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Wing Commander Review

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It is the year 2654 and an interstellar war is raging between the Terran Confederation and the cat-like alien Kilrathi. Christopher Blair (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and Todd Marshall (Matthew Lillard) are cocky young pilots assigned to the small merchant ship

★★★★★

When Mark Hamill - star of the interactive PC games series upon which this is based - won't turn up for the film spin-off, you have to wonder whether the Force is with you. As it turns out, this latest sci-fi dust-up 'twixt vicious alien horde and a mismatched cadre of doughty human types isn't that bad.

While aboard the freighter of grizzled merchant Taggart (Karyo), two newly qualified pilots Christopher Blair (Prinze Jr.) and Todd Marshall (Lillard) are seconded to courier crucial information of a Kilrathi assault massing against Earth, arrive on a Confederation battle cruiser Tiger Claw, and are swiftly drawn into the last-ditch vanguard of defiance.

There's a tasty war feel here - while purportedly 27th century, all craft have an agreeably industrial and functional look and you can almost smell the oily grit in the fighter bays. In fact, the movie's best credentials come from being steeped in history: opening credits fill in a background story of man's pilgrimage across the stars, battle sequences evoke World War II dogfights and (as the badly wounded Tiger Claw holds its breath while a patrolling Kilrathi bomber tracks overhead) director Roberts pulls the scene straight from a claustrophobic submarine thriller.

Playing up the military angle is the best move, but this and some excellent incidental effects can't completely disguise the shortcomings, namely Prinze Jr. unable to cope with a ham-laden script, the rather faceless enemy (removing much of the peril) and what appears to be a spot of butchery in the cutting room.

Not quite the disaster it might have been, but hardly Star Wars either.

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