Friday, July 19, 2013

Riese (2009)

I'm Back

I know. I've been gone and completely inconsistent. I have a few days off and will be blasting through my queue on Netflix. The first one I chose to re-emerge with is Riese. As IMDb says:

Riese, a seemingly random wanderer, is being hunted by a terrifying religious cult, The Sect. Traveling from nation to nation for years, she is accompanied only by a wolf, Fenrir. Together they must evade the assassins sent by the Sect - who'll stop at nothing to complete the task they failed to achieve many years ago. 

Before I explain anything I need to admit something. For this blog I work hard not to look into any details at all. I choose the movie and as I'm writing I get on IMDb quickly to find the synopsis and links. But that's it. I cheated with this one, but mostly because once I was a half hour in, something felt wrong. The creation felt disjointed and incomplete. In fact, as I was watching I took the note that a lot of world building needed to happen and that it was better suited as a mini-series on Encore. Turns out this is a prelude to a webseries. You can probably find the rest of it on Hulu and/or YouTube. All that to say: I would spoil this movie just to save you from it, but I can't because that would require me to watch the rest of it and I'm not doing that. 


So, before I tear into this movie I'll give you a brief synopsis. Riese (Christine Chatelain) is a princess and on her 16th birthday her family is slaughtered so that her cousin, Amara (Sharon Taylor), may rule. Many years later, it is discovered that Riese is still alive. Amara, enraged, tells The Sect to find her. Since the beginning of Amara's reign, The Sect has infiltrated many villages, but a Resistance arose. They believe Riese to still be alive and fight to restore Riese to the throne and the tyranny of The Sect.

Soon into the movie, Riese suffers an injury, but avoid death because of her loyal wolf Fenrir. She asks for a room at a near-by village, but before she can be properly shooed away, she passes out. She awakes bandaged in a hospital bed. Though she is weak, she knows the Royal symbol on her back makes her a target for any Sect spies and thus works to leave hastily. On her way out she sees a room full of babies, which is unusual in these times. The doctor explains that women in the village are to give birth within the same month. At that moment a woman comes screaming in that someone took her baby. 

This sets the scene for Trennan (Patrick Gilmore). He is a Sect member who liaises between Amara's court and The Sect. He is cruel and disregards much of what Amara says but wants to find Riese. When she looking for the secret of babies, Trennan is on her trail and comes close to finding her, but she eludes him.

Next Riese is off to another township. However, when she arrives, it is obvious that this place has been abandoned for along time. Her and Fenrir stay the night to rest up. When she awakes she realizes she may not be alone. A young boy shows himself and lures her to where many others await. They are demented and have weapons, but she finds a building where a man lets her in and rescues her. 

However, it is soon clear this man is not friend, but a member of The Sect. He tells her how her little brother survived and was taken by The Sect. He is the chosen one but first they had to "fix" him. They tested the operation on a boy they referred to as the prototype and then executed the surgeries masterfully on him. It is then revealed that Trennan, the man who has been searching for her, is actually her brother. He works for The Sect, but his intentions toward Riese are still unclear. 

The prototype still lives in the village and barges in on the man and Riese. He kills the man and then runs after Riese when she attempts to escape. Fenrir wards off the boys and when Riese and the prototype fight she has no choice but to kill him. 

Riese goes off into the woods, but is confronted by Sect henchmen. When she thinks she is about to die, members of the resistance appear and save her. The movie ends with a stand off of the resistance and The Sect, with both Riese and Trennan facing each other.  


So, this movie has elements of a steampunk, dystopian world that is set in Sherwood Forest. Dystopianism, while always a genre, seems to have become quite in vogue the last five years, plus I enjoy the creativity that steampunk brings out in designers. Unfortunately, this movie let me down in the first ten minutes. Here my list of troubles:
  • Exposition with obvious narration throughout. My God this was annoying. If a movie has to use narration, it should tell me something I don't know, or is hard to understand. In this instance it was used to restate facts that the characters had JUST spoken. Narration can often add to the essence of a movie by giving you knowledge from a wise, unseen storyteller. It didn't work in this case. It really just distracts.

  • A map as prop used ineffectively. This may be a new tick I formed by watching Game of Thrones. GoT uses the map well and does a good job of dividing the land and helping the viewer/reader understand how the kingdom is divided and the characteristics of those particular people. The movie did not do that. The map was an ill-properly issued visual.
  • No real sense of the antagonists. When Amara was the main antagonist it was clear what her motivation was. Get rid of Riese once and for all. However, when the new element of The Sect began to emerge it was not really clear who they are. I understand they wish to undermine Amara, but that's it. The tag line talks about a religious cult, but all you ever see is a simple secret ceremony. I think the story would have done some wonderful things by exploring the workings of The Sect. As it is now, the writers would have done better by calling them a dissenting regime, or given the group a name like the Bolsheviks.
  • A resistance that exists but that is of no use until the end. Self-explanatory. The movie would cut to them for two minutes to check in. But it was actually distracting to the story. It would have been interesting to make them a mythical group that emerges at the end.
  • Plot goes no where. When Riese is at the hospital and finds that the babies are being shipped to another lcoation I thought this would be a major item to explore. They did not. I don't understand what they were trying to do, but it would have been interesting to see what was happening with the babies and maybe it tied into the demented boys at the second village. This simply asked more questions than were answered.
  • Mislabeled as fantasy, barely science fiction. No elements of this story ring as fantasy and not really science fiction. I suppose the operations on Trennan and the prototype make it kind of sci-fi, but it feels like a stretch. Steampunk to me is a fashion statement, but not a genre of movie and literature. Categorizing it as such, seemed like a way to lure in a certain audience and frankly, it was a cheap trick. 

Overall, I think it's obvious I think this is a waste of time. It's probable that a lot of my complaints and questions are answered in the webseries, however, I'm not invested enough to seek it out. I will say this though. This movie had a very ambitious story to tell. I don't think all was executed properly, but I think in the right hands it could be a fantastic movie/mini-series/book. 

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