicuous Uniform: The Confederation Marines wear red armored suits.
  • Hollywood Evolution
  • Hollywood Tactics: Most noticeable in the broadside scene. Why did the Kilrathi cruiser let an enemy ship with such a crippling broadside attack get close enough to bring it to bear. Why didn't the Claw simply bring the missiles to bear sooner instead of letting the cruiser get so close? Why drop the shields if you weren't going to launch the torpedoes immediately? Most importantly: Why does a carrier have a broadside missile battery while a cruiser, dedicated to fighting other capital ships, evidently does not?
  • Holographic Terminal
  • In the Blood: Pilgrims' navigational talents
  • Live Action Adaptation: Based on a series of computer games.
  • Membership Token: Blair and Taggart's Pilgrim Crosses, not to mention The class ring. Annapolis, Class of 1942
    • The novelization takes this further, with the Pilgrim Crosses also eventually identifying the traitors: Admiral Wilson and Captain Sansky.
  • The Mole: Cut from the film due to poor test audience response. Instead we just have lots of Fantastic Racism and unexplained system failures that lead one to believe that Confed's ships are definitely built by the lowest bidder.
    • Revealed in the Novelization to be Captain Sansky, working for Admiral Wilson.
  • New Meat
  • Nom De Guerre: Maniac, Maverick, Angel, Iceman, Paladin, etc. Most of the characters are fighter pilots after all.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Inverted Trope. Anyone who dies is said to be forgotten, and mention of their name actually forbidden.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: Averted and played straight in the same scene, when the hangar bay was depressurizing due to damage from an attack. Blair plays it straight, when he grabs an item on the deck to stop his being sucked out into space, without any obvious discomfort or injuries. Maniac's rush towards the vacuum is stopped by a cable tied around his waist and held at the other end by other pilots. The sudden stop when the cable that was tied around his midsection catches makes him visibly wince in pain, and afterwards he's shown with bandages wrapped around his waist, where the cable bit into him.
  • People in Rubber Suits: The Kilrathi. However, Chris Roberts has never liked the appearance of any of the Kilrathi, from any source. Sources (i.e. rumors circulating on-line) say that the Kilrathi costumes actually were very imposing when allowed to stand to their full height, but cramped sets meant they spent the movie hunched at the waist and shoulders, resulting in their less-than-impressive final appearance.
  • Planar Shockwave: from destroyed Kilrathi capships, and they look pretty freaking awesome. Also from a Skipper missile near the end of the movie, but this time Angel tries to Outrun A Fireball which is less tall than her ship is, instead of, say, pulling up a few meters.
  • Poor Communication Kills: What turns Beacon 147 from a warning to pure High Octane Schmuck Bait.
  • Race Against the Clock: With the loss of the Vega Sector Fleet, the door is open for the Kilrathi fleet to move on to attack Earth. Admiral Tolwyn's Enigma Sector Fleet, moving at top speed, will arrive a few hours too late to intervene. The Tiger Claw's mission is to delay the Kilrathi fleet to buy as much time as possible for Tolwyn to get in position.
  • Right in Front of Me: Blair is sitting in the cockpit of a Rapier, when a woman suddenly standing next to the ship quizzes him on his dogfighting skills with a couple hypothetical scenarios. She is brutally honest in explaining why Blair's responses would only get him killed, leading to the following:

DEVEREAUX: What's wrong, Lieutenant? Did I bruise your ego?
BLAIR: No, it's just that I'm not used to getting combat advice from a grease-monkey.
DEVEREAUX: [introducing herself] Commander Devereaux, Lieutenant. Your wing commander.

  • Rule of Cool: The reason for using Artificial Gravity to make the Tiger Claw work like an ocean-bound aircraft carrier. Is it the most sensible way to operate an aircraft carrier in space? Goodness no, but it's entertaining to watch.
  • Shout-Out: Quite a few to The Odyssey, evidently the Pilgrims who named everything were fans of the Classics.
  • Silent Running Mode: Via Stealth in Space. Ships, from small fighters up to entire fleets of capital ships, try to avoid detection by shutting down all non-essential power systems and getting as close as they can to asteroids, debris, or planets (in the case of the aforementioned fleet). Works to varying degrees depending on how close the enemy gets.
    • At one point the submarine metaphor is played to the hilt when the Tiger Claw is hiding in a crater on an asteroid, and the Kilrathi ships are methodically dropping warheads into every crater of the asteroid to try and smoke them out.
      • Not only that, but the Tiger Claw is at the moment being commanded by the captain of the U-96. And the Kilrathi sensors are, for some reason, going *PING!*.
  • Space Does Not Work That Way: Ships perform jumps by going through gravity anomalies, pulsars, and quasars. For reference, a quasar is the center of a massive galaxy with a supermassive black hole. Apparently, the writers just figured "pulsar" and "quasar" sounded cool.
  • Space Is an Ocean: And space carriers are submarines.
  • Take a Third Option: Suggested by Rosie, after Maniac introduces himself and Blair to Tiger Claw's pilots in the rec room. The first option is that the new pilots and the old pilots get into a brawl. The second option is that they instead share a friendly bottle of scotch. Rosie's proposed third option? Kick the new pilots' asses, then drink their scotch.
  • Tim Taylor Technology: Played to its logical conclusion: Several of Tolywn's ships suffer catastrophic meltdowns from running their engines too hard in the push to get in position to defend Earth. Upon being informed of this, he orders the ships to raise their engine output again.
  • Vindicated By Video: Wing Commander was a bomb at the box office, but video rental income has made good the production costs, and given its regular airing on cable channels (particularly non-US ones) even has something of a genuine fandom.[2]
  1. Unless you're watching Space: Above and Beyond anyways.
  2. as opposed to a So Bad It's Good one