Thursday 30 September 2021

Rob's Movie Night Roundup - R (Riverworld)

At the beginning of the year, my wife and I decided that we'd like to watch more movies. There are 52 weeks in a year, 2 of us, and 26 letters in the alphabet. What better way to choose some movies than to go alphabetically? The only rule: Where possible, it should be a movie that one or more of us had never seen before. Oh, and ideally it should be part of one of the copious online streaming services we're already subscribed to, because why bother paying for a rental when we're not short of options?

Incidentally, if anyone from the big online streaming service providers is reading this (your Notfluxes or your Prims, for example), please make it easier to search for/sort movies alphabetically. Thanks.

Also, fair warning: There may well be movies that appear on this list that you'll find hard to believe I haven't seen before. It happens.

Previous letters are here: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P


Director: Kari Skogland
Stars: Brad Johnson, Karen Holness, Emily Lloyd

Synopsis via IMDB: Hale, an American astronaut, dies and is reincarnated with other persons who have lived throughout all of human history and end up on a mysterious planet called 'Riverworld'.

You know, watching this movie a number of thoughts passed through my head. It was a strange sensation, but I endured. Thanks for asking. Some of my thoughts:

  • This feels like a TV movie
  • Where the fuck did the caveman come from?! (This one legitimately made me go back ten seconds to be sure)
  • The alien feels like it should be a bigger deal in the story
  • How did all these characters learn to fight so well?
  • This feels like a TV movie to set up a franchise

I found Riverworld relatively enjoyable on the whole, the above thoughts notwithstanding. It's a really intriguing premise (which I hear can be credited to the author of the source material, a series of novels by Philip José Farmer), and the cast and crew do their best with what they've been given to work with. There are some really enjoyable visual shots of the scenic shooting locations. However, this movie is not without its issues.

I found that though the overall premise was intriguing, this adaptation doesn't do the best job of laying out the story beats (hence the caveman rewind, and musings about the alien). Also, this may have just been the version I watched, but the visuals looked...juddery. I have no other word for it. I was reminded of the joke from Garth Marenghi's Darkplace: "Every scene without dialogue was considered for slow-motion", except imagine the premise extended to every single shot of the film, but in a way that doesn't appear stylistic. I can't think of another way to explain it.

I wasn't that taken with the ending, either. All felt a bit weak. It makes sense in context, but as a movie goes you want something a bit more definitive than what you get. Go in with managed expectations on this one and you'll come out of it alright.

After The Quick and the Dead, the next movie was always going to have a hard time. Riverworld, for what it is, didn't feel like the worst film I've ever seen. However, from reading online, two things stood out: There's a more recent TV series that might be worth checking out instead, and the books are apparently incredible in comparison. Really depends on your preferences, I guess, but don't expect to see this one anywhere near the top of the list if I ever rate this.

Did you enjoy the roundup? Let me know! If you have thoughts on the movies chosen and their respective writeups above, you know where to find me. Maybe you don't, but there are buttons everywhere to make that happen. Comments, Twitter, you name it. Moreover, if you want to make use of this movie night format, bearing in mind you're a few weeks in and might have to double up to get up to speed, feel free to do the same - I'd love to know what you chose too!

Rob Wade

Rob Wade blogs about stuff he likes. Whether it's video games or geek media for Emotionally14 or writing about speculative theories for future films on Talk Star Wars, the focus has always been on the stuff that brings the most pleasure to his life within media.

Rob is the editor of Emotionally14, and showrunner of the E14 podcasts "The Crazy Train", "The E14 Gamecast" and "Talk Star Wars", as well as the host and guest of a number of pieces on E14's Youtube channel over the years.

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