MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Studio: Vivendi Entertainment
Directed by: Stuart Gillard
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Based on Philip Jose Farmer’s classic stories, “Riverworld” follows Matt (Tahmoh Penikett) after he dies and finds himself resurrected on a strange world by a seemingly endless river. Matt soon discovers that Riverworld is the home to everyone who has ever lived and died in a purgatory. There are also mysterious beings known as Caretakers who seem to be controlling the fate of the people along the river. Matt must work with new friends along the river to overthrow a warlord that has taken over and find his missing fiancée.
WHAT I LIKED
My dad read the “Riverworld” books by Philip Jose Farmer back in the 80s, and I always thought they had an interesting concept when he told them to me. Having never read them myself, I can’t say if this was an accurate retelling of the stories, but the general concept seems to be there.
Overall, the story is intriguing, and I found the film to have some interesting twists and turns. Some of the actors were good, including Mark Deklin as Samuel Clemens and Alan Cumming as one of the Caretakers. There’s definitely a neat story underlying this film, and it does set itself up for a potential series. Considering how many of the SyFy network’s shows have been canceled (including “Battlestar Galactica” and “Stargate Atlantis”), I’d welcome this over “Stargate Universe” and pointless wrestling matches.
The bottom line is that “Riverworld” has potential, and I’d like to see some more.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The writing of the scripts are the biggest problem of this series. While the film has a somewhat cinematic look at times with the background and grander special effects, “Riverworld” still feels like a TV movie. The dialogue is stilted, and the characters don’t always act appropriately. For example, early on, one character gets belligerent with a Conquistador, which results in his quick death, and this just didn’t play out like it really would.
Also, being a SyFy miniseries, it’s not surprising that some of the acting fell along the lines of the original movies that star has-been actors like Lorenzo Lamas. Tahmoh Penikett has some cache with sci-fi fans because of his work on “Battlestar Galactica” and “Dollhouse,” but he’s chews through the scenery in this series. Similarly, Romina D’Ugo and Laura Vandervoort deliver some achingly bad performances.
But fortunately the legacy and overall scope of “Riverworld” raises it above your standard SyFy Original Movie and makes it fun to watch at times.
The only feature on the DVD is a behind-the-scenes bit with Alan Cumming as he gets into his blue make-up as a Caretaker.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of the SyFy original movies, but maybe not Philip Jose Farmer purists.