Review of Riese Kingdom Falling

Much as I dislike writing negative reviews I felt I had to post this.  I was given an ARC of the DVD of Riese Kingdom Falling to review for Ethel the Aardvark, the MSFC club magazine.  This review will be included in the zine.

Riese: Kingdom Falling was originally a series of Webisodes originally released November 2009.  The creators broadcast them on their website and after popular demand they made several episodes.  Syfy jumped on the band wagon and bought the broadcast rights so all the webisodes we withdrawn from the website.

The episodes were re-cut and a voice over by Amanda Tapping was added.

The basic premise is as follows:

Riese is the last survivor of a royal family whose rule was deposed by a secret religious sect.  She is now on the run, continually hunted by the sect and she is the last hope of the small resistance left fighting for survival.

She is accompanied on her journeys by her wolf Fenrir and she must evade the assassins sent after her while she discovers what their true objectives are.

I never saw the original webisodes so I can’t comment on their quality as opposed to the final product released on DVD.  What I can comment on is that although I saw a lot of potential in these episodes I cannot say that I enjoyed the show at all.

In fact, I lasted maybe 30 minutes and then simply had to turn it off.

I think my main problem with the show was the voice over.  Voice over’s can be very important, indeed, in a show like Dexter for example they are necessary as the character behaves very much differently to what he is thinking so we do need to know what is going on.

But voice over’s can be unnecessary as well and I think that is true in this situation.  I will give you a for example.

The main character Riese, has arrived at a small town to get treated for a wound.  She is in a hospital and notices some oddities about the maternity ward.  She leaves but comes back later to investigate.  As you see her walking down the corridor of the hospital, very obviously sneaking around to see what is going on, the voice over says: ‘Riese returned to the ward as her curiosity was strong’ or some such words to that effect.

It made me so frustrated that they couldn’t trust their audience to figure that out for themselves.  Also the narrator was talking about Riese in the third person.  Third person narration really grates on my nerves.  Perhaps if they had of had Riese actually doing the narration it might have made more sense but really, this sort of story didn’t need any narration at all.

The other thing that bothered me about the show was the constant referrals back to the map of the world.  It was obviously the director’s attempt at showing us that the action was taking place at different part of the country but really, once you have done it the once, you don’t need to keep on doing it.  Every single time the scene changed, the map shows up to remind us that yes, the action is taking place in a different part of the country.

And don’t get me started on the country names.  All ripped off from figures of Norse mythology, countries like Baldur and Freya (I’m guessing on the second one as I gave up reading them after a while) and of course, Reise’s wolf was named Fenrir.  As I stopped watching early I can only hope the Norse influence was of some significance but if the early parts of the show were any indication, was only an indication of the laziness of the writers in trying to come up with some names for a fantasy series.

I’m sure this show would appeal to some, indeed it must have appealed to a whole lot of people as it got produced on that fact, but after watching the wonderful HBO series version of Game of Thrones, and knowing that the quality of fantasy TV out there is of such high standards, where they don’t assume the audience is stupid, I get really frustrated with shows like Riese, where the creators have obviously not researched the genre at all.  This is reminiscent of eighties sword and sorcery and the genre audience is much more sophisticated now.

A lot of reviews that I read mentioned that fact that Riese is steampunk.  I didn’t think that it was at all.  To me Steampunk is set in Victorian times, or at least in the 1800’s.

This was a fantasy setting, on a fantasy world, nothing remotely to do with Earth.  The so called ‘Steampunk’ settings were simply the fact that even though this was supposed to be sword and arrow technology, there was somehow a modern hospital in this country village.  I think that was purely a budgetary consideration as they couldn’t afford to create these sets from scratch.

It didn’t come across as steampunk to me, it cam across as a jarring break in the fantasy setting, something that pulled you out of the story.

I could see the potential for a story there, the lost princess, fighting for her lost throne, the loyal fighters, struggling along without hope, looking for their princess, the evil religious sect leader, hunting down the princess, getting closer and closer.  And of course the loyal wolf, who will bite and rend anyone the princess tells him to.

Then again, if someone wrote this story the publisher would tell them to stop writing clichés and take it back and totally change it up.

I will let you decide as the club will have a copy for loan in the library.  If you disagree with me please feel free to let me know as I am always happy to be proven wrong, but somehow I don’t think I will be in this case.

The reason I posted this is that I felt that the publisher was eager for a review.  I wondered what they really thought of their own product and how on earth they could have thought they would get a positive review just because they gave me a free copy.  I have read mostly negative reviews of this show but there have been some massively positive ones and I can only think either that these people have very different tastes to me, they are very young and don’t have a critical bone in their bodies or they are fixed.  I am not judging as I am sure every artist out there props up their scores with a few reviews from friends and relatives.  That’s why I try to steer clear of reviews for books of friends.  (No relatives at this stage – I am trying to be the first one published in the family – no luck so far)

Anyway, that is my opinion of this very so so series.  No wonder it didn’t actually make it to TV





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