Last Thursday The CW network aired the pilot episode of Nikita - The newest incarnation of the classic French story, about a reluctant assassin, who works for a clandestine government agency.
Luc Besson's original La Femme Nikita from 1990 was a masterstroke of modern action cinema. The less said about the American shot-by-shot remake from 1993 the better. Then came the 1997 TV-series with Peta Wilson in the titular role, which ran for 5 seasons, and managed to stand on its own two unbelievably gorgeous legs. And so we reach 2010, and another TV-series. This time with Maggie Q in the lead role. Did we need that?
The story picks up 3 years after Nikita escaped from Division, the aforementioned agency. Suddenly she's back on the radar. She makes no attempt to conceal her motive: She wants to take down the organisation which has corrupted so many young people, and taught them to kill. The pilot simultaneously tells the story of a new young girl Alex, who is captured and put through the ringer, much like Nikita was in the original story. Her death is faked, and unless she cooperates, she really will be dead. She'll have to train to be a coldblooded assassin, side by side with a bunch of other teens. The episode sets up the two characters Nikita and Alex, their dual storylines, plus the team from Division that will hunt Nikita down.
Let me be blunt: Maggie Q is a goddess. She's stunningly beautiful. She's got a gorgeous body, but she's also got that dangerous look in her eyes. Like she could reach out and snap your neck with one hand, without spilling a drop of the cocktail she's holding in the other. Here's what she's not: She's not warm. She's not emotional. She's not vulnerable. Nikita is, though. The character needs those elements to work, and frankly I can't see Maggie's version carrying this show.
I mean, how is this going to work? Nikita will be all alone on her mission, she'll have no one to communicate with (except through IM), and so inevitably we'll form a bond with the only character we can relate to, Alex. In other words: Nikita will be a background character in a show called Nikita, which will really focus on a character called Alex. Of course, we don't know where the show will end up yet, maybe this is just part of a clever plan, but we need to be included in that plan in a damn hurry, or Nikita will fall flat on its face.
I must also confess, I was actually a bit confused at first. Alex's back-story is identical to the original Nikita's, was this a flashback? Alex's other experiences were also identical (I mean IDENTICAL) to Nikita's experiences in the original film, so what the hell is going on? Okay, obviously I caught on quickly, but why would you want to gamble with the expectations of hardcore fans like this? And why would you create a muddled dual storyline, when what we really need is a single clear line to hook us, and pull us in. Besides, is it just me, or is this more or less Alias? The Nikita part of the story anyway.
On top of the unnecessarily complex setup, the rest of the episode is pretty badly written, stuffed to the brim with low-grade spy clichés. Stuff like a character being COMPLETELY surprised at a new development one moment, only to reveal that this was AAAAAALL PART of the plan 2 seconds later.
As for the other characters... Shane West takes on the part played by Tcheky Karyo in the original, and Gabriel Byrne in the remake. Unfortunately he looks like he's 16 years old. And what's that? Indie talent Aaron Stanford in the thankless role of "the token tech guy"? Say it ain't so... I guess mediocre small films that no one sees don't pay the bills. Then they have Xander Berkeley as the generic angry boss, and Lyndsy Fonseca of Kick-Ass fame as Alex. She's cute, but the character needs SO much work.
Add to this a cheap TV look (there's a reason modern action movies are expensive), badly staged fights, complete lack of blood (despite close-quarter gun-battles and some impressive knife wielding), and you've got one dud of a pilot on your hands. We did not need a remake (or reboot) of Nikita, but if you're going to do it, at least have some style, and remember why the original worked (here's a hint: It's not the action and the spy stuff). I'll check out episode 2, but that's the last chance this show will get. Without massive improvements, Nikita will be dead to me.