- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: VC-1
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Region: A
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Vivendi
- Blu-ray Release Date: June 22, 2010
- List Price: $24.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
The SyFy Channel (formerly SciFi Channel) seemingly pushes out these mini-series and made-for-television movies a dime a dozen and let’s face it, most of them have the quality level of something that feels like it came off a factory production line.
This four-hour series from SyFy Channel has that same feel to it and it should come as no surprise considering its origins. Riverworld started its life as a pilot for a full series on the channel based on the popular series of science fiction novels by Philip José Farmer. The pilot was produced, but never the full series. Eventually, Riverworld was simply rebooted into this four-hour production starring some of the channel’s top stars from Battlestar Galactica, namely Tahmoh Peniket (also of the now axed Dollhouse). Star Alan Cumming of the surprisingly strong Tin Man and X2 was also brought in for some sci-fi credibility.
The story involves a strange planet where humans from throughout history are resurrected by blue aliens known as “Caretakers.” The aliens, in a civil war amongst themselves, are split into factions, some, known as the “Salvationists,” wish to destroy Riverworld and others, known as the “Second Chancers,” wish to protect it. The resurrected humans are brought to the planet and drawn into the conflict on either side.
The planet, with a seemingly endless river at its center, becomes a sort of purgatory for the humans who arrive there. They cannot die, because they will only resurrect and return. The former military reporter Matt Ellman (Peniket) becomes a central leader amongst the people during his search for his dead girlfriend Jessie (Laura Vandervoort), who is somehow an important figure in the civil war amongst the alien caretakers.
Riverworld throws in the obligatory figures from human history, such as Samuel Clemons (Mark Deklin) as the pilot of a nuclear powered riverboat and Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzaro (Bruce Ramsay) as Ellman’s foe, but in the end this is forgettable SyFy “drama” of the throwaway variety.
The 1080p/24 VC-1 encoding for Riverworld is wholly unremarkable and all over the place with consistency. At times it looks clean and detailed and other times it swarms in noise. One thing it does do consistently, is look rather soft overall. I’m sure the budget constraints on this production don’t help matters much either. Otherwise it has good shadow delineation, although overall brightness is a tad dim.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack on Riverworld offers its explosive moments of reasonably resounding bass, but otherwise it’s a pretty lame duck of a mix. The high frequencies sound a bit grungy, discrete sounds seem to be thrown into the surround channels by chance and overall ambience is a little dry. Otherwise, dialogue is clean and panning across the front is good.
If watching actor Alan Cumming get painted blue for a few minutes is your idea of added value, then the supplements on Riverworld are just right for you, otherwise there’s nothing with replay value really worth mentioning here.
The supplements provided with this release are:
- Behind the Scenes with Alan Cumming (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 0:02.45) — The actor discusses his blue makeup session for the project and is shown being prepared by the makeup artists.
- Riverworld Trailer (1.78:1; 480i/60)
The Definitive Word
Riverworld is just another unnecessary sci-fi production from the SyFy Channel. You may watch it and you may even glean some mild entertainment, but within minutes of it being over, you’ll have forgotten it. This release, I’m sorry to say, is hardly even worth a rental.
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