Riverworld: Directed by Stuart Gillard. With Tahmoh Penikett, Mark Deklin, Peter Wingfield, Jeananne Goossen. Welcome to Riverworld, a place of strange, watery beauty and the current abode of a fascinating cast of the recently (and not-so-recently) dead. It certainly isn’t Heaven, but it just might be Hell.
This is the same story that was in the previous version of the film from six years prior, but all the fine details are different.
Instead of an astronaut, our main character is a reporter, and instead of space collision, it’s a terrorist bombing that kills him, in an extremely well lit club in which the people at the well lit bar are watching a news story about terrorism, you know, like normal people do. Tamoha Pinket gets the starring role, it’s a shame he never made the leap from televistion to movies, I think he’d be a fantastic leading man. Along side him is Laura Vandervort, who I only know because she was supergirl in Smallville.
The story is slightly different, but the main beats are all there, they die on Earth, get resurrected on some planet full of rivers, and they fight the people that were there before them, with a meta mystery of why they’re there and what their purpose on Riverworld really is. There’s some blue skinned aliens in fancy robes that pulling the strings in the background with some of the most gratuitous prime directive breaking you’ll find outside of Star Trek, and this time around, there’s a nuclear device in play that ends a couple characters rather definitively. That being said, apparently when you die on Riverworld you just get respawns down the road from where you died at, with little chance of being born on the other side of the planet. I have questions about the basic levels of technology, the afore mentioned planetary position for the respawn, and the reverance that this series seems to put on Mark Twain is just weird, but it all works for the most part. Unfortunately, this is again the pilot episode of a series that never launched, but it was structured better than the first one in terms of supporting itself as a stand alone movie. It does end on a “well, we’ll see what happens NEXT TIME!” emotional note, but there’s no payoff for that, so you’ll need to break out one of the 5 books to see what happens next. Spoilers: lots of killing.