Things were going so well. After the cult sci-fi series The Pretender was abruptly canceled by NBC last year—with loose ends aplenty left flickering in the wind—TNT stepped in and agreed to produce a series of cable movies to tie things up and continue the yarn. Closure: it’s a good thing.
Then came January’s The Pretender 2001, the action-packed-but-confusing inaugural TNT flick that raised more questions than it answered, but who cared? Jarod, Miss Parker and the rest of the Pretender gang were back, and there’s always the next movie, right? P-2001 was just a warm-up for The Big One, where the lid is finally blown off the series’ Byzantine conspiracies and everything comes to a head … wasn’t it?
Well, The Big One is here, Jarod-heads, and it’s called The Pretender: Island of the Haunted (TNT; premieres Monday, Dec. 10). Grab your ankles and get ready for another round of “What the f …?”
For those who never saw The Pretender’s original ’96-’00 NBC run and have somehow managed to avoid the past year of reruns on TNT and in syndication, it goes a little something like this: Jarod (Michael T. Weiss) was a child prodigy taken from his parents in the early ’60s and raised by The Centre, a quasi-governmental think tank with evil intentions and a pretentious European spelling. Jarod thought he was using his computer-like brain to develop ideas to help mankind, but The Centre just took them, applied them to weapons of mass destruction and sold them to the highest bidders. Biological terrorism, nuclear technology, the power-ballad catalogue of Aerosmith—you name the global threat to humanity, Jarod indirectly devised it.
As an adult, Jarod escapes The Centre and sets out to find his parents, helping every Downtrodden Soul of the Week he meets along the way with his ability to master any profession and “pretend” to be anyone he chooses. The Centre can’t seem to catch him, even with unlimited resources and micro-skirted überbitch Miss Parker (Andrea Parker—her real last name, coincidentally) leading the Get the Geek team.
Things were just fine for five years—Jarod ran, Miss Parker chased, The Centre indulged in enough dark office politics and conspiratorial intrigue to make La Femme Nikita look like Saved By the Bell, it was all good. The Pretender 2001 may not have cleared anything up, but at least it stuck to the sleek spy-noir formula and antagonistic storylines that made the show work.
Now, Island of the Haunted (the title sounds waaay too much like a lost Scooby-Doo episode) casts off the espionage action and delves into … ugh … relationships and mystical new-age hoodoo. It’s not a TNT thriller; it’s a bad Lifetime adaptation of the chick-friendly CD-ROM game Myst.
Thinking he’s finally tracked down his mother, Jarod races off to the remote Island of Catharsis, a creepy little rock run by monks sworn to guard a mysterious set of scrolls hidden away in the long-abandoned Chapel of Souls … see what I mean? Pure Riven drivel. Miss Parker is dropped in the island (with no back-up, natch) just as the populace is being evacuated because of an incoming mega-storm, leaving her and Jarod all alone and forced to work together to survive. Do the scrolls somehow relate to The Centre? Does Jarod find his mother? Does that odd attraction between him and Parker finally heat up in front of a romantic fireplace? Yes, no, and sickeningly kinda.
Everything about Island of the Haunted is just so wrong: Jarod used to have a sense of humor; Miss Parker shouldn’t have “feelings,” she’s just supposed to look hot and break balls; and all the real action shouldn’t be crammed into the final quarter-hour.
Well, there’s always the next movie … oh, crap.