Not at all. In fact, they barely glanced at it. Like many of these movies, at the right price, nobody cars who directs them.
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Fox's exposure was so low, they had no interest in keeping tabs. It was a disinterest that would both make and break the Wing Commander movie's fortunes. The young Brit, on the usp of his 30th birthday, was about to get a firsthand lesson in how the moviemaking machinery could chew you up and spit you out.
At Origin Systems, Roberts had become used to flexing his creative muscles: "In videogame terms I was like a very big film director. I got what I wanted and didn't have to compromise.
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Then I stepped into the film business and, all of a sudden, I wasn't. Unlike Mortal Kombat's John Tobias - who recalled being lauded by cast and crew during a brief visit to the production - Roberts wasn't just passing through. He was now part of the food chain. It was a tough gig, not the least of all because the game designer's creative instincts as a director were constantly overruled by the economic necessities of the deal. Like Super Mario Bros. The reason why is because you have to satisfy too many different cooks," says Moyer. As a part of the deal, Fox wanted Freddie Prinze Jr.
Sales to the UK, Germany and France were threatened because those markets had never heard of either actor. It was all about trying to get a bigger number from those territories," he says. Wing Commander had one advantage over previous videogame movies: it had a detailed, rich mythology which its directory knew intimately, since he'd designed it himself. Serving as a prequel to the games, the movie follows a young Christopher Blair played by pretty vacant Prinze Jr. It's like a war movie in space: the pilots are like World War I aerial aces, deadly in the cockpit but struggling with human dramas on the ground; the hulking space vessels are like aircraft carriers or the submarine from Das Boot, metal canisters its troops are locked inside while the war wages around them.
It's no surprise to lean that Roberts referred his crew to Tora! Visually, the film did a little with a lot.
Its CGI team beta-tested Maya, a 3D animation and modeling tool now used extensively in both the movie and game industries, and used it to create quite spectacular space battles. Less convincing were the Kilrathi, cat-like aliens whose design resulted in a blazing row between Roberts and his producer over whether or not they should be CGI.
It's hard to tell Chris Roberts, who made a tonne of money off Wing Commander, what he has to do with certain characters. You're always going to lose because he can say, 'This is important tot eh core audience, we have to do this to satisfy them'. I was like: 'Dude, people barely remember the videogame it was [so long] ago.
Roberts, who'd used animatronics while shooting the cat-like Kilrathi on the Wing Commander games' FMV sequences, was adamant that he wanted the same old school approach. When Moyer refused on the basis that it was "a complete waste of time and would look like shit. But the problem was that the Kilrathi - puppeteers in eight-foot suits too tall for the sets that had by now been built - looked ridiculous. Roberts asked Fox for more time and money to fix the problem but the studio refused.
What finally killed Wing Commander's box office chances, however, was its chief inspiration: Star Wars. The movie's core demographic were eager for Lucas, not Roberts. No sci-fi outing could compete against such fevered expectations not even, it turned out, The Phantom Menace itself. Yet the real damage to Wing Commander was actually done in the meeting rooms at the studio that distributed it. Again, it was all down to the deal. Fox, who were releasing The Phantom Menace and Wing Commander, were obviously going to put all their bets on just one of those two horses.
They were also willing to invest in the movie and push back its release date, giving Roberts the chance to fix the Kilrathi. But then all hell broke loos. While Moyer was in the middle of finishing off negotiations with Sony, his cell-phone rang. It was Tom Sherack, then head of distribution for Fox. He had bad news. I don't give a shit, I'm not doing it. If you want to have a huge lawsuit, go ahead. Six weeks was barely enough time to market Wing Commander properly even if Fox had wanted to. But apparently they didn't.
There was no theatrical trailer, no press build up, no TV campaign.
The movie was dumped in cinemas in mid-March, an expensive hook to hang the second trailer for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace on. It was also a critical flop.
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In retrospect, Moyer is sanguine about the movie's release. The only people who didn't make money on it were Chris Roberts and me. Despite the compromises, he'd directed a feature before turning 30 and taken his baby onto the big screen. No videogame designer had ever made such a jump into producing Hollywood movies before. Wing Commander's genesis, production and release say a lot about the state of things in Here were the realities behind the videogame movies laid bare: the original videogame properties guaranteed brand recognition with a built-in audience; the funding was drummed up in piecemeal fashion; but studios were willing to distribute without committing themselves to developing the projects in-house.
These projects were, in short, a way of milking a franchise from another medium. Hardly surprising, then, that videogame movies would be plagued by mediocrity. From Wing Commander Encyclopedia. Jump to: navigation , search. Wrinkles on the canvas of life.
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