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August 28, 2015

Knight Rider: the car is nice, the movie is meh - VIDEO

by Joel Keller, posted Feb 18th 2008 10:19AM
Knight RiderBattlestar Galactica has spoiled us all.

I say that because, since the excellent "re-imagining" of the craptastic '70s scifi series hit the air, we expect the remakes of our favorite shows to be darker, more layered, and more complicated than the originals. But sometimes, going darker doesn't always work: take a look at the failure pile that passed for the Bionic Woman remake as the best example of that. So, when a "25 years later" return of Knight Rider was announced, I half wondered if they were going to go the BSG route and make it all serious. But I equally wondered if they would go the other way and make it a modern camp classic, sort of the way the original, Hoff-injected series was.

Turns out, the answer was "none of the above." Mostly the movie / backdoor pilot that aired last night was dull, with a few fleeting moments of camp thrown in. But it never made me clamor for the show to return as a series.

Gallery: Knight Rider

The main plot of the movie involves some generic "evildoing" organization that wants the codes to a military remote control system. The person who has the codes just happens to be Charles Graiman (Bruce Davison), who invented the Knight Industries Two Thousand 25 years ago, and has created a sequel, the Knight Industries Three Thousand (because "two thousand" no longer sounds futuristic). When the generic evildoers threaten Graiman, KITT is dispatched to fetch his daughter Sarah (Deanna Russo), a Stanford professor and PhD candidate, and down-and-out race driver Mike Traceur (Justin Bruening), who's has more than a passing relation to the previous KITT's driver, Michael Knight.

Really, you don't need to know any more about the plot than that, other than the fact that FBI agent Carrie Ruvai (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) is also on the Knight "team," to give the sheen of government approval to the Knight project. For some reason, Ruvai is introduced to us waking up next to some random woman she met the night before, but the lesbian angle of her story is never explored after that. Are we going to return to this if the series gets picked up? Or was this introduced to show us that we're in 2008 and not in 1983 anymore, and that random lesbian one night stands are acceptable on TV?

There are other plot threads that are introduced then dropped: Traceur's buddy Dylan is threatened by the thugs who want Traceur to pay off his debt, but we never see him again until he shows up at the end of the movie, completely unharmed. And we really don't know why Traceur's mother had to hide out to raise Mike after Michael Knight got her pregnant. Again, maybe some of this stuff will come home to roost if the series is picked up, but it's too many loose ends for a supposedly closed-ended TV-movie.

Most of the funny moments, as you'd expect, came from the car. KITT was voiced by Val Kilmer, who stepped in and re-recorded all of the car's lines at the last minute when Will Arnett had to back out of the project. It's too bad; Arnett's combination of faux-seriousness and deep voice would have done well in this role. Kilmer, as he has throughout his career, takes the role a bit too seriously, removing whatever personality KITT could have had.

Still, the car's use of visual aids -- something the '80s, William Daniels-voiced KITT couldn't do -- were pretty funny. For instance, when KITT asks Mike about why his high-school relationship with Sarah ended so abruptly, one of the questions he asks is, "Are you a... homo-sexual?" and flashed pictures of the rainbow flag and the Gay Pride Parade. So that wasn't bad. And this version of KITT's main effect, the use of nanotechnology to repair itself and change its appearance, was executed very well. Unfortunately, the car doesn't have the same Turbo Boost (complete with compressed air cartridge falling away from the car on every shot) that the old KITT had. I miss Turbo Boost.

A couple of more items:

  • No mention of Devon? It's as if he never existed.
  • The chemistry between Mike and Sarah was nonexistent. She's a Stanford PhD candidate, and she's still smarting over the fact that Mike didn't call her after their post-high-school-graduation summer romance? Jeez, get over it, woman!
  • Could Ford's sponsorship of the show be any more obvious? Besides the close-ups of the Cobra logo on the Mustang that played KITT, we also got to see the car morph into multiple colors and available ground effect packages, all of which I'm sure are available at a Ford dealer near you! Oh, and all the cars on the road, especially in the big chase scene, were either Fords or Volvos (which is owned by Ford).
  • Speaking of Ford, the ads where KITT's "jealous" of a Ford Focus made me want to throw a shoe at my TV. I bet Kilmer didn't realize he'd have to voice those silly commercials when he signed up for the gig.
  • Was it really necessary for the bad guys to kill the kid who worked at the motel? I wonder if this was another way to show that it was 2008 and not 1983, since no one seemed to die on the original series, no matter what kind of calamity happened to them.
  • Bruening has about as much range as a 40-year-old shortstop. When the bad guys shot his mother, and she said "I lovvveee youu....gah!" before she died, he barely moved.
  • We knew that Hasselhoff wasn't going to show up until the very end. I will say, that's the best acting I've seen him do in a while, cheeseburger-eating home videos included. As my boss Keith said, "I wonder how much he got just to stand there?" I wish he would have come out with the leather jacket and fro-let (combination of a 'fro and a mullet) that he had in the original series.

Anyway, if the show does come back -- and if the ratings are big for this movie, I'm damn skippy sure it will -- executive producers Doug Liman and David Bartis need to make some changes. Maybe tell Bruening to emote more. Or tell Kilmer to not be so damned serious. But they can keep the car. I like the car. As long as it doesn't fall in love with that Ford Focus.

(By the way, our friends at Autoblog live-blogged the movie; the result is here.)

Do you think the new Knight Rider can make it as a series?
Yes. I thought the movie was a lot of fun.506 (35.8%)
Maybe. They need to make a lot of changes.583 (41.2%)
No. It was so boring I decided to inventory my dental floss instead of watching it.325 (23.0%)

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come on people. this pilot sucks. cant belive it. trans am kitt will be the best. always will be. Michael knight and kitt ended in the 80's best time. now a days suck so they try and relive the good old days. buy ruining master pieces as the original series. no bonnie no devon no KITT (two thousand) this one sucks. reminded me when they ruined airwolf wiv that crap 4th season. Knight Rider should be no longer. the 80s were the best. MY god create something new for once. Not feed off the past all the time.

April 19 2008 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Dodson

Anbody know if or when we are likely to see the new knightrider in the uk ?

April 13 2008 at 3:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ken smith

The car is cool but the plot sucks. Bring it up to date. First, let Kitt kick some imports butts on the street and then let mike hook up with a few blacks. You know, blacks who help mike with solving crimes. that way you get both old and young-black and whites. Plus, American Muscle vs. Imports. You can't loose.

February 24 2008 at 10:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Let me join the chorus:

"A Ford Mustang?" C'mon.

What an abominable choice for KITT. I mean, it's a low-end sport(y) coupe, right?

I agree with the poster, Joel Keller: I miss the turbo boost also. Although, "turbo boost" with the auto-ejecting empty cylinder is a little '80s, I think. Where's the warp drive? Or the "Mr. Fusion" generator (a la Back to the Future)? J/k.

And what's up with the double wing spoiler? Is that suppose to look "spec-'tech'-ular" or extra-sporty?

KITT should not be sporting any non-functional attachments or "bling-y" accessories. It's KITT, for goodness' sake!

End of rant.

(Ford Mustang ... lame, lame, lame ... )

February 21 2008 at 2:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim K

Just curious (since I just watched the movie off of DVR the other night): Did I just watch a remake of Knight Rider or Viper?

February 20 2008 at 2:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Meh, I can't stand Battlestar Galactica, there's dark and then there's sadistic crap. It's well done, but it's just too hung up on being dark. I found none of the characters interesting or inspiring.

February 19 2008 at 9:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rich forzani

I agree with Gavin. I was thinking the same thing. Also, when Russo's character says the bad guys are trying to "abduct" her. What's wrong with "kidnap", which is what any of us would say? This is the kind of stuff that the writers need to concentrate on and clean up.

February 19 2008 at 4:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was going to watch all two hours of the movie but had to bail out after the chase seen with the Ford Edge. What the hell? This is supposed to be one of the most basass cars of all time and the Ford Edge is right on it's tail going 100mph+ through the mountains???

February 19 2008 at 3:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rich forzani

Jeez!! Some of you need to get a life!!

First of all, this is a new show, made in a new century, with new actors, writers and a new car. It was made as a lead-in for a new series, with 13 episodes already scheduled. It was NOT made to mollify nostalgia-heads out there who don't understand that Hasselhof is a drunk who can't work anymore, that no one gives a crap about trans-ams, and that you folks are no longer the target audience. Get it?

Also, think about the absurdity of your various complaints about the "logic" of the script. This is a show about a TALKING CAR !! And you want logic?

Also, some of you look like you should be watching the hot rod or the truck channel. Who cares about the mechanical details, fuel, turbo boost, etc. My God, you sound as nuts as Trekkies. Beam me up, Scottie!

This is a commercial venture made on a budget that succeeded fantastically. It is not Cold Mountain or Casablanca or Frodo. Maybe with another 40-50 million, they could have done lots better, but that ain't Hollywood. Ford coughed up bucks, but why are you complaining? Ever since the early James Bond flics, there have been mostly Ford, or GM, or Chryslers in the shows for the same reasons. Always was, always will be.

Finally, the actors are fine. (especially Deanna Russo, who is majorly hot and completely believable as a smart physicist). You don't like the roles, blame the writers. They put the words and the story line out there. Hopefully this gets fine-tuned down the road.

In the meantime, please treat this as it was intended: suspension of disbelief escape action, with a soupcon of comedy thrown in.

PS....I'm not mad at any of you, I just want to inject a dose of reality here. 13 million viewers (more than Sarah Connors scored) equals series. This was always intended as a pilot, but the strike kept the additional episodes from being written.

February 19 2008 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

best part of the show was Sydney Tamiia Poitier because shes Sydney Tamiia Poitier, damn shes fine.

February 19 2008 at 12:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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