Modern Textbook Studies the Wing Commander Movie (December 31, 2018)

Discussion in 'News Discussion' started by Bandit LOAF, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made is a 2017 book by film reporter Luke Owen. The book is a fascinating look at how movies like Mortal Kombat, Mario Brothers and Wing Commander were made with a particular focus on the behind the screens wheeling and dealing that both allowed them to exist and that often altered them so drastically from the source material. The book includes a thorough chapter on Wing Commander which interviews both director Chris Roberts and producer Todd Moyer for a fascinating warts-and-all look at what went on behind the scenes. We've scanned the Wing Commander chapter for the archive (PDF here) and you can purchase your own copy of the book here. The book also has an animated trailer which explains what it's about and includes some Wing Commander material:


    --
    Original update published on December 31, 2018
     
  2. st3lt3k

    st3lt3k Rear Admiral

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    Interesting read!
     
  3. TheFraix

    TheFraix Vice Admiral

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    Wow... that is a very illuminating insight toward the production of the Wing Commander film. I kinda have to agree with Freddie Prinze Jr.'s assessment, that Chris Roberts deserved a better producer who could back his creativity and make the film truer to his vision.

    But again, making video game adaptations is heck of a work, and there are not many successful ones out there.
     
  4. Quarto

    Quarto Unknown Enemy

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    Very interesting, that chapter. It's hard to say who was right, when both sides blame one another, but what is clear is that there wasn't a good working relationship between the producer and director, and that is never good.

    Todd Moyer's comment about fans is very revealing, though, and remarkably wrong-headed. I could understand such a point of view back in 1999, because at the time, this was a new and poorly understood reality, but these are words spoken much more recently, as I understand, and in that context - his view is nothing short of idiotic. In this day and age, the fans are your shock troops. They're the ones who build the hype around the product. If they're not happy, things go badly - as we saw with Star Wars recently. And the thing is, to a significant extent this was already the case in 1999. I would argue that a lot of WC fans were already alienated to some extent just from what they heard about the film before its release, and any fan who didn't decide to go see the film meant a couple of other people also didn't see the film with him. The idea that you can just throw the "fanboys" under the bus is daft.

    I'm also intrigued by the problem with the script. Of course it was a terrible script. But what I want to know is: why did it ever get as far as it did? This wasn't a script in need of a rewrite, it was a script in need of being thrown out the window. Why is it that apparently, initially everyone was happy with it? Or is it that the original script was actually better than the final result of the re-writes?
     
  5. AD

    AD Finder of things, Doer of stuff

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    Todd Moyer seems pretty ready to blame everyone but himself, and that's been evident in every interview about hte movie where he's been quoted ever. It becomes quite evident that he doesn't give a crap about the creative process and only cares about money. His money sense isn't a bad thing, but it becomes abundantly clear that he's not interested in and doesn't have a knack for anything that requires creative vision. He's great at raising money, but when it came to what needed to change for the movie, his go-to solutions were to cut corners rather than whatever the quality of the final product would be. Ultimately if you budget is limited you need to try and do less things better, rather than stretch out the budget on more things.

    You can read most of the drafts of the script here https://www.wcnews.com/wcpedia/Category:Wing_Commander_Movie#BEHIND_THE_SCENES

    I don't think any movie scripts start perfect and the WC movie is no exception. The first draft does have issues. But there's a kind of a cool hard-military-sci-fi vibe to it and some interesting thematic elements. These are the parts that Chris Roberts says he connected with in the script. Ultimately it also doesn't feel quite like Wing Commander. But there's no "never existed" subplot. Angel doesn't threaten to shoot maniac because he's not ultimately responsible. There's no ring as a symbol of the authenticity of Tolwyn's orders.

    The studio suits had a read, and sent Chris some notes on things that could be changed to - in their opinions - make everything better. Better is subjective here I suppose... The rewrites do make some of the pacing issues more apparent and while some issues get fixed others are added. Most of the more egregious additions happen in the third draft though. Yet near as I can tell somewhere between the 2nd and third draft is the version of the script the actors read for when they auditioned. Things like the Ring, and "Never Existed" don't really show up until the third draft. Other scenes get cut and worked around because of budget reasons. However the shortened preproduction basically guaranteed the script wouldn't get the kind of love it really needed. The changes that show up in later drafts on one hand solidify some parts of the story but also make it seem like it's being rewritten with early-teens in mind.

    One of the things that is muddy in the book is that often they talk about losing scenes. However Chris' wording is odd because he's actually talking about post production stuff for the most part. Most of the stuff he's talking about they actually did shoot and they lost it in the edit. A number of the script issues crept up because there wasn't a way to work around the deleted material after the fact without reshoots. If they had cut this stuff in preproduction they could have strengthened the remaining invasion subplot, written around the deletions, and put more money into the scenes that remained. That's not what happened though.
     
  6. Pedro

    Pedro Vice Admiral

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    I have to say everything Todd Moyer said rubbed me up the wrong way, with a career like his you'd expect him to be more humble. He clearly hasn't learned anything from his mistakes as every decision he made was supposedly the right one and it'd have been much worse had they gone another way (how much worse could it possibly have turned out?).
    Granted this is 1999 so social media isn't as big and therefore pleasing your fanbase didn't get you quite the same amount of free publicity but his unwavering claims that sticking close to the source material would have hurt the box office seem odd given years of examples of video game based movies and the more they resemble the source material the better (in relative terms) they seem to do.
    On the other hand everything Chris Roberts said echoed my own views on the movie; the casting and the distinctly different visual look were a huge part of the reason why I wasn't that excited about the film before it came out (good thing too as there was no UK cinema screening it). With no trailers or lead up who exactly was going to prop this up if not the fans? Every cast is a risk - so its never wise to discount one that has been positively embraced even in a different form of media.

    Honestly though it's an age old story, especially with Fox. I don't think there is a scenario in which Chris Roberts vision would have reached the big screen in an un-compromised state.

    In retrospect with Episode 1 coming I imagine Mark Hamills presence could have been positive for box office numbers (even if it invited unwelcome comparisons it could have been the Discovery vs The Orville effect - enough disgruntled fans and the competition gets more praise than it otherwise would. I don't do live TV so I'd have probably never have even heard of the orville if not for angry star trek fans).
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
  7. Quarto

    Quarto Unknown Enemy

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    Well, one of the problems the film faced was that Chris Roberts' vision was just plain wrong, and dearly needed to be compromised - and it's actually rather nice to see him own up to that here. He mentions in particular departing too far from the look and feel of the series, and how this was to some extent thought necessary because of Episode I, but it was his decision in any case. The time dilation thing, which mercifully completely vanished from the shooting script (well, almost completely) was also his idea, and boy, was that a bad one. I rather wish there was a bit more conversation about that here (why did he think it was a good idea? Why did he decide against it in the end?), but then again, what's the point of talking about a bad idea that actually did get cut at the right time?

    One other Chris Roberts comment stands out to me, as really, really good self-reflectiveness, both in terms of lessons he personally learned, and in terms of the broader differences between games and film. He talks about being used to the script being mostly dialogue, because in games, the action is almost completely limited to the gameplay sequences - and how this threw him off in terms of understanding what makes a good film script, and also how this meant that his experience with directing WC3/4 left him unprepared to film action sequences. That is very good stuff, very insightful... though I'm not sure if this is necessarily an area I'd point to in the film, as being problematic. It's been a while since I've watched the film, so I'm not sure, but I don't *think* it was that heavy on the dialogues side, was it?

    By the way: do we know anything at all about that earlier, 1993, Wing Commander film script that's mentioned at the start of the chapter? What was that all about? I'm certainly not surprised that project didn't go anywhere at that time, but does that script exist somewhere?
     
  8. Pedro

    Pedro Vice Admiral

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    The time dilation effect rather reminds me of a very brief bit of dialogue from the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy about pre FTL warfare. Species would go into cryogenic sleep and when they eventually woke up at their destination FTL had already been invented and the war ended. Still having gone all that way decide to fight anyway.

    Yes it's a bad idea, but why it was considered I'd say however is right there in the document; for a quick hack to move crew bonding forward. I guess it got replaced with the cringe-inducing "if you die you never existed" and in terms of in universe changes it's no more odd than the pilgrim plotline. I wouldn't be surprised if it was rejected for the fairly obvious problems of conducting warfare in a slower running timeline that Douglas Adams highlighted for a quick laugh. I'm kind of used to such ideas being spitballed for better or worse, a bad idea often leads to a good one.
    Rather than why I'd be more interested in who saw the light with that particular idea.

    Putting the movie aside the evidence is that either Roberts is capable of recognizing his more fanciful ideas or the right people are able to course correct him and he just wasn't partnered with such people there.

    Anyway my point was definitely more along the lines of Moyer standing by his past decisions and refusing to admit mistakes. The line that it wouldn't have survived studio interference wasn't meant to imply it would have been a great movie without it. When projects go wrong there is never a single reason; just a worst offender which got overlooked due to the other mountain of issues. He should have been able to find something he would have done differently.
     
  9. AD

    AD Finder of things, Doer of stuff

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    Yeah, it's pretty much what Pedro said. The idea was that these guys are giving up everything to go fight, including the opportunity to come home to family. So to some degree it was supposed to reinforce the crew's isolation and make it more of an issue that Blair is seen as an outsider and not trusted. It also lends a real advantage to Pilgrims that can actually find shortcuts by calculating Jumps through various gravitational anomalies.

    We have at least one short script archived. It doesn't share much lineage with the movie we got though it does also have a pilot named Forbes for some reason. Ultimately it's a lot closer to WC2 in terms of story. However it also featured some wierd conveniences like Blair's parent's being killed by Thrakhath but being spared himself. https://download.wcnews.com/files/documents/WCM1991.pdf
     
  10. Quarto

    Quarto Unknown Enemy

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    Yeah, I get the crew bonding thing... I just don't think it works at all as advertised. For one thing, it's a quick hack to a problem that doesn't exist - no one ever finds it strange that crews bond quickly under the pressures of combat. So, you get to fix a problem that doesn't exist, by creating a million far bigger problems. We see these problems in these scripts, which struggled to reconcile time well enough to make the situation feel urgent in any way. Finally they cut out the time dilation, and suddenly - bang, you can say things like how two hours can make the difference between winning and losing the war.

    That's true: for him, the closest he comes to owning up to mistakes is when he talks about never again working with a franchise creator on a film adaptation - and what he's actually doing then, of course, is "owning up" to a mistake by blaming others. "It was my fault, I didn't realise I was working with all these idiots." Hardly great indication of deep thought and analysis of what actually went wrong.

    I guess the lesson is, if you're named Forbes in a Wing Commander film, you die :).
     

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