I was frankly surprised when I watched the SyFy Channel’s(hate that name) latest attempt at meaningful science fiction. Their usual fare is cheesy looking monster movies, professional wrestling, reality shows that look to goofy for me to have ever watched, and not much else. A good idea originally, one one of my best friends and I(probably not the only ones) suggested should be done in the early days of cable. But as the cable channel changed hands several times, they seemed to go increasingly for the lowest common denominator, pandering to junk even worse than the commercial channels. Bereft of ideas, it was a channel that commanded less and less of my time as the years went by, a not uncommon thought, I would imagine, by readers and lovers of good science fiction.
Sorry for the mild rant.
RIVERWORLD wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared. Not nearly as good as it could have been either. They picked up the basic idea from the novels, a few plot threads, distorted some others, and produced a movie long on action and effects, short on anything coherent. Matt Ellman and Jessie are new characters dropped in, I guess to give the audience a pair of young lovers, with characters from the novels: Samuel Clemens, Sir Richard Burton, Francisco Pizarro.
The motivation of the beings behind it all seem different. Two opposing factions, the Salvationists and the Second Chancers, have pitted their champions against each other, Ellman for the Second Chancers and Burton, the ostensible villain of the piece here, as opposed to the novels, for the Salvationists, with Jessie’s love, of all things, between the pair.
Instead of all of history’s humanity being resurrected at the same time, they seem to be held in limbo and released at the whim of these beings(blue people, rejects from Avatar I suppose). It’s never quite clear. Matt and Jessie were killed at the same time by a suicide bomber in a night club, yet she’s revealed to have wandered the Riverworld for months longer than Matt. Matt’s partner, who died six years after Matt, has been around for four years. Whenever our stalwart hero dies and is reborn, years seem to go by before his resurrection.
The movie looked good, but has a meandering plot that includes a nuclear powered steam boat, a same powered zeppelin, grail bands that the people use to open machines for their food(different from the books), robot horses, and lots of sword fights and battles.
Ultimately, I think the powers that be were unsatisfied with what the end result. They showed both parts in one night(it was obviously designed for a two night showing in that a natural break after two hours, with a summing up segue of the previous part and new credits for the second two hours), likely just to get something for the time and money invested. They filled up the time between acts with promos for dumb movies, wrestling, and their other series. The commercials were more enjoyable.
The best thing I can say about it was that it was better than their first effort seven years back. Still didn’t make it though. I give it a weak C-. They even threw in some modern cultural references(9-11, Homer Simpson).
In following some of the comments at different sites, people who had read the books objected to the “re-imagining” and those who didn’t read found it interesting. About what I expected. But almost no one found it “good,” which perhaps shows more taste in the targeted viewing audience than I granted them.