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Friday, June 03, 2022

Airwolf at the Door

I watched the Airwolf pilot as a 15-year old way back when it premiered, as well as the series that followed for a couple of seasons. I remember the show as being of the same cheesy calibre of The A-Team and Knight Rider, but rewatching the pilot a couple of days ago revealed my memory, at least of the series opener, was unfair. Writer/director/producer Don Bellisario delivers a crisp 90 minutes or so of action-adventure that's pretty grounded in reasonably extrapolated technology, and main character Stringfellow Hawke has a deeper, richer backstory than I recalled, strengthened by a dark, tragic turn at the episode's climax, one with real and unexpected emotional weight. The action is solid, the direction and editing crisp, the special effects excellent for the era, and the plot, though simple, holds up, with believable geopolitics reflecting the times. This is a surprisingly mature offering. 

Does the rest of the series maintain this higher-than-expected calibre? I really don't remember, but revisiting Airwolf's origin story was a pleasant surprise.


Jeff Shyluk said...

When was the last time you watched Blue Thunder? That one also stands up well today, I think. The individual pieces of the film are largely potboiler, and the criminal syndicate is somewhat far-fetched, but the cast is solid and the tone and theme of the film has some admirable shifts.

What begins as an engaging police procedural slips into a fascist fantasy of Los Angeles law enforcement, which then kind of grinds its way through a criminal sub-plot and then a very rousing and politically-aware indictment of surveillance culture. The ending is satisfying up until you turn off your TV and turn on your phone.

The helicopter stunts are second-to-none. Some really scary aerobatics there, which were filmed with the real actors in the cockpit, much like this year's Top Gun. It becomes strange to cheer for a helicopter loaded with robot machineguns, but thankfully the ending is intelligent enough to (mostly) resolve Blue Thunder for the post-Millennium.

Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

Even the Knight Rider pilot I remember as being a smidgen more grounded and even...gritty? When the female villain chases a wounded Michael Knight into KITT and tries to shoot him through the (bulletproof) window, he weakly tries to warn her off, until a ricochet inevitably kills her. Heavy stuff when I was, what 14?

Earl J. Woods said...

I think I last watched Blue Thunder in theatres! I remember enjoying it, and even then I found the political overtones fascinating. I should seek it out again.

I watched the Knight Rider pilot (and the first dozen episodes or so) a couple of years ago when I picked up the complete series on Blu-Ray. Stephen's right - the pilot is grittier than what follows, at least in terms of character development. Michael Knight's origin story is pretty heavy - he's betrayed and shot in the face, disfigured, and winds up needing plastic surgery to repair the damage. All this and if I recall correctly he spends months in a coma, everyone thinking he's dead. Furthermore, it's too dangerous to return to his old life as Michael Long, so he's "adopted" by Wilton Knight, a millionaire eccentric with a huge grudge against crime; Michael Long becomes Michael Knight. Imagine leaving your whole world behind to wind up playing second fiddle to a talking car.