Media From the Past Representing the Future, and Knight Rider 2000

INTRODUCTION
I was flipping through Netflix to see what was available to watch, when I noticed they had Knight Rider 2000. I’d not even heard of that before, so I watched it.

Since this particular piece of media is THREE DECADES old, I’m not going to worry too much about avoiding spoilers.


A GENERAL RUN-DOWN
Knight Rider 2000 is a made-for-television movie that was produced and released in 1991. Made-for-television movies are generally not as good as movies that are made for the big screen.

The movie shows “the future” in the year 2000. I’ll be writing more about this detail, as well as other details, later.

Guns have been outlawed, so now only the outlaws have guns, as they say. Criminals are not incarcerated in prisons anymore. Rather, they are frozen for the duration of their sentence.

Michael Knight has retired and has a house on a lake, where he drinks beers and works on his 57 Chevy. He’s approached to return and work on a new K.I.T.T. program, as they are running out of time and money.

Of course, there’s a pretty officer named Shawn and he ends up working with her. But before he does that, it’s obvious that Shawn cares about some crimes that are happening, while everyone around her does not.

One criminal that is unfrozen decides to shoot the Mayor. As Shawn goes about trying to figure things out, it seems that the new Mayor, the Governor, and the other 10 cops are all in on a money-making scam, where they keep the confiscated guns, send fake guns to be melted down, and then sell the guns back to people.

That’s a plausible scenario in our modern age. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

K.I.T.T. has been parted out. The old body is gone, and a few of the memory chips were sold off.

Shawn gets caught by the corrupt officers and is shot in the head and left for dead. Someone finds her and she’s rushed into a surgery room. The surgeon has his own motives, as he wants to do a new procedure that allows them to record and see people’s memories.

The Commissioner, who seems to be corrupt but we’re not really sure, denies the surgeon’s request to do this. In fact, the Commissioner tells him to NOT put her on life support because they have budgetary concerns and can’t afford to save her.

Very realistic America future right there.

The surgeon does it anyway, to make a name for himself, and she is saved. One of K.I.T.T.’s memory chips is put in her brain, giving her special short-term memory powers.

Since there is a rush to get K.I.T.T. going, Michael Knight puts the car’s brain into his 57 Chevy. They take the car out for a test. The car senses a guy taking $10,600 out of an ATM [because the future is SO full of cash], and they catch the guy, only to find out it’s not the person they thought.

It’s James Doohan, who played Scotty on Star Trek. They recognize him and tell the audience who he is in a roundabout way. His money is scattered, and they don’t seem to help him out. He’s stunned and rambles about dilithium crystals.

Doohan has nothing to do with the story or the plot, so he’s pretty much just shoe-horned into the movie for no reason at all, except to add a little bit more of star power, I suppose?

Other things happen. At one point, the 57 Chevy with K.I.T.T. in it drives off a pier and into a lake. You get to watch them sink inside the car. K.I.T.T. underestimates the waterproof capabilities of certain things, and lets them know that he will be going offline in 30 seconds.

We cut to another scene, and it doesn’t take long for us to see our two heroes show up, ready to work. The 57 Chevy looks like it was on the bottom of a lake. However, we don’t know how they escaped or how they were rescued.

It’s kind of a Princess Leia thing. I escaped somehow.

There are other shenanigans that happen in the movie. There is even a gun fight in a mall! After Michael Knight kills the bad guy, he says the same thing that the bad guy said to Shawn before he shot her in the head. That’s a call-back.

Of course, it’s just like a television show in the end, where all of the bad guys are caught. The Commissioner tells the Police Chief that she’s going to try being more by-the-books in the future.


MY REVIEW AND COMMENTS
It’s always weird to see media from the past where they are showing what the future might be like. It gets even more weird that we’re almost 22 years past that predicted future.

Some movies get that right, while others are partially correct, and some are way off.

This movie was somewhere in the middle.

I am constantly reminded that this is a made-for-television movie that was made in 1991, with all of the technological and cinematography shortcomings of the day.

There is a scene where they are parked outside talking, and the entire place looks like it’s made of FIVE or so LOUVRE structures. There is a scene near there that shows the landscape looking a bit like one scene from the live-action Aeon Flux movie [2005], except it’s not so huge and majestic.

Outside of this, it mostly looks like it was shot in 1991.

I’ll write more about the futuristic aspect later… in the future.

I’ll try to not be too judgmental, although I must also acknowledge that I am writing this near the end of 2021, 30 years after the movie was made, and 21 years after their predicted future.

The first problem I had with the movie was the idea that criminals would be frozen for the duration of their sentences, and then thawed out and released. The primary piece of punishment that comes from prison involves being locked up and watching the time pass you by very slowly. This is torture. But with this NEW program, it’s like falling asleep for one second and then waking up.

That is NOT punishment.

The police and political corruption was on-par, so far as I’m concerned. There were 11 police officers in the situation, only one was good, and she got shot in the head. This is a very accurate depiction of American police and politics today.

Shawn isn’t the only woman on the force. Both of these women use their guns at least once in the movie, and neither of them appears to have ever held a gun in her entire life. This might be just how these actors are, or maybe it was the direction.

It wouldn’t make sense, as powerful female officers who use guns are part of the landscape by 1991. We can go back to Police Woman, starring Angie Dickenson, from 1974. So they could have done better.

Made-for-television movies are typically rushed and have crap budgets. Way to treat a franchise.

The moment where Shawn realizes that all of her police officer cohorts betrayed her felt realistic. I know what it’s like to have an entire group of “friends” engage in betrayal. That scene was why I kept watching.

When the Mayor gets shot, early in the movie, it happens right in front of Shawn. While he’s in agony, trying to stand up, she’s focused on where the bad guy ran, and then on the gun that he dropped as he ran. While she’s doing this, the Mayor is bleeding out on a bench.

Then we go to his funeral.

This does NOT help my view of Shawn as a legitimate police officer, whether it be a good cop or bad cop. She comes of as kind of neither, until the betrayal happens. And the betrayal is extra heavy because they ALL pretended to like her at her surprise birthday party.

There are too many scenes where something big is happening, and they leave the scene, and you have to just assume what happened based on who is still alive. Shawn gets shot in the head, and we don’t see who rescued her. It’s just her getting shot, and the bad guy saying, “Relax, officer. You’re off-duty now.” This is the line that Michael Knight repeats at the end after he shoots the bad guy.

K.I.T.T. has some snarky quips and comebacks.


MY FINAL REVIEW
I could go on and pick it all apart for hours, but I won’t do that.

While I was watching this with my roommate, she said, “Kind of sad and depressing, isn’t it?” I nodded and we kept watching. I think that this sums it all up.

I watched Knight Rider on television. By this, I mean that I happened to catch a few episodes in 1982, and a few more before the fall of 1983. I have no television watching memories between late 1983 and mid-1991, as I was in college, moving to California, pursuing my dreams of being a musician, and settling in with my future ex-wife.

I missed lots of media during that time, including the majority of Knight Rider. realizing this, it feels weird just how much of the 80s I actually missed with regard to television and cinema.

In watching this, I realized that the close to 1982 I was, the better it might have been. So if I had seen it on television when it was released, then I would have been more likely to enjoy it more.

This movie was intended to be a pilot for a reboot of Knight Rider. After watching the movie, I can see why those plans were scrapped.

It had been edited and revised for broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel. For example, on Sci-Fi they leave out Shawn’s surprise birthday scene. I think this was a big mistake because this fact makes her realization of their betrayal all that more powerful and devastating.

When they were having the final gun fight in the mall, I knew this was where the big battle would end up. And I predicted it would be followed up with a sappy ending of some kind.

In the end, K.I.T.T. and Michael Knight actually go their own separate ways. He gets in his 57 Chevy and drives himself back to the lake for fishing. K.I.T.T. 4000 ends up staying on the force, returning to The Foundation for Law And Government [FLAG].

Overall, I’d say it was a very weird and surreal experience, and as bad as it was, I’m glad that I did not bail on it.

This movie, along with all of the seasons of Knight Rider, were added to Netflix just 2-3 days ago.


A WORD ABOUT OLD MOVIES SET IN THE FUTURE
When Michael enters the mall to chase the bad guy, he walks past a movie poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey, a futuristic film about 2001, released in 1968.

This caused me to focus on the differences between Space Odyssey in 68 and Knight Rider 2000 in 1991.

Indeed, BOTH movies get the future wrong in many ways. Space Odyssey attempts to see the future in the year 2001, but my guess is that it’s actually closer to 2081, at best. Plus, the distance between 1968 and 2001 is more sizeable than the difference between the early 80s and 2000.

Circa 2015: I kept this on my desk at work, to confuse my younger co-workers.

But with Knight Rider 2000, since they were closer to the future, I had a greater expectation that they’d get some of it right. There was a scene where a touch-screen was emulated, which was nice. There was the presence of a Motorola flip phone, and I LOVED those phones.

But K.I.T.T. didn’t really need to have a fax machine built in. Even to this day, I’ll have businesses ask me to “fax”something over. I’ll ask them for a time machine in return. I had to fax my apartment rental agreement paperwork from California to Oregon, but I had to go to Kinko’s to do it, and they charged me almost $23. And I had to do it twice because the rental office said it wasn’t dark enough.

Pssh.

The computers were all old, as if we would still be using the same computers in 2000 as 1991. There was less energy put into their vision of future technology than in the old Star Trek series from the 60s.

They had Jan Hammer do the soundtrack, and he’s VERY representative of the 80s. Outside of that, and the scene where they’re inside an actual mall, they did a somewhat decent job of keeping 90s culture out of it, even though they were a big part of 80s culture.

Parts of the film were shot in Burbank, California, so for me it was a little distracting seeing this neighborhood, when I lived in this neighborhood as late as 2014. This represents a piece of my bias that I must disclose for a proper review.

I think that having lived 57 years and having watch lots of media where future societies are portrayed set me up for not really liking this movie all that much. So I definitely would have enjoyed it more had I seen it in 1991.

Predicting the future is difficult, so why did they fail so miserably?

One reason is the show is SO steeped in 80s culture that it is difficult to continue it. To their credit, they did ditch the old K.I.T.T. car body, which is classic, in an effort to modernize with a new Knight 4000. But the car was a bit portion of the show, so that hurt things for them.

The new car is okay, but it’s not the old car.

But I think the BIGGEST reason why this made-for-television movie failed was the precise same reason that Knight Rider was cancelled. That is, because of budget concerns. It was costing too much to produce the old TV series, and the plot lines were getting more and more outlandish. Viewership remained high in spite of this detail, but the budgetary concerns were responsible for their ultimate demise.

Knowing this explains the scene where the Commissioner tells the surgeon to let Shawn die because they can’t afford it. The television show Knight Rider was sent off to die because of budgetary concerns. No doubt, this scene was a jab at the studio behind the show. There is also word that the popularity was diminishing, so who knows the ultimate truth.

At any rate, predicting the future is hard. Given our technological burst that occured from the early 80s to know, it is understandable that the show could lose that pulse very easily. The past 30-40 years have been a unique time for technology, so I will try to forgive it.


IN THE END
Knight Rider was a fun show. Knight Rider 2000 tried to recapture that fun, but they didn’t quite make it. They get close at times, but overall it is a disappointing attempt to bring the series back in 1991.

The series was brought back in another reboot in 2008, and that failed quickly. I had no idea that had happened until I read about it while researching for this entry.

So long as you have fun with it and have low expectations, it’s something worth checking out. But once you check it out, you probably won’t want to see it again.

There is no good way to end this one, so I’ll close with someone giving the Knight 4000 a pressure wash.


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Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

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