Thursday, October 28, 2010

DVD Doppelgangers: Riverworld vs. Avatar

Hey, it's been a while since we played DVD Doppelgangers, where I call out art directors who deliberately copy DVD covers of popular movies, hoping to fool the public into buying their knock-off version.

Tonight we have two very blue covers. On the left is the cover for the 2010 SyFy Channel made-for-TV Riverworld, based on the series of novels by Philip Jose Farmer. On the right is the cover for the highest grossing movie in the history of Earth, 2009's Avatar.

Let's see, the Riverworld cover features a big blue alien face, big colorful eyes and glowing facial markings. They even managed to copy the pouty lips! The Riverworld font is pretty similar to Avatar's as well. On the Doppelscale, I give this one an 85%!

This is actually SyFy Channel's second attempt at filming Riverworld. They first tried it back in 2003. Neither version managed to find much of an audience. I think the problem is that the premise is just too complicated. There are four very thick novels that comprise the Riverworld series, full of pages and pages of explanation and exposition. It's just too much info to try to shoehorn into a TV movie.

I have to admit I've never seen either TV movie, but I did read the novels back in college. Basically the story opens as every human being who ever lived on Earth, from cavemen to 21st century man, is simultaneously resurrected along the shores of a single 20 million mile long river on an alien planet. The story concerns a group of historical figures who band together to find out who built the Riverworld, and more importantly, why.

In the fourth book it's finally revealed that an alien race built the Riverworld to give humanity a second chance at discovering the good inside them and redeeming themselves, in order to move on to the next plane of existence. I remember finding this explanation extremely unsatisfying. I slogged my way through these books, eager to find out the secret behind the Riverworld, and it turned out to be some kind of anti-climactic New Age bushwah.

The aliens who built the Riverworld were called Ethicals, and although they didn't look human, I sure don't remember them being described in the books as blue Avatar-looking people. As I said, it's been a long time since I read them, so I supposed it's possible. The 2010 movie depicts them as blue, so I guess that was all the DVD cover designer needed to copy the cover of the highest grossing movie ever.

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