Caveat: This review isn’t spoiler-free, so if you haven’t seen “The Rising” yet, proceed with caution. 🙂
It’s no secret that Hollywood is crazy for prequels, sequels, and remakes. Even properties that haven’t gone cold yet (like Dirty Dancing) are trotted out for makeovers. Hollywood has always remade films, but lately it seems to be the majority of their output, and it’s not always a bad thing. Some, like Good News and The Preacher’s Wife, are better than the originals. Most are just “meh.” So far, television has appeared mostly immune to Retread Fever, but it’s not exactly shocking that the malady seems to be spreading.
Even so, when I heard MacGyver would be revamped, my first thought was, “What? Is nothing sacred?!” To add insult to injury, the new series would be set in the present day. Really, Hollywood? Really? MacGyver and his Swiss Army knife are so firmly entrenched in the eighties, it’s hard to separate them. Plus, we’re living in a post 9-11 world. Naturally, my second thought was: “How will MacGyver get that knife through airport security?”
Well, this is Hollywood. Security? Pffft. No problem. However, there are other elements older hands may cringe at. Pete Thornton is Patricia. Jack Dalton is more of a mentor or older brother, not a sidekick. What’s more, Richard Dean Anderson refused to have any involvement with the reboot because, according to him, the producers ignored the fans of the original series.
Does anyone else think that’s a bad sign?
With this in mind, not to mention trepidation and curiosity fighting for top of the heap, I turned on CBS last night and settled in to watch the pilot. With some raspberry dark chocolate for whenever I needed a bit of bracing.
MacGyver opens with our hero, (played by Lucas Till), crashing a party at a fancy Lake Como mansion. His objective is to retrieve a mysterious glowing canister from behind a secret door. A camera hidden in a pair of horn-rimmed glasses lets Jack (George Eads) and also MacGyver’s gorgeous blond girlfriend and senior analyst, Nikki Carpenter (Tracy Spiridakos), monitor whatever he does via laptop and earpiece. Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt) sweeps down the stairs with a wry smile, and she exchanges a few coded words with MacGyver over champagne. It’s all straight out of the first Mission: Impossible movie, except that Ethan Hunt never used soot and adhesive to pull a fingerprint off of stemware. Unfortunately, the baddies get wise to something going on, so MacGyver runs full speed to a motorboat Jack’s been guarding, and they zoom off toward the other side of the lake. The villains hit their fuel tank, and everything looks hopeless until MacGyver turns off the boat’s lights and he jumps ship with Jack, leaving the vessel to somehow explode. Clever, Mac. Very clever.
MacGyver and Jack then find Nikki taken hostage by a guy with an Australian accent and a messy buzz cut. To keep him from killing Nikki, MacGyver surrenders the canister, but Buzz Cut Guy shoots her anyway and she falls into the lake. MacGyver jumps in to save Nikki. Sadly (and predictably), he can’t.
Busy? Yup. And those were just the first ten minutes.
The rest of the plot is no different, and it’s very simple. MacGyver, Jack, and Nikki work for the DXS, an agency even more secret than the CIA. They have to take back a 30,000-year old virus from two nasty fellas who plan to use it as a bioweapon to wipe out humanity. Since they need another senior analyst type to do all the techie stuff, MacGyver recruits a ringer by the name of Riley (Tristin Mays), who is doing time in prison for a crime she committed in order to help someone. She doesn’t specify what crime it was, but it must have been pretty impressive. Riley promises to assist DXS on the condition that her sentence be commuted to nothing and she gets unsupervised tech access. Once Riley proves herself, off she, MacGyver, and Jack go to San Francisco to take out John Kendrick, aka, Buzz Cut Guy, and the man he’s trying to sell the virus to, David Chin. They not only find him, but also Nikki, who–surprise, surprise–isn’t dead, but working for Kendrick and Chin. Ouch. Poor Mac. Long story short, after quite a bit of derring-do, including a leap from a helicopter onto an Army truck (with “Fortunate Son” playing the whole time, might I add), MacGyver saves the day.
To say that “The Rising” is a roller coaster ride is putting it mildly. If the original series can be compared to Space Mountain, the 2016 version would be Hyperspace Mountain. I felt thrown around and slightly overwhelmed, but not exactly unhappy with what I saw, even though there was plenty that ought to have been tweaked to improve watchability.
For one thing, the camerawork is really spazzy. Lots of shaking and bouncing, which bugged me because it’s so needless. Not everything has to look like a documentary or found footage, and I’ve seen smoother vids on YouTube. This is the twenty-first century, people. Say it with me: Steady. Cam.
For another, the editing is soooooo fast, and it does the show no favors. The actors charge through their lines, the cuts are lightning quick, and the scenes zip by like a jackrabbit with a caffeine buzz. I felt as though I didn’t have time to take in what was happening, and actually had to watch the pilot twice (Thank heaven for CBS All Access). There’s something to be said for allowing scenes to play out a little instead of keeping everything rapid-fire all the time.
Yet another thing: Do the filmmakers really need to list all of the things MacGyver uses when he creates something? Every time he did anything with a paperclip for example, he would hold it up, and the words, “Paper Clip” would flash on the screen. It seems like gilding the proverbial lily, because Lucas Till narrates those spots anyway. It also stands to reason that if the producers are afraid of people trying to copy MacGyver’s concoctions, they may not want to list the ingredients as if it’s a cooking show. Even if they take a cue from the original series and leave out something. Just a thought.
As for the plot, it’s not exactly groundbreaking, and does have some pretty glaring holes. The biggest one is that it’s hard to tell why DXS needs to take the canister from the Lake Como mansion in the first place, because they don’t make it clear whose mansion it is. It would be understandable if DXS was there to keep the bad guys from taking it, but none of them seem to have MacGyver’s mad skills, so this wouldn’t have been possible. All they did was appear out of nowhere when the alarm goes off and start shooting. The way the show glosses over specifics is its chief tragic flaw. Part of it is the delivery speed, but the other part is they just need better writing. Aside from a few funny lines, usually voiced by George Eads or Justin Hires (who plays Wilt Bozer), the script is lackluster, clichéd, and awkward. I did, however, like that the show ended on a bit of intrigue, when Nikki, who is in federal custody, escapes, leaving behind a jeweled bobby-pin. Maybe the producers are setting her up to be a female Murdoc.
I honestly don’t know if I will be watching future episodes of MacGyver. Pilots can be tricky, since they are usually experimental in nature. The episodes which follow them can be better, different, or more of the same, but it’s impossible to tell from the first outing. Even though I’ve always been a huge fan of the original show, I really tried to approach the MacGyver reboot with as much of an open mind as I could. Still, it’s just…meh. The original series was established so much more effectively. Somehow, I don’t believe Richard Dean Anderson will be kicking himself for avoiding this new interpretation of his signature show.
On a completely unrelated note, next month I will be participating in my third blogathon. Drum roll, please…