Riverworld (TV Movie 2003) Poster

(2003 TV Movie)

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not a movie -- just another series pilot
12-string22 March 2003
A law was passed in the 1970s that all fantasy novels had to be franchises, with sequels out the wazoo for time and eternity. Philip Jose Farmer opted not to be a criminal and wrote book after book about a strange world, dominated by an endless river along whose banks everyone who had ever lived on earth was reborn. Food and clothing were supplied, and there were alien observers, whose plan was -- well, that's the plot!

Now the Sci-Fi Channel, abetted by Canada and Australia, has filmed the concept, but be warned, it's not really a movie -- it's the pilot for a series! A 21st century US astronaut, Lewis Carroll's Alice, a riverboat man named Sam, a Holocaust survivor, a strange little girl, a Yoruba princess (whose native dances look suspiciously like standard stripjoint choreo but who also does martial arts like Xena), and the evil Nero, among others, are here, struggling for survival, for power, and to launch an oldfashioned Mississippi steamboat. (So where is Richard F Burton?)

Tech credits are fair for the budget. Except for Emily Lloyd, as Alice, the cast is no-name. There's a higher than expected body count among the extras, which will no doubt be toned down considerably to make sure of a TV PG rating when this goes to weekly, and the gaggle of reborns coming out of the surf during the teaser in flesh-colored G-strings and bras, where appropriate, is probably as close to sensuality as this is going to get.

The ending is as wide-open as the defenses at Basra, with the aliens talking enigmatic foreboding stuff that will make more sense later in the series and a climactic revelation that is no surprise at all and just sets up the conflict for subsequent episodes.

This is going to be a lot like "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World," except that it has a river, not a plateau, where the leads can encounter a new civilization every week while tooling along in that steamboat. If you liked the Lost World series, you may find this worth watching. Odds are they'll be using some leftover scripts from it! On the other hand, if you were a fan of the books, I think you'll regard this as basically an unworthy bastardization for popular consumption of a fascinating idea -- even though Farmer did eventually write it into the ground.

On the IMDb scale, 3 out of 10.
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Horrible travesty of the books
notmicro12 April 2003
I was looking forward to this one, and was totally disgusted by the results; its like yet another pseudo-scifi "product" extruded from the studios of New Zealand. Except that compared to this thing, Hercules and Xena are highbrow entertainment! Sci-fi for the McDonald's generation. The script includes a jumble of maybe about 15% of the entire original lively and inventive story from the first two books, tosses the other 85%, and replaces it with childish claptrap like evil warlords pursing the virtuous blonde maiden -- and will she escape their clutches??? Yeah, really had me on the edge of my seat. I was expecting the villain to grow a mustache he could twirl, and tie her to some railroad tracks -- spare me! I'd give it a '2' for story, and a '6' for production-values.
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Don't waste your time - read the books instead.
jeff-85923 March 2005
Fans of Farmer's remarkable novels will be sickened by the butcher job done by the producers of this turkey. Outside of borrowing a few character names and the basic premise of the world-girdling river, the movie has practically nothing in common with the books. Every important story development concept is thrown away in favor of seemingly endless violence. And what isn't gory is one stale cliché after another. (The engine room scene near the end is taken lock, stock and barrel from at least a dozen Star Trek episodes). The ending obviously left itself open for a sequel or two. God, I hope not! A tragedy second only to Hollywood's rendering of Asimov's "Nightfall".
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it ain't the book
hillglass27 March 2003
Oh yeah, you know if you have read the very creative series of books by Mr. Farmer, that there are ideas and story snipets from the book, but I couldn't of imagined that the creators of the TV movie would make it so unwatchable to anyone not looking for a squared jaw man or exotic native women. There is so much imagination in the books, I was hoping that this show being on a Science Fiction Channel would try to appeal to a "sharper" audience. There was nothing memorable about the show. I suggest turning off the TV and reading this in the book.
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Read the book
eronavbj14 April 2003
The movie does a great disservice to Farmer's series of novels.

The book's interesting story line is morphed into a series of martial arts choreographies for TV - typical 21st century emphasis on cartooning over substance. And how did an 18th century female slave from Africa learn Bruce Lee's moves? Forget the screenplay; read the book.
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Wrong, wrong, wrong
Terry Rhodes28 March 2003
I knew as soon as I saw the ads on TV that this was going to be a gross misinterpretation of my favorite series of books. From the first scene the story veered sharply away from the books, and quickly disintegrated from there. Where shall I start? Bubbles? Where was the pre-resurrection chamber? Hundred-foot tall grailstones? CLOTHING? ONE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE! I'll stop here because it does get worse. In the books, Sir Richard Burton is the hero. A better action hero was never created, and, best of all, he really existed. Alas, he has become Sir Not Appearing In This Film. Emily Lloyd as Alice Hargreaves was a decent choice, although Lloyd's bleached hair was at odds with Hargreave's famous raven black hair. Hundreds of pages of prose cannot make a two hour movie, and the makers of this film seemingly cut and pasted with great glee. In fact, they seem to have subscribed to the David Lynch school of movie adaptation: Never read the original book. In short, this was two hours of my life that I was robbed of. I expected much more from SciFi Channel.
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I *thought* it was decent...
Asteri-Atypical14 June 2003
... that is, until I read the novel.

While not a great film or a stunning film, it had seemed OK and had potential for sequels. The story seemed interesting enough to prompt me to read the book.

After the book I realized just how far off the mark this adaptation was. I took with a grain of salt the other comments which stated such opinions. I wished to read for myself.

And now I agree. I thought of it as a 5/10 movie before, but in light of how poorly it reflected on the novels, I now give it a 2/10.
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If you want to know more, read the books.
John Costello13 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Evidently Atlantis in Canada was trying to do Riverworld, by Philip Jose Farmer, as a TV series. A good choice -- everyone who has ever lived on earth has been revived on another planet along the banks of a river that winds around it. Scope for adventure, character development, and good use of New Zealand (and maybe Tasmanian) locations. It had to have been finished before untimely Kevin Smith's death in Beijing in, I believe, late 2001, and given TV pilot cycles evidently was not picked up, which is a shame. The riverboat _was_ fabulous. And Brad Johnson and Cameron Daddo, as well as the others in the cast, are competent actors who would have entertained us for at least five seasons. Six, if they decided to do a "Beyond Riverworld" continuation series.

Do you want to know where they go? Can't wait for the rest of the story? Well, look up Farmer, P. J. in Amazon.com, and look for books called Riverworld, The Fabulous Riverboat, as well as anything else he's written. All worth reading. And in the end, well, they do reach the beginning.
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More like Liverworld (but that insults liver...)
CaballoVerde22 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie sucks all the fun out of what fans of Farmer's series might expect. All is dreadfully serious (Sam Clemens, of all people, is boring...), the absurdity & whimsicality is sadly missing, and (just for instance) the ingenious "grails" have become mundane "canisters" (Does the sci-fi channel think we'll need a dictionary, or are they just afraid we'd be tempted to throw it at them if we had to get it out?) This last aspect is just one facet of a general tendency the picture has to take what it finds in the novels, dumb it all down to the level of a person who cannot read a novel, 7 go on from there. Plus the censors seem to have clipped the joints & dreamgum out of things (I may be wrong about this--there was a small part of this film I missed). Capital B Bleahh.
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One of the worst adaptations I've ever seen
richardv25 April 2003
This was the most disappointing adaptations of a novel to film/video that I've ever seen. Most of the points that made the novel so interesting were completely changed or glossed over. While the movie was entertaining enough in its own right, it totally missed most of the essential points in Farmer's works. The fact that they tried to condense two novels ("To Your Scattered Bodies Go" & "The Fabulous Riverboat") into a two hour (with commercials!) production made it even worse.
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