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Featured TV on DVD Review: MacGyver: The TV Movies

June 12th, 2010

MacGyver: The TV Movies - Buy from Amazon

MacGyver was a long-running TV series starring Richard Dean Anderson as the titular MacGyver, a secret agent that avoided fist-fights and shootouts by using his immense scientific knowledge and whatever limited resources he found at his location. Oh yeah, and his trusty Swiss-army knife. It was a huge hit while it was being filmed in and around Vancouver, but it was canceled shortly after filming was moved to Los Angeles. (The same thing happened to The X-Files.) However, the character was still popular, so in 1994 two TV movies were made. Since the Complete Series has been released on DVD, it makes sense that they would release the two TV movies. In fact, I'm a little surprised it has taken this long. But did the movies live up to the quality of the series? And is the DVD worth picking up?

The first of these movies was...

MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis
MacGyver is exploring with Atticus, his former college professor, who is convinced that he is on the path to discover the lost treasure of Atlantis. Despite a well-reasoned presentation in which he only comes across as a little eccentric and not a complete crackpot, the university refuses to fund his expedition. Because of this, it is up to MacGyver and Atticus to continue their adventure alone. This adventure first takes them to the Balkin peninsula, where they search in catacombs while there is a civil war that rages above. It is here where they first run into Colonel Petrovic, who desires the treasure for himself to to fund his private war.

When this TV movies aired, it had been almost exactly two years since the finale of the TV series had been broadcast, so for fans of the show, there was a lot of pent up demand for more adventures of MacGyver. However, the transition from TV series to TV movie is a little mixed. A lot of what made the show popular (the adventure, the dangerous situations, the cunning escapes, etc._ is still there. The adventure also feels a little bigger than it did on the show. That said, it doesn't really feel big enough to be a movie. Maybe I'm judging it unfairly 15 years after the fact, but the set pieces in the show don't exactly feel movie-quality to me. All they do is give the story a wider scope: expanding the action from England to the Balkins, and other locations.

As for the script, the mystery is good and fun to watch. Some of the villains are a little generic, and some of the plot-twists strain logic. For instance, a couple times characters change attitudes rather abruptly. Meanwhile, some of the dialogue is a little cheesy and some of the delivery is a bit over-the-top, but not so much that it is a major complaint.

Overall, I would consider it a good two-part episode, but not quite an event like it should have been.

MacGyver: Trail to Doomsday
MacGyver travels to England for the 40th birthday celebration of his friend, Paul, who he saved in a mountain climbing incident years before. However, the celebration turns deadly when there's an attack and his friend and his daughter are killed. Determined to figure out why, MacGyver gets assistance from an ex-KGB agent, Natalia, while trying to avoid the attention of Chief Inspector Capshaw. However, as the body count increases, he begins to wonder who he can trust, if anyone.

Compared to MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis, the second MacGyver movie is better in a lot of ways. For instance, it feels more dangerous, since it deals with global terrorism. The death count is a lot higher than most weekly TV series would have. That said, it doesn't feel like it is MacGyver. Sure, it stars Richard Dean Anderson, but he doesn't do a whole lot of MacGyvering in the movie. It's more of a typical spy thriller than anything else. It could have featured James Bond, it could have featured Jason Bourne, and the script wouldn't have had to been changed by a lot.

That said, it is a good spy thriller, with all of the requisite twists along the way. Okay, perhaps there were one or two too many twists, and they started to strain credibility in the end. But if you wanted to watch something that is uniquely MacGyver, this is not it.

There are no extras on the DVD, nor are there subtitles.

The Verdict

MacGyver ran for seven successful seasons on TV and when it ended there was still a lot of demand for the show. However, the two TV movies are only moderately successful at capturing what made the show so great. Add in a featureless DVD and it is hard to be enthusiastic about this release. That said, for $13.49, fans of the show will want to buy the DVD when it comes out this Tuesday.

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