First Starlog I See Tonight

The Dude has struck again, this time bringing us pictures and an article from the March issue of Starlog magazine -- which features a Wing Commander cover! Check it out, new pictures are at the bottom. Thanks, Dude, you rule!
   Is it science fiction? Is it a war movie? Is it a CD-ROM game? Actually, Wing Commander is all three - a big-screen futuristic war film based on the bestselling series of computer games created by Chris Roberts. And fans of Wing Commander will be happy to know that the game is being brought to life for moviegoers by a director who thoroughly understands the source material - Roberts himself. The game designer-turned film director promises that Wing Commander will evoke classic war movies.

Those space war games shift from computer to the big screen.
By Kim Howard Johnson

   "I wanted to have something that felt like Das Boot in space," says Roberts. "There were some scenes I wanted in the movie that were the equivalent of Das Boot's depth-charging scene. I was trying very much to make a classic World War II movie, but update it and set it in space, so things that you see will register with you on a subconscious level, but instead of destroyers at sea or a submarine stuck at the bottom of the ocean, it's all in space."
   Many CD-ROM games cannot be effectively adapted to the big screen, but produce Todd Moyer says the cinematic elements of the Wing Commander game have made the transition much easier. The most ofmidable task they faced was in constructing a story out of the many hours of material in the game. "Our biggest challenge was trying to make the game into a cohesive, satisfying story that will work in two hours," says Moyer, "We don't have 20 hours to tell the story."

Under Wing

   Wing Commander focuses on Christopher Blair (Freddie Prinze Jr.), a pilot fresh out of the Academy who harbors a dark secret. Carrying an encoded message about a Kilrathi invasion, Blair, with his comrades Maniac (Matt Lillard), Deveraux (Saffron Burrows) and his commander, Paladin (Tcheky Karyo), join together as the Confederatino forces mobilize to defeat the alien forces.
   Kevin Droney and Mike Finch wrote the screenplay, based on Roberts' instructions. "I had a rough outline of the kind of story I wanted to tell," says Roberts, "the feeling of the movie and the characters. I wanted to go back and tell the story of Blair and Maniac and their first tour of duty - which is more or less what happens in the first game, but the story's different and it's obviously more cinematically set."
   Besides raising the Wing Commander bar, there were many new story elements that needed to be worked into the script, particularly in such a futuristic film. "One of the biggest problems with science fiction, especially where we jump from one area of space to another, is that there are many big concepts to get your mind around, and it's difficult to get that across," says Roberts, "We spent a fair amount of time trying to figure that out, while also retaining the human element. We have this group of young pilots, and I really wanted to feel the effect of the war on them and how the respond to it."
   Roberts asserts that credit aside, his was a strong voice in screenplay development. "Like any movie nowadays, there's much more that goes into a story than just the accredited screenwriters' work. We had a couple of guys, for example, who came on and did the dialogue polish. I was heavily involved with the writing process at one point. When I sat down to rehearse with the actors, we would go in and work through scenes, and stuff that didn't seem right or natural to them, we would change it around or work it so they felt really comfortable with what their characters were saying."
   Wing Commander's characters have argubaly made the game a success - something Roberts clearly wants to carry over into the film. "When Wing Commander first came out, I knew it was going to work when I went online and saw people talking about all the different Wingmen they were flying with," says Roberts. "They would say, 'Oh, Maniac is such a dick. I hate him, talking about them like regular people, rather than, 'Oh, you want to take this character because he's much better in this kind of mission.' They were talking about their personalities. I realized this connects with people, so in Wing Commander II, we took the storytelling aspect to another level and started playing with people's emotional responses. That improves from game to game, and also translated well across the big screen."
   Although later Wing Commander games featured live-action footage, none of it was incorporated into the feature. In fact, with the exception of the storyline, the moviemakers completley ignored the CD-ROM games. "There are story elements of the games in the film," says Moyer, "and of course there are also Kilrathi, the aliens loosely based on a large cat, but from a design standpoint, everything is fresh," says the producer. "We didn't take any shots [from the CD-ROMs]. Because we're making a movie, we have a greater amount of time and can pay much more attention to detail. Of course, the visual effects have to be of much higher resolution. It's a whole different level of quality and attention to detail."
   Moyer adds that there are some really terrific advantages in having Roberts, creator of the Wing Commander games, direct the film, but notes the importance of remembering the tremendous differences in the two media. "It's an advantage to have the same creative force behind the movie, and so we're trying to bring it up to a higher level. It's not that the video games aren't great, but its' the difference between having just 54 days to shoot a two hours film, as opposed to 35 days to shoot 20 hours' worth of live-action footage."

Winging It

   Principle photography took place in Luxembourg, where the unit constructed the flight deck and bridge of the Confederation carrier Tiger Claw, the bridge of the merchantman Diligent and the bridge of the alien Kilrathi capital ship. Luxembourg was an idael shooting locale, as it offered few disadvantages to shooting - and significant financial plusses. "Luxembourgh worked out fairly well. The only slightly challenging thing is that they don't have the same sort of infrastructure that London or LA has," says Roberts. "Many of our crew were from London. If we had to get equiptment, we would bring it in from Germany or London. But we were shooting becasue of tax rasons, and it helped with our production values."
   Roberts' own company, Digital Anvil, is heavily involved with the Wing Commander FX. "Digital Anvil is doing all of the 3-D work, and this movie is entirely digital, whic means that we dno't have any practical models of spaceships or anything," says Roberts, "What we did in the case of the Rapiers, the fighters that the good guys fly, was build six full-size ones that we shot with over in Europe. We brought a digital artist out and he measured them and took photos and textured it, so it's basically a digital version of the real ones we had. We built physical models of all the ships and then we modeled them into digital form and used photographic reference for our textures. I think the digital models look quite close to the real ones.
   "We really went out of our way to do everything digital in this movie, because there's stuff you can do digitally that you can't do with model photography in terms of moves that planes do, the number of elements in one shot, being right in the middle of an explosion or just feeling some of the action and dynamics. You're limited when you're using miniatures, because you wear this motion control rig, and your camera always has physical imitations of where you can put the lens and how close you can get to the model. We tried to push what was good about digital, which really lets you go anywhere you want and so we got some dogfighting and space battles that you haven't seen before in a movie."
   The majority of the FX in Wing Commander invovle CGI, as well as green- and blue-screen shots. "There's a tremendous amount [of such work] in nearly every shot. And we have 300 shots" notes Moyer.
   One of the most innovateive of these effectsis the Time Slice sequence, which involves a series of 60 cameras placed in a 120-arc around the subject, allowing the crew to take two seconds worth of footage moving around the action that's esentially frozen in space. Though a similar effect has been seen in TV commercials, it hasn't been succesfully utlized yet in a theatrical feature. "When I was in pre-production, you didn't see it everywhere, and I haven't seen it in features yet," says Roberts. "There was a bad attempt in Lost in Space, but that's very different from what we're doing."
   "There are about three points in this movie where people go through jump points. In the Wing Commander Universe, you can't go faster than light. You go through faults in space called jump points, and as you go through a fault in space, everyone freezes in time, and so af the time we started pre-production, it seemed like a really grat effect. The sequence itself works quite well -- the closer they get to the jump, everything is shaky and it's all going to hell in a handbasket. Then as soon as they breach the jump, bam! It's like everyone is frozen and it's sort of serene."
   Wing Commander features a variety of space-ships designed for the film, including the Rapier starfighters launched from the Tiger Claw, and other human and Kilrathi vessels. "My favorites are probably the Rapiers, just becasue I love the look of them. There's some cool stuff, and I hope audiences are impressed by it as well," says Roberts. "Peter Lamont and his art department did a lot of design work on the ships, and they came up with some great looks influenced by World War II stuff. These ships aren't your standard star destroyers!"
   Roberts is fairly happy with the aliens, cat-like Kilrathi, although given a larger budget, he might have realized them in another way. "There are always problems dealing with people in suits. If I had my druthers - and a bigger budget - I probably would have done them digitally. But I didn't, and I thought Animated Extras did a really good job. There are inherent problems with putting somebody in a suit when a Kilrathi is 8 feet tall, so you have to build them up and move them aroudn the sets. It's always difficult to get a guy in a suit that tall to move as lively as a cat, which is where digital work comes in very nicely. But generally they look good. I wanted the Kilrathi to look scarier and meaner than they did in the games, where they were a little too cute. I wanted design elements that were evocative of a cat, but also pretty nasty and vicious."

Stretching Wings

   What about the human element of Wing Commander? Roberts believes Prinze was the perfect choice to play Blair. "We were looking for some young actors, and we were looking at the current crop. Obviously, Freddie's a good actor, but there was a nice cross of vulnerability, likeability and a slightly cocky edge. Plus, he's nto terribly bad-looking! He brings a nice empathy to the role. I think he's one of the more talented up-and-coming actors out there. You'll be seeing him over the next three or four years."
   Roberts also has nothing but praise for the rest of his ensemble cast, a mixture ofyouth and experience. "The nice thing about doing this kind of movie is that it's an ensemble piece, with a group of young actors - including Burrows and Lillard - and some older character actors, like Jurgen Prochnow, David Suchet and David Warner - a nice, eclectic cast. And it was great that Fox was behind that, rather than telling us to cast a star here or there. In this kind of a movie, the story and the effects seem to be the major stars. Sometimes if you put a major star in there, he can get in the way of getting totally immersed in that universe - like seeing Ted Danson in Saving Private Ryan, Danson as Sam Malone from Cheers instead of as a Captain in the U.S. Airborne. But it depends on the role."
   None of the CD-ROM game's cast members were employed in the film, in part to give the film its own identity, but also because most of the game's actors were simply too old, Roberts notes. "I felt like I was going to a different medium, so I wanted to start at the beginning," he says. "It's really like adapating a popular series of books. If you start with the third in the series, people say, 'I really don't know these characters. Where did they come from?' The movie goes back to the roots of Wing Commander I, where Maniac and Blair are in their early 20s and fresh out of the Academy. That's very different from Tom Wilson and Mark Hamill, who were playing charcters that came later in the games, who had already gone through 10 years of war. Just by the nature of the timeline and going back to the beginning, I really couldn't use the people that I had used in the games, because you're not going to buy Mark Hamill as a 20-year-old anymore. There was a certain amount of sadness involved in doing that, but if you're reaching out to a new audience, you need to start at the beginning."
   The director did contact Malcolm McDowell about reprising his game role as Admiral Tolwyn, but scheduling difficulties prohibited his return. McDowell's Time After Time co-star, David Warner, plays the part instead.
   "Because the Admiral was an older figure in the games, I felt like Malcolm could get away with it, but it unfortunatly didn't end up working out because he had a commitment to do Fantasy Island," says Roberts.

In the Wings

   Designer Peter (Titanic) Lamont helped add to Wing Commander's production values, "The one thing you get with somebody like Peter is: He has been a production designer for a logn time on many great movies, and he has this bank of knoweldge and ways to get things done. If you're a first or second time production designer, you just haven't been there. You're not able to say, 'This is how we did it on this film.' For the money we had, he did a spectacular job. He made it look so much bigger and expensive than he had a right to, especially having just come off Titanic, where he had a budget that was significantly bigger. He added a lot to the scale and scope of the prodution," Roberts says.
   For his cinematographer, the director tapped Thierry Arbogast of The Fifth Element. "I've been a big fan of Thierry because I loved Luc Bsson's movies like La Femme Nikita and The Professional, and I wanted someone who was going to bebold and give me a colorful look," Roberts explains, "I wanted a look in this movie that would make it stand apart from other SF movies. Star Wars was very bright and '70s, Star Trek is sort of clean with clean lines while the aliens are dark and grungy, and ALIENS is dark and grungy. Iwanted to stay away from those three big science fiction franchises and give Wing Commander its own identity. We're seeing a lot of space on the Hubble Telescope photos, and since we're going with the World War II look and the submarine motif, I wanted a colorful look to the film."
   Roberts gave costumer Magali Guidasci the same guidance he gave his other department heads, and was very impressed with the results. "It's the same kind of stuff I did with Peter," says Robsers. "I sat her down and said I wanted this retro feel. They're wearing their flight suits, but I almost wanted to feel like they're stepping out of their sptfire saying, "Tally-ho!" I like things that are more to do with texture and detail than 20 different swatches of color on a uniform. She went off and did some great designs."
   According to Roberts, the disappointing box-office performance fo Starship Troopers is unlikely to have a negative effect on Wing Commander. "We're not a huge, high-profile $100 million movie," says Roberts. "This movie doesn't have to do $200 million at the box office to be a hit. There's a strong audience of SF fans that go to see space warfare films, and if it's decent science fiction, then you're going to do quite well. And it's not like it's a huge risk or famble - if Wing Commander does $50 million at the box office, it will probably be considered a success. Obviously, I would have liked Starship Troopers to have done more business because I could have said, 'Hey, people go and see science fiction no matter what!'"
   The director is excited about Wing Commander but admits he is a perfectionist. "I think it's pretty good, but my problem is, I'm sitting here at this stage of editing where I want everything to be perfect, and no matter what the budget is, it's not going to be 100 percent perfect," says Roberts. "There's always going to be one shot missing or something. Next time around, I would love to have more money because I could do a better job. But I think the stuff that's done at this moment is going to impress people."
   He wouldn't mind helming a second Wing Commander film, though he "would like to direct something else first. But yeah, I love movies," Chris Roberts says, "and it's a totally new medium for me to play around with. Nobody in movies knows who I am, so that's fun - I'm a sort of scrappy little kid trying something, which at one point in the games business I used to be, but I'm not anymore. I love being able to put audiences in movie seats for two hours and take 'em to another place and time!"

Closure

Well, tomorrow is going to be one kick ass Monday, I've just received word that Barnes & Noble has shipped my copy of the Confederation Handbook - the last WC book to be released. On the same tangent Amazon.com now lists the handbook (but only the handbook) as being available.

Buy This Book

Well, UPS was kind enough to deliver my copy of the Wing Commander Movie adaptation yesterday afternoon... and what can I say? It was the one of the best WC books ever, quite possibly the best.

The Good: The dedication in the book is "for the fans", and no statement could be closer to the truth - Peter Telep has done his research. Where the movie script mentions a Destroyer or a Cruiser, the book has a Ralari or a Fralthi. Where the movie brings in a character we're familiar with, the book gives us the background information we already know. Anybody who actually remembers that Boomer Marshall was a ex-marine and that he owned a charter service on Leto (Ed: WC1/2 Official Guide) gets my vote. It adds lots of other great things too, like actually giving the Kilrathi characters names and personalities. Oh, yeah, and it's a great story.

The Bad: Erm, a certain... element... of the movie that, as I understand it, was removed during post production is still in the book. I speak, of course, of Blair's wisecracking computer Merlin. I'm told that Chris Roberts removed Merlin several months ago, although this was probably too late to affect the books. Honestly the only shame is that people will be confused by him -- the book does a much better job of making Merlin less annoying than the actual script does.

Bonus!: Not convinced? *thwap*... anyway, the book includes a nifty eight page photo section featuring shots of all aspects of the movie -- including several CGI shots of various capital ships. Unfortunatly I can't scan them due to the fact that such an endeavour would involve removing them from the book, but grab a copy and see what all the buzz is about... Oh, second bonus, the last chapter of the book is a preview-of-sorts of the second book which is (unfortunately?) going to leave me wondering until Q4 1999...

The Book Saga Continues

Barnes & Noble now lists the Confederation Handbook and the Junior Movie Adaptation as being In Stock. I haven't received a ship notice yet, and I'm not sure whether or not they send things out on Saturdays, but I'll let you know when I do. Looks like the books themselves will be in our hands on either Monday or Tuesday. I, and according to the polls most of you, can't wait for that handbook...

Whetting The Appetite

I just got back from a showing of She's All That starring both Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew Lillard (Blair and Maniac in the WC movie coming soon). Some people might be turned off because She's All That appears to be aimed at teenage girls, but it really is a pretty decent, above average, movie. Watching it just reaffirmmed my belief that Prinze and Lillard will be great in the WC movie. Maybe it was the anticipation, but I had a similar feeling after She's All That to what what it's like after I finish a WC game.

Today, Junior!

If on Monday, February 1st I start acting less mature for my age (if that's possible) there's a very good reason: the Wing Commander Movie Junior Adaptation has shipped from Barnes & Noble, and will be here on Monday. No handbook yet, but it's close enough to feel it...

CIC Worldwide

Yesterday the CIC reached a bit of a milestone. Nedstats reports that 105 different "national" internet domains have visited the site. We're reading that to mean approximately 100 countries (taking into account countries with multiple domains like .net, .org, .edu, etc). Also a bit of a plug here, trivia's due before Sunday. If you haven't played yet, here's your final reminder. :) Check out the questions here.

Comes the Novel

Yep, Barnes & Noble has posted the two sweetest words in the English language: in stock. According to their web site the Wing Commander Movie novel is now available and ready to ship -- I'm giddy with anticipation waiting for my shipping notice. I'll let you know when the others come in and when they ship... Hey, bonus, they posted a blurb about the book! Check it out below... (the first one is for the guide, the second for the novel).
For fans of the wildly popular CD-ROM game and the smash movie, this handbook offers a complete guide to all aspects of the "Wing Commander" universe. Illustrations.

Fresh from training, two young officers join the ranks of a combat squadron--just as hostilities break out with an alien species. Experiencing real combat for the first time would be tough enough, but the officers face problems that could destroy the squad from within. The crew is increasingly divided on cultural lines, and the evidence mounts that someone in the unit is a traitor. As a climatic battle approaches, the officers must find the traitor and unify their crew--or see Earth be destroyed! Based on a new hit film and on the CD-ROM games.

The Novel Crisis: Update!

I got home to a very pleasant surprise - Barnes & Noble has shipped the Wing Commander Movie Adaptation, and it will arrive at the LOAF complex (read: where I keep my Admiral Ackbar stuff) tommorow! I guess I'll be spending the night following it with UPS' knifty tracking device. No word on the other two books, but they should be available very soon.

And Rotted Flesh Shall Be Their ToyFare

Mention of the Wing Commander Movie action figures in the 'Just Announced...' section of the March issue of ToyFare. There's also a picture of Mark Hamill, go figure.
An eight figure series based on the tremendously successful video game-turned-motion picture "Wing Commander" will debut in early 1999 from X-Toys, Inc, a new company headed up by ex-McFarlane Toys execs.

Desparately Seeking... Anyone

LOAF needs your help to stop him from talking in the third person! Also, he's looking for anyone with a copy of the documentation to Secret Missions for Super Nintendo, to ask a few questions for the encyclopedia project. An encyclopedia preview is in the works right now -- the topic? Confederation Capital Ships.

Belated Happy Birthdays

Well, exams are over and the CIC is back to business. Hopefully there'll be some exciting movie news any day now... over the last few days we've missed a few important birthdays - check 'em out.
January 22 - Hadrian, CIC staff member and inventer high quality natural spring water, is 17.
January 23 - Trelane, staff member who'll open up a bag of Pikachu on you if you don't wish him a happy birthday, is 18.
January 24 - Matthew Lillard, who plays Maniac Marshall in the Wing Commander Movie is 29. See him and Freddie Prinze Jr. (Chris Blair) in "She's All That", opening friday.

Double Digits

Another milestone for Trivia Game Two.. our tenth week. It's never too late to start in. You can find Week Ten Questions here.

One of Those Weeks

Not just here at the CIC, but all over things have been a bit slow this week. Slow online, but very busy for some with finals. Take a break and play Trivia if you haven't gotten a chance to do so yet. Week Nine answers are due by tomorrow (Sunday).

Massively What?

For those still debating exactly what a 'massively multiplayer Wing Commander game' is, check out this news update at PC Accelerator. It's pretty funny...

March? Maybe...

Ash over at Dan's Wing Commander Movie Chat Board posted the below excerpt from Movie Facts, which also reports that the movie will be out by March 31st. To control rumors, please note that the Kilrathi in the movie are NOT trying to destroy the universe...
Wing Commander (PG-13)Science Fiction Based on the popular video game, a young pilot joins an interstellar war to fight against evil invaders trying to destroy the universe. Stars: Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard.

WCCCG Stuffs

Well Jetlag has been keeping busy, and he's done a little rewrite of the WCCCG page. Why is the news backdated? A few problems with Netscape compatibility, but it was worth it because Mr Kat never looked so good! Check it out for the latest updates.

It's Cheaper than Actually GOING to the Movies

Well, it's official... I've received my copy of the Wing Commander Movie Script -- and verified that it's the real thing. Expect plenty of information garnered from it over the next few days...

Whence Comes the Official Site?

Dan from Dan's Wing Commander Movie site posted a note about the upcoming Official Movie site at his message board. He also notes that "if worse comes to worse" the site will go up with out the trailer -- either way, I'm excited about seeing the site.
I've been in contact with Chris Roberts nagging him about whether or not they've heard anything about the release date. When they get that the site will be up.

The official site is sorta like this one, of course, with a new kick-ass design. The way the site will work is that every week or so a new feature will be added for everyone to enjoy. (So far, I'm planning features on the special effects, the Kilrathi, the trailer, lots of new pictures, etc.) There are also some neat things on the site (like the introduction) that are cinematic-like, and will give the person who goes to the site a brief introduction to the Wing Commander story.

Score!

George Oldziey has written an article about his experience composing music for the Wing Commander Games which appears in the January issue of Film Score Monthly. This issue has been sent to subscribers, and may or may not be on the newstands yet. More information as soon as I can grab a copy...

Why We All Love Monday

Yes folks, it's Monday yet again and we all know what that means, a brand new mailbag! That's right, ace and Byydo once again deal with the issues facing the Wing Commander society in the 90's. So go read it, now.

New Chatzone Format

Well folks, our best effort to make tolerable chatzones free of personal attacks is now up. The new format may be scary, and it does require registration (which is free of course) but we believe that this will allow us to manage the boards more efficiently. But now, new chatzones! The new Fan Fiction zone will allow budding writers among you to "publish" your works, and the "Continue the story" threads that were so popular in the days of WCHS (R.I.P) can thrive again. The other new chatzone is the developers zone, where you can discuss problems, techniques, etc for the great editing tools out there such as the WCP/SO Ships converter, WCP/SO mission creator, WCPEdit, etc (sorry, I can't mention everything here) and advertise your latest editing software. Before you ask, the tools I just mentioned are in the Files Section. Check out the new chatzones here.

Sounds for the Whole Family

For your enjoyment, we've recorded a few sounds from Secret Ops for you to play on loop and annoy the whole family! Download the little collection here.

Transland!

Some of you may remember back to the days of the Origin page before EA made it suck. Those that do may also remember Transland, a little game that OSI released free thats sort of a 3D RPG type game. Now, we've recovered a copy for those who missed their chance to enjoy! It doesn't like Win95 too much, you might need moslo to slow your computer down enough, and it doesn't like some joysticks, but you can download it here, and marvel at the wonders of Woody the Polygon With Invisible Joints and his polygon friends!

DirectX Update

As many of you know, Direct X is something the Windows based WC games rely on highly, and some deem it essential to have the latest version. Direct X 6.1 (core Win98 download) has just been released, and as in previous releases, absolutely nothing appears to be different so you are (almost) guaranteed this won't screw up something. Download a local copy here and remember we accept no responsibility for anything that goes wrong by installing this. Blame Microsoft.

More of Teen

Since I risked life and limb trying to find a stack of these things (okay, so I wanted the pin up...) here's the article from Sci Fi Teen (as well as the one new picture from it, which is a Pilgrim, not a Marine)...
When Dreams Take Wing

Creator Chris Roberts realized his goal of bringing the popular computer game to the big screen.

By Anne Moore

Basically, I think every kid wants to be Luke Skywalker," reveals writer/director Chris Roberts, answering the oft-asked question: What inspired him to create Wing Commander, one of the most successful interactive video games in history, and now a movie scheduled to open this winter/spring?

"I grew up like every other kid," he recalls, "loving movies like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica on TV and science fiction in general. I originally created Wing Commander to give me the same experience and feeling I got when watching those films and TV shows, but while playing a game instead."

And he set out to make it different from all the similarly themed products in the marketplace. "Before Wing Commander, most games were just high scores." Roberts explains in his light English accent. "The one thing that makes Wing Commander work in gaming is the characters and the story. There is a reason behind it, and the story gives the action a context.

The worldwide success of Wing Commander inspired five different subsequent versions of the versatile game, which feature some of the most complex interactive storylines available. Form there, it was only natural for Roberts to want to turn his vision into a movie. "A film was actuallly something I've wanted to do for a long time." he says. "Even back during the first [game], I was developing a movie script."

In 1994 Roberts directed the live-action segments for the game Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger. This project involved several hours of interactive video, shot on 38 sets, and starred Mark Hamill, John Rhys-Davies and Malcolm McDowell. This assignment gave Roberts the perfect opportunity to pursue his dreams of moving from computer games to feature films as a writer and director, and he admits that directing the live action on the third and fourth games was "the best training experience. It allowed me to get familiar with using a camera and dealing with all of the technical aspects of it. On the last one, we spent $8 million and shot for 42 days in Los Angeles. It was pretty significant, and I was a little more confident when I came to do the movie."

Wing Commander, the film, is set in the year 2624 [Ed: 2654], when Earth, now known as the Confederation, is fighting the Kilrathi, a feline-humanoid species trying to conquer all of space. Using a stolen navigation device, the Kilrathi plan to directly attack Earth. All that stands between the Confederation and annihilation is the space carrier Tiger Claw and its squadron of fighter pilots. Their job is to retrieve the navigation device and protect Earth from the Kilrathi invasion.

Roberts cast Freddie Prinze Jr. (of the I Know What You Did Last Summer films) as Lt. Chris Blair, the newest pilot on the Tiger Claw's crew. Matthew (Scream) Lillard took on the role of Todd "Maniac" Marshall, a hotshot pilot and Blair's best friend, while Saffron Burrows (see sidebar) is their Wing Commander, "Angel" Devereaux. Tcheky Karyo, David Warner, Jurgen Prohcnow and David Suchet are also part of the international cast in what is hoped to be the first of a series of Wing Commander movies.

The budget for Wing Commander was reportedly a little over $27 million, a small sum for a modern space adventure. The limited finances were a key reason the movie wound up being shot in Europe, specifically Luxembourg. While filming there, the cast and crew had to contend with language problems: The production team was multinational, speaking in either English, French or German and sometimes having to communicate in all three. Although this was frustrating for Roberts, he also believes it gives the movie a special flavor.

"When you have that many languages, it's a bid difficult," he says. "I had to admit, I got frustrated sometimes when our extras didn't necessarily speak English, but it was fun. The movie itself tried to be multinational, because its idea of the future is that there is no America or Europe. There is just one big Earth. I wanted the film to reflect the idea of a national Confederation. That aspect was kind of cool. "It was also a lot of fun to have a really young cast." He continues. "Especially with people like Freddie Prinze. He comes from some of the same places I came from in terms of loving science fiction. It was something a lot of people were really into. You want people to feel that they got more out of the shoot, and being involved in it, than just collecting their paycheck."

Roberts encouraged his cast to participate in fine-tuning their roles during extensive rehearsals. "When I got to Luxembourg, I sat down with my key actors and we did some read throughs, scene by scene. Right there on the spot, I would work the scene out with them, and if there was dialogue that didn't work for them, we'd change it. Or we'd drop a line or add one here or there. The process was very important to the film, and next time I' d do even more of it, because that gets all the actors comfortable with their parts."

Roberts, in fact, encouraged collaboration from everyone on the Wing Commander team. "The way I look at it is that a movie is a huge team effort - actually, the way games are made. You're kind of foolish if you don't borrow and lean on everyone around you. If you have good people around you, you're just going to look better."

Yet even with good actors and a good script, Wing Commander will live or die on how good the computerized special FX are. Most of the 300 digital FX shots were done by Roberts' own production company, Digital Anvil in Austin, Texas. "We built actual models of the spaceships we were going to use," Roberts reveals. "In the case of the Rapier [the smaller fighter], we had a full-size one built. Then we measured it and put that in the computer. We photographed them in a lot of detail and then used that for the texture. The look on the computer is a much more solid and realistic feel than some of the early digital stuff. I'm really happy with it.

"The nice thing about digital work," he adds, "is that it allows you to do effects shots, or action and choreography, that you could never do with miniatures, because you are limited in where you can move your motion control, your rig and everything like that."

For the tall, feline Kilrathi race, Roberts used the more traditional methods of animatronics. "I originally wanted to do digital aliens, but that came down to a time and budget issue. We were kind of constrained with the number of effects we were doing in space. Character animation is the most time-consuming and expensive kind of digital work, so I went with an old fashioned approach on the aliens. Obviously, if I do the sequel, I'd love to have more money and time so I could do digital aliens as well as digital spaceships."

And he hopes to pursue his twin passions for years to come. "I love movies and I love games," Roberts concludes. "Those are my two passions, and I happen to be lucky enough to do both. The games have been successful, and hopefully in movies down the road, I'll manage to do some pretty decent stuff."

An Angel Gets Her Wings

Actress Saffron Burrows is probably better known in Europe, where she has made movies like Circle of Friends, In the Name of the Father and The Matchmaker, than in the United States. But the Wing Commander movie should dramatically change that for the young English actress. Burrows has the enviable role of "Angel" Devereaux, a resourceful and talented fighter pilot on the spaceship Tiger Claw. Under her command, two new pilots, Lt. Chris Blair (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and his best friend, Todd "Maniac" Marshall (Matthew Lillard), attempt to protect Earth from invasion by the alien Kilrathi.

In Wing Commander, writer/director Chris Roberts developed a world where men and women fight equally alongside each other, and Burrows was enthusiastic about the chance to take on the type of action usually reserved for men. "I am the Wing Commander of a group of fighter pilots in space," she explains. "I get to fly in an RAF cockpit that has basically been converted into a spaceship of the future, but there is this wonderful old feel to it.

"There is a whole World War II element to the movie which I really like," she continues. "It's a feeling of things being beaten up and lived in, and I love that. Wing Commander was inspired by Das Boot, and has that feeling - and in fact Jurgen Prohcnow, the captain in Das Boot is in Wing Commander."

The actress also enjoyed the camaraderie that developed while filming the movie in Luxembourg. The international cast and crew, Burrows says, "were all being put together in an environment that was sort of a hot house. There were a few of us, and we get to know each other very well."

Even though the movie is full of dogfights in space there is an underlying emotional core to Wing Commander that Burrows responded to. She explains that the movie asks, "What do you do before you go to war? What do you do with those last few hours? Do you reveal certain things, or do you shut everything down? Or do you choose to live life to the fullest?"

Bet on the latter where Angel's concerned. And with both Wing Commander and a starring role in the big-budget killer-shark thriller Deep Blue Sea this year, Burrows is clearly pursuing her career to the fullest as well.

Paradise Lost?

Well, the 15th came and went, and I haven't gotten a shipping notice from Barnes & Noble for the Wing Commander Movie books... their page has been changed to report that the books are in stock, but will ship in one to two weeks (or two to three in the case of the Junior Movie Adaptation). I'll let you know when my copies ship & when they get here...

Chasing Moray-y

Magno sends us his third ultra-cool piece of Wing Commander fan art... check it out... all the usual great comments about his work apply...

A Mask of Approval

The kind people over at Cinema Secrets were able to provide me a photo of the WC Movie Kilrathi Armor mask they're working on developing for the public. Check it out, I personally can't wait to be able to buy it... more information as it becomes available!

Buy me! Buy me!

Well, although I couldn't report it a few days ago, I was able to grab a copy of the new Starlog with the ad for the Wing Commander Movie magazine... it has what work out to be the first (small) SFX shots from the movie! Check 'em out... (and the text, for ordering information). If you print out the scanned coupon thing, you can order it from Starlog with that... international orders are allowed, so even Cpl Hades can get one!
Wing Commander
The spectacular movie based on the exciting CD-ROM game!
The Kilrathi, a feline-humanoid race at war with the Confederation, attack and destroy an asteroid outpost and capture its NAVCOM computer navigation device. With it, they can jump behind Confederation lines and attack Earth. The Confederation's mission: retreive the device and stop the Kilrathi before they can make their movie! Freddie Prinze, Jr., Matt Lillard & Saffron Burrows star in the new space epic from 20th Century FOX - and you can go behind the scenes in STARLOG's latest movie tie-in. Special FX, blueprints and designs, exclusive interviews - they're all in this higly collectable magazine.
Order it today! $5.99

What's With...?

I'm back! After three days sans-power people have finally started to put the state of Maryland back together. Erm, and here's something the CIC staff expects to be getting in their mailbox real soon now (tm)...

Eight Isn't Enough

The CIC has given away our first three awards for receiving 100 Points in the Trivia game. Congratulations to Midnight, Philip Langdale and Raptor. There'll be lots more to come. Check out the Week Nine Trivia Questions here.

Sci-fi Teen!

Since it has been snowing in LOAFland, The Dude has been kind enough to send us scans of the Sci-Fi Teen article! (See the update from Jan 13th). See Page 1, a nice little intro, Page 2, with a nice picture of a marine with his huge ass gun, and Page 3 complete with dead Kilrathi! But I know you've all been waiting for.. the Blair pin up thing! The articles don't come much better than this..

The Clock Is Ticking

There is less than one day left to play Week Eight of CIC Trivia. The new Service Ribbons (the first one for 100 Points) will be awarded this week. Get your answers in before Sunday (1/17) to be eligible for Week Eight. Check out the Trivia here.

Play WC4 Off The Hard Drive

Reviewer Loyd Case over at Gamespot remarks that the new Seagate Cheetah Ultra2 SCSI 18 gigabyte hard drive is "big enough that you can actually load all of Wing Commander IV, if you ever wanted to." That's about it.. if for some reason you wanted to check out the review, you can find it here. Thanks to Jibbo.

Violators Will Be Shot On Sight!

Earlier this week the United States National Security Agency announced they had banned the Furby from all NSA installations in fear of the Furby's capability to learn and repeat classified information (check out the CNN report here). Following suit this morning, the CIC issued a press release banning the Furby from the CIC and all CIC affiliates. At this afternoon's press conference, CIC Webmaster Ben Lesnick issued the following statement:
Anyway, I think my life would be greatly improved if I owned a Furby... because I'd thwack somebody on the head with it, killing them and leading to a big court case over whether Furby's are really alive... and then if they are, it's not my fault, and if they're not, I'll sue the Furby company for making me think they're responsible for their own actions... yeah, it'll be sweet...

Seeing Stars

Mike Bruner over at alt.games.wing-commander reports that the February issue of Starlog includes an order form from which you can purchase the Starlog Movie Hits Wing Commander official magazine... I'll see if I can grab me a copy of Starlog ASAP to get yall a scan or at least some ordering information.

Pictures! Pin Ups! Previews!

Apparently the March issue of Sci-Fi Teen magazine has a preview of the Wing Commander Movie which includes new pictures and a pin up of Blair in assault gear! Expect scans and transcripts tommorow if a) there's no ice storm tonight here in cold cold Maryland and b) I can actually buy a magazine with a pin-up of Blair in it with a straight face. (Oh, this news is thanks to The Dude... The Dude, you're The Man).

SO Gets Flamie'd

Remember the update about voting for Secret Ops at Hotgames first annual Flamie awards? Well, Skyfox was smart enough to actually remember to check back later and thusly brought us some good news -- SO has won four awards, as follows: Reader's Choice for best gameplay in a computer game, Editor & Reader's awards for best demo representing best value for download & finally the coveted Gold Flamie marking its acceptance into the Hotgames hall of fame.

O Monday, Rapturous Monday...

Well, it's Monday, and most of you are doubtless unhappy to be back at work/school/jail after the glorious festival of sleep known as Sunday. Well, weep no more, my brethren, for there is now a new edition of the wonderous Mail Bag! Go, bask in its Technicolor glory!

He's Soooo Dreamy

Hey, it's a promotional picture of Feddie Prinze Jr. that I found while going through some really old movie articles... don't you wish YOU had that shirt?

Eight Is Great

Brand new Week Eight Trivia Questions are now available. The Scoreboard is now divided into a Senior and Junior Squadron. Now all you have to worry about is competing within your own tier (approximately twenty-five people of your skill level). New squadrons will be added as the number of players increase. Also stay tuned for the first Service Ribbons (for 100 Points) this week. All are welcome, check out the new questions here.

For Those Who Procrastinate

Week Seven Trivia is due by tomorrow. If you haven't sent your responses in, make sure they're emailed before the 10th. Check out the Trivia questions here.

The Wild, Wild Vega Sector

While hanging around a Barnes & Noble in Baltimore, searching for Gregory Benford's 'A Darker Geometry' I happened to thumb through the print version of Cinescape, the magazine that's been dishing out cooler-than-a-moose Wing Commander Movie pictures lately. There was a page long article on Freddie Prinze Jr. (with a picture, cue excited teenage girls... who am I kidding, no excited teenage girls visit the CIC...) which talked a bit about Wing Commander. According to Prinze he's always wanted to do a Science Fiction movie & a Western, and WC gave him the opportunity to do both. As soon as I can find the exact quote I'll post it...

Version 5.5 Mentality

It's the only non Wing Commander news that can possibly cause Chris Reid to jump for joy... a new version of mIRC has been released! After many months #WingNut regulars can finally do the same thing they do every day, with a new irc client!

Strange News

On December 31st we reported: "Scientists working in the Brazilian rainforest have discovered ascilotriptostolene, a material proven to reverse cancer growth cycles. At least, that should have happened in 1998, according to the Victory Streak. Ah, missed chances." Well.. CIC visitor Phil Cook has found some very eerie real life news. He sent us this message:
Last week, according to New Scientist magazine, scientists at the University of Virginia discovered that extracts from a Californian plant can inhibit the mechanism which repairs cancer cells. They hope that this chemical can be given to chemotherapy patients to stop the tumours fighting back against cancer treatment. Not quite the rainforest...and not quite a miracle cure...but, the plant, Schoepfia Californica, is quite rare, so I guess the moral of the Victory Streak has been proven: we need to take care of our planet, or we only harm ourselves.
UPDATE: "Chemical Coup" by Andy Coghlan can be found in the January 9th edition (number 2168) or here.

Descent!

A while ago I updated with a note saying that I'd seen copies of Peter Telep's Descent novel on the shelves of a Barnes & Noble... on the way to a doctors appointment last night I decided to pick up a copy to make sure that Telep's writing is still as good as it was in his Space: Above & Beyond novels. Suffice it to say, it was, and I highly recommend the Descent book -- it's sort of a 'fun' (as in both amusing & light adventurous) science fiction story mixed with a well researched knowledge of military information. I read it in two sittings. Although it's not as serious as Wing Commander [Ed. Note: 'the rainforest', 'money' & 'the Vietnam war' are also on LOAF's list of things that he considers 'not as serious' as Wing Commander] it should provide anybody looking forward to the Wing Commander Movie books with a great look at Peter Telep's writing style. Check out the cover below...

Chris Roberts Speaks

Yet more proof that Brits aren't fools, like some Americans would have you believe, Gamespot UK have scored an interview with Chris Roberts about the upcoming WC movie. You can read what Chris has to say here. Thanks to the ever wonderful ATFW for the news.

Old McDonald

T. Liam McDonald's Extended Play column in the February '99 PC Gamer, pages 247-8, mentions WCP Gold. Unfortunately, Mr. McDonald refers to SO as "the Spec Ops set", proving that OSI apparently uses titles far too complex for mere mortal reviewers to wield. Interestingly enough, that same page contains a screenshot from WCP Gold- and the caption reads, "Wing Command Prophecy Gold includes all of the Secret Ops missions, which also add some new ships and weapons". Ya gotta wonder if they're just trying to be scary...

"We've given ace the fleet, by which I mean a bag, a mail bag.."

Sorry for the delay, ace and Byydo have finally prepared our first installment of the Mail Bag reply editorials. I assure you they've put a lot of thought into their three replies. Stay tuned for more Mail Bag updates in the coming weeks. Check out the January 4, 1999 Mail Bag here and keep the submissions coming.

Lucky Seven

This is your lucky week! The new Week Seven Trivia questions are out. Also, since we have nearly fifty people on the Scoreboard now, this week the board will be divided up into "Squadrons" similar to how the Scoreboard worked on the old alt.games.wing-commander Homepage. Check out the new questions here.

Date Correction

Previously I said that Week 5/6 Trivia was due before January 2, 1999. That should have been January 3 (Sunday). So.. if you haven't played yet, time is running short. Check out the Trivia questions here.

Up To Speed

The Fan Directory is now fully caught up. As of this writing we have profiles for seventy-four fans (pictures for twenty-four of them). If your profile was not included, please resend it. Check out the Fan Directory here. To join the Directory, email us the information listed at the bottom of the main page.

Happy New Year!

I'm sure you all saw this Update coming. Doesn't that date above look great? Well.. 1998 has been a very eventful year, but it's nothing compared to what 1999 will be. We started out with the post-WCP commotion and in the spring we had several months of idle time while we wondered what the new games would be. The P3 and "multiplayer game" rumors didn't produce much, but we were all suprised by Origin giving out a free standalone game over the internet in the summer. Can you believe it's been over six months since we learned about SO? After Secret Ops we got Prophecy Gold and the year ended with the largest WC novel to date (False Colors at 470 pages!). Next year there are going to be literally dozens of new WC products, thanks in large part to the upcoming movie. We here at the CIC also cannot wait until we begin reporting on the next games. It'll be a hell of a year.

New Movie Site

Now, I know it's not the Wing Commander Movie site you've all been waiting for, but the CIC has re-done our movie site to be more informative and easy to use -- because, lets face it, our old one wasn't too great. Check out the new site here.

Aint It Cool Poll

AICN, the coolest non-Dan based movie news site bar none, is running a poll for people to choose the 'second most awaited movie of the year'! Wing Commander is third on the list, so go vote at their front page now! WC is currently tied for eigth place! Thanks to Stinger for reporting this...

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