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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Pretender 2001 / The Pretender - Island of the Haunted
The Pretender 2001 / The Pretender - Island of the Haunted
Fox // Unrated // March 13, 2007
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted March 22, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movies:

After a four year run The Pretender was cancelled by NBC.  Reruns aired on the TNT cable network and the ratings were so strong that a series of Pretender movies were planned.  Originally pitched to be a set of four made-for-TV films only the first two were made before weak ratings caused the project to be scrapped. Few cancelled shows get a chance to wrap up dangling plot lines and resolve unanswered questions in movie format, much less a series of them.  It is unfortunate that creators Craig W. Van Sickle and Steven Long Mitchell, who wrote both films, didn't take the opportunity to do just that and end the series neatly.  Instead they added more twists and turns to the Pretender saga and threw in a lot of questions that will likely never be answered.  Now 20th Century Fox has released these two movies on a single DVD so that fans of the show can complete their collections.

Series recap:

There is a certain type of genius known as a "pretender."  These gifted people can put themselves into other people's shoes, actually becoming someone else.  They think, feel, and react the same way that the actual person would.  In 1963, a corporation known as The Centre (sic) found one of these geniuses; a small child named Jarod, and trained him.  They taught him to simulate events and solve problems.  Jarod could become Lee Harvey Oswald to discover whether he acted alone, or an astronaut on Apollo 13 to help them find a way back home.

Jarod spent his childhood and early adult years locked up in the Centre, having no friends or companions aside from his trainer, a psychologist named Sydney.  He spent his life running simulations; becoming another person so he could discover what they were feeling and thinking.  He=s done literally thousands of these, being just about every type of person imaginable.  But when Jarod discovered that the information he was coming up with was being used to make weapons and to harm people, he escaped.

Now free for the first time in his life, Jarod traveled the country (through the course of the series) using his special talents to right wrongs and get justice for the disenfranchised.  He is also searching for his parents, and trying to discover who he really is.  The Centre isn't happy that they've lost someone who was so valuable to them though, so they have assigned Miss Parker, their tough-as-nails former chief of intelligence and daughter of a high ranking executive, to track him down.  Along with Jarod's trainer Sydney, and assisted by Broots, a technical guru at the Centre, Ms. Parker plays a game of cat-and-mouse with Jarod; trying to catch him, but always arriving just a little too late.

The show wasn't just stand alone episodes though.  There is an over ridding story, or two actually.  First Jarod is looking for his family, the people he was stolen from decades ago.  The second plot line involves the events that take place at the Centre.  Ms. Parker is still searching for answers about her mother; who killed her, why she was killed, and what she was trying to do before she died.

Pretender 2001:

This first TV movie takes off right where the series ended.  It resolves the fourth season cliffhanger, though not in a very satisfactory manner.  The series really had a hard time coming up with ways to get the characters out of trouble, and this movie is no different.

In any case, Jarod and Ethan, a new character who popped up in the last episodes of season four, are on the run from the Centre and Ms. Parker once more.  About to flee their hideout, Jarod notices a news bulletin concerning an NSA agent who was shot during an assassination.  The agent just isn't any government employee though, he is a pretender too, one who was kidnapped by the Centre as a child just as Jarod was.  Not only that, but he was with Jarod when he escaped from the Centre five years ago.  (Funny, they never mentioned that Jarod was accompanied by someone in the series.)  Naturally Jarod poses as an NSA agent to discover just who shot his friend and to his surprise it was yet another pretender, one without compassion who uses his abilities to make the world a worse place.  This new pretender, known as The Chameleon, knows a lot about Jarod, his background, and his abilities, and starts playing a game of cat-and-mouse with the genius.  Now the roles have been switched and Jarod has to track down a man who can become anyone and always seems to be one step behind his quarry.

The idea of Jarod coming up against another pretender is really intriguing, but this movie doesn't quite live up to its expectations.  While the plot of Jarod tracking down The Chameleon is interesting, the rest of the movie isn't.  The events at the Centre get even more convoluted and become unintentionally funny.  When Mr. Lyle steals Mr. Raines thumb and has it attached to his hand, it's supposed to be eerie but how can you not laugh at something so ridiculous. There were parts where it felt like the writers weren't even trying anymore.  Ms. Parker gets caught in two large explosions without getting so much as a scratch.  Things like that make it hard to suspend one's disbelief.

This movie also starts playing up the mystical aspects of the show.  Ms. Parker believes that she was rescued from a blaze by her dead mother, and Sydney helps her get in touch with her "inner voice."  This "voice" gives her clues to what is going on even hints to who is trying to kill Jarod.  Ghosts and magical abilities wasn't what made the series so entertaining, and there's no need to introduce them now.

The most disappointing aspect of this movie however is that it doesn't answer any of the questions posed in the series.  The show had a myriad of lose plot lines that were never resolved, and instead of trying to answer some of the questions that viewers had this movie adds new characters and creates more unresolved plots.   That was really frustrating.

The Pretender:  The Isle of the Haunted:

A few months after the end of the first movie Jarod has found another clue to his mother's whereabouts.  He has been sent a 30 year old picture of his mother in front of an odd mystical symbol.  He traces the symbol to a wall outside of a bar and as luck would have it, his mother was there only days earlier.  What a lucky coincidence!  Not only that, but his mother told a bartender that she was headed off to an island of the coast of Scotland, and Jarod heads after her.

Through some more amazing circumstances, (basically Angelo has become psychic as well as an empath) Miss Parker finds herself going to the same Scottish Island in search of answers about her mother.  They both arrive as the island is being evacuated because a huge storm is coming.  (I know, that makes no sense.)  Little does the pair realize, but there are some ancient scrolls hidden on the island.  These scrolls were brought to the island from the Holy Land after a Crusade by Knights of the Templar and contain prophesies (written in modern English we later discover) that have something to do with the Centre and the Triumvirate.  The Centre will do anything to get their hands on them, and as Jarod and Miss Parker team up to discover their location, they find that someone else is on the island with them, someone who is willing to kill to protect the scrolls.

This film pretty much throws all of the good aspects of the Pretender series out the window and just keeps the crap.  First off, Jarod doesn't 'pretend' and he doesn't help anyone out.  All he does is piece together some clues that the Hardy Boys would have been able to figure out and follow their trial.  (For someone who has been in his share of fights during the series, he gets the crap knocked out of him too.)  This movie really starts playing up the mysterious phenomenon aspect that was prevalent in the earlier movie too.  A ghost pops up and leads people to clues and as was mentioned earlier Angelo becomes psychic.

This whole story doesn't make any sense either and it's full of plot holes.  Why did Jarod's mother (who apparently gave birth to her son when she was about 10 years old) steal the doll and bring it to the island?  Why was the doll brought to the States in the first place?  Why were the relics that Jarod found in the bar left there, and why didn't the Centre know about them?  In addition, the explanation of why the Centre wanted the scrolls is confounding and doesn't make any sense at all.

Not only was the script very poor, but the movie was really shot on the cheap.  It apparently had an even smaller budget then the TV episodes did.  The Centre, often filled with people in the series is totally empty now, and Broots even wonders out loud where all of the people have gone.  (Of course, that's never answered.)  The terrible storm that forces the evacuation of a good sized island turns out to be a little wind and a few CGI snow flurries.  They couldn't even afford to make it rain.  This low budget look that the movie has doesn't do anything to help the nonsensical script.

Of course, none of the dangling plot lines are resolved in this movie either.  Just as with the earlier offering, things get even more convoluted and stupid.  What's worse is the fact that they go back and change some of the continuity that was established in the series itself.  (Mr. Parker now runs the Centre and the Triumvirate is a separate organization.  "The Tower" apparently no longer exists.  Jarod was kept in a prison cell in the first movie unlike the nice quarters he had in the first episode.) This must be really aggravating for people who enjoy looking for clues in the shows.

The DVD:


Audio:

This show has stereo surround audio track in the original English, as well as dubs in Spanish and French, also in stereo.  I viewed the show in English, and it sounded very good.  The dialog was clear and easy to understand, and the background music came through clearly.  There wasn't any hiss or dropouts, and the show had a fairly good dynamic range for a TV show.  A nice sounding disc.  There are optional subtitles in English, Spanish and French.

Video:

The first movie is presented full screen while the second film has an anamorphically enhanced widescreen (1.78:1) image.  Since this is a recent offering it looks very good, with nice colors and sharp definition. The good news is that the edge enhancement that marred the first season is missing from this set, which makes the picture look much better.  There was a little aliasing, but this was minor.  Overall a very nice looking image.

Extras:

It's very disappointing that Fox didn't include any extras on this final Pretender disc.  They really should have included a commentary track by co-creators Craig W. Van Sickle and Steven Long Mitchell who collaborated on writing both movies, at least on the last film.  It would have been great to hear what they had planned for the other two movies which were never made and how they would have wrapped up the series.

Final Thoughts:

It's hard not to look at these two movies as a lost opportunity.  While the creators could have wrapped up at least some of the dangling plot lines, they chose to make the story more convoluted and, frankly, silly.  The revelation about Jarod at the end of Island of the Haunted is so clichéd and ludicrous as to be laughable.  The creators also lost sight of what made The Pretender such an enjoyable show in the first place.  These two films both lack the humor and sense of fun that the early seasons of the show were filled with.  It's a bit sad that these are the last entries an otherwise very good series.  If you haven't seen the show before you should check out the season sets instead of these, but fans of the program will want to rent a copy.

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