Last night, NBC aired their 2008 revamp of Knight Rider. The two-hour, made for TV movie was designed to serve as a pilot for a potential new show (as far as I know, nothing has been officially decided regarding a future series). In a landscape that has seen reimagined versions of shows like Battlestar Galactica and The Bionic Woman, the new Knight Rider does things a little differently. Unlike these other shows, Knight Rider is more of a sequel to the original series–think Star Trek: The Next Generation. In this new series, everything that happened in the 80s Knight Rider actually happened: there was a Michael Knight, there was a Foundation For Law And Government, there was a K.I.T.T.
The movie wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad either. The basic storyline–bad guys break into the mansion of the guy who’s rebuilding K.I.T.T. to steal his CPU, which can apparently control all sorts of hi-tech military satellites and the like–does little but serve as an excuse to get the new super-car out on the road. Along the way, the new K.I.T.T. (voiced by Val Kilmer) rescues the scientist’s daughter (Deanna Russo) and recruits the son of Michael Knight (Justin Bruening). By the end of the movie (after a cameo by the Hoff…the freakin’ Hoff!!), everyone decides to come together and reform the Foundation to help the helpless and protect American freedom and all of that other good stuff.
Okay…so, what works? Kilmer. Personally, I was a little pissed when I found out that Will Arnett had to be replaced, not because I thought Kilmer would be horrible, but because I thought Arnett would be amazing. But, Kilmer kinda nailed it, I think. This new K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Three Thousand) is basically a newborn. He hasn’t interacted with people, so he’s not as warm and fuzzy as his predecessor (although, if this becomes a series, I’m sure he’ll lighten up over time). Kilmer’s voice has just the right amount of smugness without being a complete asshole that you would expect from the most sophisticated artificial intelligence on the planet. Also, while some people were probably grumbling that this new K.I.T.T. is a Ford Mustang and not something closer to the original, all I have to say is this: the new Ford Shelby GT500KR Mustang is pretty bad-ass.
The two human leads are also pretty good. Bruening’s Mike Traceur (who looks more than a little bit like a scruffier Barry Watson), a former Army Ranger, is equal parts brooding and cocksure. He’s the stereotypical TV action hero: he’s only out for himself until he’s given something bigger to fight for. Russo’s Sarah Graiman is the brain to Traceur’s brawn. Graiman’s another in a long line of adorable TV scientists; she also happens to be the daughter of the guy who invented both K.I.T.T.s (the always awesome Bruce Davison). There’s a bit of backstory involving Traceur and Graiman being childhood sweethearts and the final scenes of the movie show that the creators plan to get these two crazy kids back together if Knight Rider becomes a series.
Now, on to what doesn’t work. First, we didn’t really get to see K.I.T.T. in action. Sure, we got to see him driving really fast, but where’s the turbo-boost? Or the smoke screen? Or, y’know, anything even remotely offensive in nature? The creators were all about showing off K.I.T.T.’s fancy new nanobot paint-job, which allows him to change color (and, it would seem, his license plate). The nanobots also let him transform into some kind of battle mode, which doesn’t look much different from his non-battle mode, if you ask me. I’m all for making this a combination of Knight Rider and Viper, but at least the car in Viper had weaponry. Oh, and enough with the goddamn bullet time! We get it, okay. Just make the freakin’ car bulletproof and tell us he’s bulletproof. You don’t have to slow down time and show the bullets bouncing off of the car as the nanobots do their nanobot thing. Or, just do it once. Not every frakkin’ time!
Overall, if it becomes a series, the new Knight Rider has potential–as long as they remember to keep it light and fun.