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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » MacGyver: The TV Movies
MacGyver: The TV Movies
Paramount // Unrated // June 15, 2010
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Nick Hartel | posted July 13, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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THE PROGRAM

Running for seven seasons "MacGyver" is without a doubt a piece of television that will always have its place in pop culture history. Like many fans, the show ran when I was much, much younger and Richard Dean Anderson's iconic, engineering genius, hero, Angus MacGyver, was more fondly remembered for his absurd solutions to various pitfalls. Having caught some of the series in reruns, I'm sad to say, the show didn't hold up that well. Anderson was very likeable as MacGyver, but aside from the trademark MacGyverisms, many episodes were formulaic to a fault and the show rehashed itself many times over. When the show wrapped up in 1992, the finale as more a shrug of the shoulders by the creators, who must have been feeling the strain of keeping the series alive for as long as it ran.

Two years later, MacGyver would return to the small screen in the form of two TV movies: "Lost Treasure of Atlantis" and "Trail to Doomsday." While any reference to the Phoenix Foundation or Mac's longtime friend and boss Pete would be absent, one of the films was a solid MacGyver outing; the other, well, the less said, the better. The two films are collected here for the first time as a standalone release, previously only available in the complete series release for the TV show. Fans who collected the show season by season were obviously angered by this fact and fortunately for them, Paramount has given them the opportunity to pick the disc up without rebuying the entire series.

Lost Treasure of Atlantis

First thing's first, "Lost Treasure of Atlantis" is very much a poor-man's "Indiana Jones" type adventure. That aside, it's a quality "MacGyver" outing, featuring a by the numbers, lean and mean script. Unlike the somewhat, "huh?" ending of the series, "Lost Treasure of Atlantis" feels like a much more worthy conclusion to the series than both the last regular episode and the other TV movie which followed. The film wastes no time throwing viewers into action with MacGyver, joined by a larger than life professor named Atticus, played by none other than Brian Blessed himself.

MacGyver's trademark ingenuity is running on all cylinders as he must save Atticus and himself from some classic, hidden temple booby traps. The show's budget show's its limits very quickly during the first act, with sets being a step-up from the children's game show "Legends of the Hidden Temple" and an abandoned factory standing in for a military base. Fortunately, Anderson's high-energy performance and Blessed's always welcome enthusiasm keep things going. The writers never let any cliché linger for too long and by the thirty-minute mark, viewers will have witnessed at least two classic MacGyver solutions to capture. For skeptics wondering if "Lost Treasure of Atlantis" delivers the goods in terms of MacGyverisms, I have two words: Rocket Jeep.

The driving plotline remains MacGyver and Atticus' search for the lost city of Atlantis and once free of enemy hands, their journeys will span form museums and manors in England to ancient ruins, on location in Greece. When there isn't action unfolding, there's some pseudo history to be relayed or a plot twist to keep viewers on their toes. The twists do get a bit too formulaic and quickly wrapped up, but not once can the production be called dull or slow. The finale is a perfect mix of straight-up action, treasure hunting, and MacGyver engineering.

"Lost Treasure of Atlantis" is an all-around great, extended episode of "MacGyver." The story knows its limitations and doesn't try to trick viewers into thinking its something more than what it is. It's goofy, over-the-top fun and you can't fault it for being so (why else hire Brian Blessed?). If I am forced to rip it apart, I would have to say the first thirty minutes are much more exciting from a pure action standpoint than the finale, but the ride as a whole was fun, and that's all I can ask for from "MacGyver."
RATING: 2.5/5.0
REPLAY: 1.5/5.0

Trail to Doomsday

Sadly, MacGyver's final TV outing is a pathetic whimper. Devoid of any reference to the series, save for MacGyver himself and one, so-so MacGyverism during the climatic "action" sequence, "Trail to Doomsday" reeks of being a standalone script with MacGyver sloppily pasted over the original hero. Such scripts can work, as proven by "Die Hard with a Vengeance," but here it doesn't, mostly because of the tone of the series.

MacGyver returns to England again to celebrate the birthday of a friend he saved the life of (told through a nonsensical flashback) years earlier. Tragedy strikes and Mac's friend is killed by a group of anarchists. Determined to crack the cast, Mac conducts his own investigation, much to the chagrin of the detective assigned to the case. The first 45-minutes very much play like a crime procedural with Mac following leads, raising the ire of the real investigator and ultimately crossing paths with someone who can help him crack the case, Natalia, an ex-KGB agent. The lazy script is most apparent at the halfway point, wherein Mac uncovers the existence of a secret nuclear facility in London. This revelation is punctuated by dramatic music, but the marketing gives this away clearly on the packaging.

With another 45-minutes to kill, Mac has to get himself into some trouble with the law, leading to the production's only standout action sequence, a half-hearted chase that was done better in most likely every 80s crime series set in New York City. Only in the final ten minutes, does Mac finally get into some trademark action, but even that is diluted by the eventual revelation of the masterminds, which any viewer halfway paying attention could have called in the first twenty minutes. Perhaps as disgusted as the audience with the buildup, MacGyver himself makes one last ditch effort to leave the audience with something memorable: a darkly comic fist to the face of a female antagonist.

"Trail to Doomsday" is an hour and a half of nothing but a string of shallow clichés. The performances are completely forgettable, including the generally pleasing Richard Dean Anderson, who I suspect had one last contractual obligation to fill. Viewed as an extended "MacGyver" episode it ranks at the bottom rung of the series, which doesn't hold up that well to begin with. Remove Richard Dean Anderson and his iconic character and you're left with a film that would probably be taking up shelf space as a one-dollar public domain release.
RATING: 1.0/5.0
REPLAY: 0.5/5.0





THE DVD

The Video
Lost Treasure of Atlantis

The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio transfer is a slight step-up from a television re-run. There is a noticeable amount of video noise and some annoying edge enhancement. Color levels are stable, but far from cinematic, while contrast rides the high end of the dial. Detail is very mild, but not out of line from other television productions of the era.
VIDEO RATING: 2.5/5.0

Trail to Doomsday

The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio transfer is a slight step-up from a television re-run. There is a noticeable amount of video noise, in fact slightly more noticeable than in "Lost Treasure of Atlantis" and edge enhancement is once again noticeable. Color levels are stable, but far from cinematic, while contrast rides the high end. Detail is very mild, but not out of line from other television productions of the era.
VIDEO RATING: 2.5/5.0

The Audio
Lost Treasure of Atlantis

The English stereo audio is clearly mixed, with only a few instance of muddy dialogue. The numerous action sequences do have some kick to them and do feel like a step up from a regular episode.
AUDIO RATING: 3.0/5.0

Trail to Doomsday

Unlike the track for "Lost Treasure of Atlantis," the English stereo track here is lackluster, even taking into account the source material. All in all, it's a very flat track, with the only life coming in the form of MacGyver's borrowed sports car whizzing by the camera. Dialogue sounds a bit canned and removed from the effects and score.
AUDIO RATING: 2.5/5.0

The Extras

None.

Final Thoughts

For hardcore fans of "MacGyver" who collected the show by the individual season releases, this is a no-brainer purchase, regardless of the quality of "Trail to Doomsday." For everyone else, this is a rental at best; "Lost Treasure of Atlantis" is a fun time-waster and a good example of when "MacGyver" was doing things right. "Trail to Doomsday" is a disappointing bore that is probably the worst thing I've ever seen related to the franchise. When the most memorable moment is our hero punching a woman in the face, rather than making some fantastic gadget, someone is doing something terribly wrong. Rent It.

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