Wednesday, May 20, 2015

MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver and his old college professor search for the lost treasure of Atlantis.  One of the professor's other former students is also looking for the treasure and will do whatever it takes to get it. 

Memorable Quote:
I am convinced that this is the key to the arc of Solon, and I propose to follow in his footsteps and find the treasure of Atlantis.  ~The Professor

The escape scenes from the Balkan army camp is a legitimately great and exciting moment.  The sight of the large army camp with numerous soldiers is welcomely reminiscent of the high adventure episodes where MacGyver squares off against a Latin American army.  The first escape from the prison cell is very creative as MacGyver gets around an electrical floor by tipping on his chair.  Even better is the second escape where he hooks up rockets to the back of a military truck and they speed through the camp, all while set to familiar Ken Harrison styled themes. Outstanding stuff. 

RDA is guilty of some overacting (he's grumpier than ever), but he is outshined in the overacting department by Brian Blessed (aka "the Professor").  I don't remember seeing Blessed in anything else so I'm not sure how he normally is, and he generally seems like a good actor. But there are some scenes when he's talking about the treasure where he delivers his lines in a maniacal, over the top manner the likes of which I'm not sure I've seen before.

I also found the entire "the Professor double crossed us" story line puzzling.  At first when he was revealed to be helping the bad guys, I was genuinely surprised and didn't see it coming at all.  It seemed like a stretch and like something that was thrown in just for "a twist", but I was willing to go along with it.  But then he switched back to the good side in a matter of minutes, and that was confusing and totally submarined the plot element.  

Best MacGyverism:
I'll go with the rocket/truck escape discussed in the highlight. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I didn't remember one single thing about the movies before I started watching them. I'm sure I must have seen them when they originally aired (I wouldn't have not watched them), but I guess I didn't have the foresight to tape them, and I don't think they were re-aired consistently. That makes watching them really exciting and a unique opportunity, for it's the only time left in my life that I will ever watch MacGyver and not know what happens (unless of course the series is rebooted someday).
  • Was curious to see if there was going to be an opening song.  The answer is no.
  • When we first see MacGyver, he's climbing into a dark chamber with the Professor. His hair looks like a combo of season 5 and 7 (blond, wavy, and long), and he's as ornery as can be.  "Get off my foot," he angrily barks at the professor as one of his first lines.
  • Not sure why it was necessary to flash forward 5 years after the escape from the chamber (which sadly we didn't see).  What was the Professor doing in all that time? He doesn't seem like the type to wait around while the treasure is still out there.
  • I like Atlantis in general.  I'm not all that knowledgeable about it, but I remember seeing a tv special on it about 10 years ago that was really interesting and speculated that it may have been at the time and place where all the continents were fused together.
  • We know that MacGyver studied Physics at Western Tech but now we learn that he also studied archaeology at "university" with the Professor.  Maybe it was a study abroad program. 
  • It would be nice if the U.N. had the kind of power in real life that the characters in this episode are suggesting.
  • 23:37 mark - "Quiet!" MacGyver yells at the Professor while whipping his hat across the room.  He is really mad right now.  In fact, this level of curmudgeon-ness is greater than anything we see in Season 7, which is saying something.  Hopefully he's a little happier in the next movie.
  • Shouldn't they have realized the medallion was magnetic 5 years ago when they found it?
  • The Kelly character is ok.  The actress who plays her is good, but I have two issues:
    • The only hint of a spark between Kelly and MacGyver are when she tells him that she used to have a crush on him, and then she kisses him at the end.  The rest of the time, there's no hint of anything. I'd say either go all in on the romantic storyline or else don't even bring it up.  She also looks young enough to be his daughter, so I'd vote for not bringing it up.
    • Not sure what the point of her grandfather is.  It may be so that they can have a scene where she stands up for herself and tells him that she's going to make her own choices, which is not necessary to the plot.  And at one point the grandfather says Atlantis is a fairy tale, but then why is he digging around in the crater?
  • 41:52 - Pretty sweet sliding leg kick by MacGyver to take out the thief in the museum, and then a strong sequence in the streets of London as MacGyver hops onto the thief's car.
  • 46:34 - After they talk to the inspector, MacGyver grabs the Professor by the coat and yells at him.  I think some anger management courses are in his future.
  • 49:48 - the Professor reveals that the treasure is hidden in the volcanic crater at Thera where he and MacGyver were in the beginning.  Kelly also mentions that her grandfather took her to Thera once.  If it's common knowledge that the treasure of Atlantis is there, wouldn't they or someone else have found it by now?  I know there's the whole "planetary alignment once every 500 years" thing, but that wouldn't have stopped anyone from finding the opening to that room (which they don't have too much trouble finding once they get there).  I know these types of plots are hard to write but it feels a bit like they just threw some stuff up against the wall and hoped that it would stick.  
  • One of the worst tie-up jobs ever on MacGyver and Kelly in the cave.
  • The English manor scene is reminiscent of Holy Rose 2, except this one was actually filmed in England. 
  • Cool shot of the planets lining up (pictured above), even if they're not nearly that visible and large in real life.  I don't mean to complain - it is fiction after all.
  • The treasure of knowledge reminds me a bit of the seeds in The Treasure of Manco. Sadly they can't take the knowledge with them on their way out.
  • Of course the funnel attached to the rope catches perfectly on the rock above, and Kelly and the Professor seem pretty sure of this outcome as happily celebrate while it's still flying through the air.   Not sure why MacGyver's rope scaling technique is the worst of the three.  He needs to go back and get recertified at MacGyverland!  

Final Analysis:
That was fun!  But the fun-ness was more due to the newness rather than this being a great work of art.  The escape from the Balkan army was fantastic, but there's not too much else that would make me get excited to rewatch this one.  MacGyver is grumpy throughout, the villains are weak, the Professor is a nut, and there were some plot issues that were hard to overcome.  In general I enjoy treasure hunts, but this one doesn't captivate me too much.  Where will it rank?  I am sticking it between 106 (Renegade) and 107 (Gunz 'N Boys).  Coming up next, it's The Trail to Doomsday!  Judging by Mark and Highlander's rankings, this one might have even more issues.  


  1. There wasn't a ton of agreement between us on the other "Indiana Jones" episodes but we're pretty close to lockstep here. The one thing you didn't mention that I felt was the biggest macro-level impairment here was the British-centric production. Something just felt off in both movies....lost in translation with a mostly British crew taking on an American pop culture icon. I was fully prepared for the greatest MacGyver adventure of all-time when I settled in for this one back in 1994 (I was a sophomore in high school who called ABC to find out when they were finally gonna air the damn thing!) and while I enjoyed most of the first hour, I'd be lying if I walked away from the film with those lofty expectations satisfied back.

    It didn't take long to realize we'd be getting the grumpy MacGyver of season 7 was back and 100 times grumpier than ever. It was just an endless assault of negativity on the senses and I have no idea what they were thinking turning the sunny MacGyver of yore into this mop-haired mega-grouch. Kelly said "the years haven't mellowed him" in regards to Simon....but it could just as easily have been said that finding out he had a son hasn't mellowed Angus M.! And if you're hoping for MacGyver to perk up in "The Trail to Doomsday", I suspect you're likely to long for the Pollyanna optimism of the MacGyver in the Atlantis movie after that one. As for Atticus, MacGyver's grumpiness stemmed from the classic Lewis-and-Martin season 7 approach of the straight man and the nutjob playing off of each other, and they couldn't have found an actor better positioned to play the nutjob role than Brian Blessed. You said you're not familiar with him, but this over-the-top shtick is his thing. Some say his "I WISH I'D NEVER HEARD OF ATLANTIS!!!" bellow from this film ranks right up there with best of his shrill lines delivered in British productions. The villains were awful and I didn't like Kelly either. I saw next to no romantic connection either.

    1. Did ABC say anything when you called them? I wish I could say that I'm ready for the greatest MacGyver adventure of all time with Trail to Doomsday but I doubt that will be the case based on your ranking. I didn't notice anything in particular that I would pin on the British production crew -- I thought the filming of the scenes was good including the ending, though at times it was B movie-ish as you mentioned.

    2. Yes. I knew the movies were made in the first half of 1993 for the 93-94 TV was just a matter of when they'd be aired. I waited and waited and waited until I finally had to call around March 1994, when I was told the first one would be aired on May 21, 1994. True to form after seven seasons of shoddy treatment, ABC waited till the very end of the season to air it and slotted it for the absolute worst time slot on ABC (Saturday night at 7 central). But the movie caught a bit of a break when ABC bumped it up a week to May 14, and it happened to the week after ABC's much-hyped and highly-rated Stephen King miniseries "The Stand" aired, giving it better than usual promotion. The movie ranked 59th out of 86 shows for its week, which is by no means great, but it still performed better than anything else ABC had aired that season on Saturday night at 7:00. As for "Doomsday", there's a cohort who really likes that and it's entirely possible you'll be one of them given that our impressions diverge pretty dramatically sometimes.

      Moreso than the British production crew being incompetent, I was just saying they gave the movie a considerably different vibe than the series has, something even more evident in "Doomsday". Surprised you thought the volcano scene at the end looked good though. I wasn't impressed with the special effects there....some very obvious blue screen work especially at the cave opening.

    3. Yeah who knows, maybe I'll enjoy "Doomsday" more than you -- I will hold out hope!

    4. I'm about 20 minutes into Doomsday and I'm actually really digging it so far - maybe you and Highlander were putting me on and it's actually your clear #1...

    5. In the words of CinemaSins - HAHAHAHAHAHA - no. i can assure you that my ranking of 'alllll the way at the bottom' is my true ranking for Doomsday.

    6. I didn't like any of "Doomsday" but I will say the first 20 minutes were the least terrible part of it. Perhaps you'll be among that 10-20% of the fan base who doesn't find "Doomsday" atrocious but I have absolutely no idea how!

  2. So while my review is pretty dour thus far, was there anything I liked? Yes....pretty much the same things you did. While it was kind of weak that they didn't show how MacGyver and Atticus got out of the first temple, I still enjoyed the camera lens bit and the wood chip volcano. And the escape from the Balkan military base was outstanding....both with the wooden chair and lighter bit and especially the rocket jeep, the latter of which represented the movie's peak. The next half hour had its moments too, with the discovery of the ark's magnetism and the car chase and foot chase through the crowds of London after Zavros stole the medallion. I was still into it at this point. After that, the pickings got slimmer but there were still individual moments worthy of the more creative Indiana Jones adventures from the series, including the revelation of the nonmagnetic platinum pages inside the magnetic ark that served as the punch cards for an ancient computer. And Atticus original betrayal was a great surprise plot twist, even though they completely ruined it by turning him into a good guy again 15 minutes later. And, of course, Ken Harrison's music was outstanding as always.

    But at no point did the film manage to sustain momentum in a way that it could overcome its deficiencies. The set designs seemed pretty cheap compared to what they did with the series (the cave and the fiery volcanic ending were both awful)...."Atlantis" itself apparently consisted of a green platform with a few chests full of scrolls immersed in magma???.....and as you said, the writing just seemed lazy at several points. MacGyver really used his Swiss Army knife to replace a Magnetos switch to start an airplane??? Simon's motivations were very poorly drawn and his "work on Thera" made no sense outside the context of Atlantis. MacGyver and Kelly's escape from those loose-fitting ropes and escaping that ridiculous cave collapsing on them was as B-movie as it gets! And why was it that after MacGyver, Kelly, and Atticus arrived at Thera they "wished they'd never heard of Atlantis" and didn't intend to explore the volcano....but after finding the platinum page inside the ark that was the motivation they needed? That didn't make sense. John Sheppard gave some indication in his interview that these movies were rushed through (not sure why!) and it certainly felt that way to the least this viewer.

    In a way it feels like it an insult to rate this as high as I do (#62) because there are a good 20 episodes of the series down the line that are tactically better done. But something about the high-adventure theme works for me at a gut level and I accentuate the positive when watching this film even though there's so much not worthy of what the "MacGyver" franchise routinely put out. I'm actually surprised it has the number of fans it does among the series faithful (it gets glowing reviews on for example). And one other feather in the movie's cap. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas actually ripped off the lame "the treasure of Atlantis is knowledge" ending in the considerably worse "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" film. For all the potshots taken at MacGyver for "ripping off Indiana Jones" over the years, I guess Mike Greenburg, John Sheppard, and Mike Vejar got the last laugh in the end as Hollywood's brightest lights had to sink to their level 14 years later!

    1. Looks like we're on the same page here despite your numerical ranking being about 40 spots higher. I barely remember the ending of Crystal Skull (tried to block it out) so that's interesting that there's a MacGyver parallel there. Do they actually reference Atlantis in the movie? I remember they're in a rain forest cave and the aliens wake up and go flying off in a spaceship.

    2. In fairness, your ranking around #106 might actually be a better reflection of the quality of this movie than is my #62, but the high-adventure Indiana Jones theme is in my wheelhouse and earned this one some bonus points. I could theoretically go 20-25 points lower if I'm judging this one solely on its merits....which as I said before is a little sad considering they had a movie budget and what would seem likely plenty of time to get the story right here given the flexible timetable.

      And do you (or anyone else) have an answer to why MacGyver, Kelly and Atticus arrived at Thera to see SImon beaten up and are lamenting how they're not going into the crater and "WISH THEY'D HEARD OF ATLANTIS!!!!" one minute, but then proceeded moments later after finding the platinum pages in the ark. What was keeping them from wanting to go inside before they found the pages? That's the most confusing plot hole for me in this one.

      I'd have to rewatch "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (an idea that makes me uneasy just to think about as epically disappointing as it was) to recall the exact dialogue and moment of revelation. It didn't have to do with Atlantis, just about "the treasure being knowledge".

    3. I don't remember that part clearly (since it's been almost a week now since I watched it), but maybe he was speaking figuratively about wishing he'd never heard of Atlantis because things were going wrong, but once they got a break he was roped right back in.

  3. I have this one ranked similarly to Mark - and for similar reasons, if I recall correctly my reasons for putting it where it is. Though, some of my reasoning for ranking it a little higher might be more 'it's 100x's better than Doomsday', which isn't a good reason to rank it where it is, but may be a contributing factor.

    Regarding Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - when it came out, there was also talk of it totally ripping off a Stargate SG-1 episode, titled 'Crystal Skull' of all things ( The 4th IJ movie was definitely the one that required the most suspension of disbelief. If you don't pay a lot of attention to the plot, the action elements are okay, but it's got nothing on the others. (Temple of Doom is my personal fave. *g*) But, yup - it was a mention of the ancient/alien treasure being knowledge that is closely tied to MacGyver's Atlantis episode.

    1. Interesting to read about the SG-1 episode - thanks for sharing H2.

    2. Interesting. I didn't realize SG-1 had a story idea that "Indiana Jones 4" ripped off too. I hope RDA and Greenburg are getting some residuals from Lucasfilm!

    3. I rewatched the movie yesterday (must have been almost ten years since I've seen it the last time).

      I laughed out loud when I realized that Professor Atticus has a crystal skull in his office...

  4. I’d say that apart from some excellent action sequences, this is pretty much a turkey. Like Mark, I remember being excited about a MacGyver movie on tv but was disappointed with the reality. I’ve watched it a couple of times now and it doesn’t improve any.
    I think I agree with Mark that the British cast and crew just don’t marry up with the MacGyver vibe. Across both movies, some normally excellent British actors seem stiff, wooden and unhappy, not helped by some very poor script in places. Interestingly there was a life story programme on Brian Blessed yesterday. As Mark says he’s practically a national institution for his booming voice and larger than life characters although he’s also a good, and sometimes subtle, Shakespearean and tv drama actor. He’s also well-known for being completely bonkers and also very adventurous having tried to climb Everest without oxygen 3 times. Needless to say, his part in the MacGyver movie was not included in the programme!
    I think from a British perspective the locations haven’t helped the movies' credibility. Battersea Power station is a London landmark and just not believable as a Balkan army base! I’ve been to quite a lot of the locations of both movies including Thera in Greece and I can tell you that its hard to accept that there’s a crevice of the volcanic island that hasn’t been investigated by archaeologists or trampled over by tourists let alone a massive crater with a secret chamber.
    The good bits; the scenes in the army base including the chair escape and the rocket powered jeep. MacGyver tackling the ‘cleaner’ (I agree a great sliding tackle) and the Parliament square car stunts. Don’t know how they managed to film there but it was worth it.
    The bad bits; MacGyver’s grumpiness, that you’ve referred to, and most of the rest of the movie. I agree - why have the reference to ‘Kelly’ having a crush on him with no further romance or chemistry. (There’s no way that a well- spoken academic like her would be called Kelly!). I have issues with the idiotic plot and the ‘Torch of Truth’ (how did they keep a straight face?), MacGyver having apparently studied archaeology, the ‘Exeter caves’ which if they existed would surely be a World Heritage site, the professor switching sides twice, all the scenes on Thera including the ridiculously large-scale planets and the bucket and rope escape.. I could go on… I know its meant to be light-hearted and exciting but I just felt it the sets and plot were clunking and slightly ridiculous.
    If pushed to give it any kind of ranking I’d have to put it somewhere in the 120's.

    1. Very interesting to hear the British perspective - thanks Al. Can't believe that Atlantis is not front and center as one of Blessed's career highlights! As you say, he's got good acting skills, it's just too over the top in a lot of places -- interesting to hear that he's similar in other roles too. Interesting that the Balkan base was a well-known London landmark -- it could have fooled me! And you're absolutely right that in the real world all this stuff like the caves and the crater would have had to be national heritage sites or else people would have found them and vandalized them 1000 times over.

  5. OMG The Torch of Truth on Ebay!!

  6. So, a few questions and comments about this movie.

    I am wondering, when in time does this story happened? Was it before or after MacGyver's son appeared into his life? I read some comments that suggest that it was after because he is as grumpy as he was (or more) during season 7, but I am still curious. I would have loved to see MacGyver reacting to Kelly's answer when he asks her why she calls his grandfather Simon. Maybe something like; "yes, I understand, my grandfather doesn't like to be called grandpa so I call him Harry", or, "yes, I understand, I called my grandfather Harry, because he didn't like to be called grandpa, for the same reason". That at least, had given me some time reference (present/past), plus, the scene would have made more sense, I guess. On the other hand, I like the idea that it happened after his son comes to his life, because it means that his retirement didn't last that long, although there is no reference to the Phoenix Foundation.

    Did anybody notice that RDA is wearing a band aid during the whole movie? It was a big cut! It lasts 5+ years. 😊

    RDA went to The Late Show with Joe Leno to promote the movie, and during that interview he said he did all his stunts, except for one small part of one scene. When Leno asked him what part was that, he didn't answer, but gave a hint. He said he has a bad back, and basically invited the audience to watch the movie and try to identify that scene. Wondering if anybody was able to identify that scene. I definitely was not.

    And one last comment, it is true that the actress looks like it could be RDA's daughter, she looks extremely young, but she is actually 14 years younger than RDA, which means that she was 30 years old when the movie aired, and probably 28 or 29 years old when the movie was filmed.

    And no, I don't like this movie, but I think I like it better than the other one. I need to watch the other one, one more time, I'll probably make a comment about the second movie when the time comes.

    1. Ok. You can scratch that last paragraph. I definitely like more the other movie. The reasons why are posted in the comments session of the Doomsday post.