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1995 film directed by Kevin Reynolds and Kevin Costner

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Post Apocalyptic Individualism At Its Finest

  • Apr 24, 2010

Waterworld is one of those movies you kinda had to be there to fully unappreciate.  Think of it is the inherent opposite of James Cameron’s scifi smash Avatar.  I’m convinced that viewers who weren’t lining up in theaters (or in my case killing the battery of their Chevy Blazer at the drive-in) in 1995 in effort to see what all the negative hype was about will likely breeze through this film with a shrug of the shoulders and a quote to the effect of “it wasn’t too bad.”

And in fact that’s really an honest assessment of the film as a whole.  There’s nothing too memorable about the experience but nothing overly offensive either.  It isn’t until you discover that it had, at the time anyway, the most expensive Hollywood production cost recorded ($200 million budget, a record it would hold for two years until Cameron’s Titanic came along), required construction of a 1,000 ton floating set, demanded a script that underwent 36 drafts from six different writers, was shut down 3 times due to weather threats, had its director (Kevin Reynolds) walk off with only two-weeks of shooting to go, and cost lead star Kevin Costner 22-million of his own dollars to complete, does one finally start to realize that the end result is a little more than lackluster.

The premise of this one, in fact one of very few science fiction blockbusters that really won’t suffer too greatly by having its entire plot reduced to two or three sentences, is as follows: Waterworld takes place in an undetermined future date right here on earth and follows the exploits of Kevin Costner as the Mariner, a sailing individualist who, thanks to evolution, has sprouted gills and webbed feet, as he navigates the endless ocean that is Earth after the melting of the polar ice caps.

Pursued by a band of baddies calling themselves The Smokers (due to their reliance on the ancient internal combustion engine in their boats and jet-skis presumably), our hero finds himself captured and caged only to be freed by Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and enlisted to help her and a mysterious young girl (Tina Majorino) escape Smoker suppression once and for all.

So there you have it; a modern day masterpiece of a plot? Well not exactly, but it is and was passable enough as a sort of aquatic variation of “The Road Warrior”, again the suspicion (and ensuing failed expectations) not becoming a factor until you realize the behind the scenes drama and bottomless pockets the film required to make.

One can’t help but wonder if Costner and company had waited just a few more years to make this failed epic, the widespread use of computer generated imaging wouldn’t have slashed the budget to a mere fraction of what it ended up costing.  There is little doubt that much of the elaborate floating set and battle sequences could have been done in a green-screened lagoon behind the studio parking lot today.

The pacing of the film (which runs 136-minutes in the theatrical release/ 176-minutes in the director’s cut) is actually bogged down by the odd combination of unchanging background (after all, there is little variation to behold on an endless ocean), and several chronological sequences that offer no spoken dialog.  Surely done in attempt to more accurately portray the solitude and hopelessness being one of few wanderers left on the planet entails, the effort here is unfortunately more tedious and monotonous than artistically appealing.  Though longer of course, the Extended Edition manages to address these complaints slightly, by piecing together a few key scenes and adding some footage that was sliced for time constraints in the theatrical version.  Sadly though, even this release is a compromise in the view of many fans as the Extended Edition trades bonus material in favor of the cussing, violence, and some of the partial nudity in the original picture (as it is a direct release of the made-for-television ABC broadcast and NOT the highly sought after lengthened director's cut).  Apparently the potential Waterworld customer has to choose which version they’ll purchase based on their priorities.

The action sequences are perhaps the first real signs of the film’s massive budget with some high-speed, high seas chases complete with big fiery explosions.  The ending, while typical and slightly cliché, works pretty well here and is rewarding in a popcorn flick kind of way.

In all the best way to summarize Waterworld, even fifteen years after the fact, is probably to shrug the shoulders and say, “it isn’t too bad”.  Both DVD versions of the film work well enough in their weird way and may even make for a decent rental next time you’re filling up your online queue.  It’s an enjoyable enough science fiction piece so long as you avoid researching the drama and money that went into making it happen.  For that reason alone, I suggest you navigate away from my review immediately. 

And to the guy parked next to me at the Angola Drive-In that night back in 1995 who happened to have a set of jumper cables at the ready, my sincere gratitude.

Post Apocalyptic Individualism At Its Finest

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April 24, 2010
Very thorough review, Jason! Good call on this movie's budget. Did you know that the floating city that they had built (without CGI) sank 6 times before they could even finish the movie. I guess when you're in a spot where you just have to move quickly to shoot the film, can't really blame the film to become sub-par. It wasn't bad, it sure was Mad Max at sea. I'll feature this in the homepage because This is a forgotten EXPENSIVE NON-GEM LOL!

Btw, Avatar came out on dvd? Care to join us here with a review? The group would love a refresher....
April 24, 2010
Thanks Mr. William- I had to revisit this one, it's been in my collection since about 2007 and it's one of those reviews I just kept putting off. Indeed, full Avatar review on its way baby. Thanks again for the feedback.
April 26, 2010
Give me a holler when you post it--I'd like to spotlight the review.
April 26, 2010
Woop, will do buddy- I'm doing my darndest to snag a copy. The local rental store is constantly out! And believe it or not , I didn't buy this one. I just might though if I can't track down a rental in the next day or two. But it will be heading straight to the "Hype" community the moment I finish it. By the way I reviewed "Defying Gravity" tonight (if you care to take a look). I'll also get over to read what's been keeping you busy bud.
More Waterworld reviews
review by . June 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
PeeWorld, with Kevin Costner, no it's not redundant.
To this day, this one dystopian future action movie still has a reputation as being one of the most notorious movies ever.  At the time, it had the biggest budget for a movie and the results on the screen were less then stellar: a giant water tank housing rusty boats and sets.  Really.  Does that look like it's worth the 100 million plus dollars this cost?  No it doesn't.  Add on top that it's only an average movie and well, you have a reputation that not even …
review by . July 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I got interested in Waterworld after seeing the Angry Video Game Nerd attack the Waterworld game for the Virtual Boy (he'd attack the VB along with the movie itself). I finally went to the local Family Video in December of 2008 to see how bad it was for myself and much to my surprise, it wasn't the abomination legions of people make it out to be, but that's not really saying much.      The plot is that the polar ice caps melt and flood the entire world, creating …
Quick Tip by . January 03, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Given how much water is involved in the flick I expected to need to make several trips to the bathroom. I didnt but the movie was so bad I really really wanted to have to go.
Quick Tip by . May 04, 2011
WATERWORLD was released in the mid-nineties to great suspicion in the world-wide press: "What? A motion picture cost $200 million to make?" While the flick certainly doesn't look like a $200 million film on the screen, WATERWORLD delivers precisely what it promised: a loner meets girl, girl falls in love, loner performs some heroics, and girl stays on dry land because the loner can't stand the feeling of solid earth under his webbed feet. It's popcorn film time, people. Don't …
Quick Tip by . August 30, 2010
posted in MovieSucktastic
Big Budget yawner that it's best not to ask too many questions about and enjoy the long and numbing action scenes. Would have worked better if it cut down the action and delved into more about how these people live and the movie hints at it here and there.
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Infamous 1995 big budget film about how the ice caps melted and the world is underwater. Kevin Costner is a sea farrer out to survive and Dennis Hopper is a pirate leader looking for dry land. Really goes into left field and ignores the obvious questions you'll ask yourself while watching but hey, if you want stuff blowing up, it'll deliver.
About the reviewer

Ranked #14
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on Amazon.com) is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing.      … more
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About this movie


is a 1995 post-apocalyptic action science fiction film. The film was directed by Kevin Reynolds and co-written by Peter Rader and David Twohy. It is based on Rader's original 1986 screenplay and stars Kevin Costner, who also produced it. It was distributed by Universal Pictures.

The film release was accompanied by a tie-in novel and video game, and also two popular themed attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Japan based on the film, called Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular, which are both still running as of 2009.

Kevin Costner as The Mariner
Dennis Hopper as The Deacon
Jeanne Tripplehorn as Helen
Tina Majorino as Enola
Michael Jeter as Old Gregor
Gerard Murphy as The Nord
R.D. Call as Enforcer at the Atoll
Jack Black as Smoker Plane Pilot
John Toles-Bey as Ed, Smoker Plane Gunner
Robert Joy as Ledger Guy
John Fleck as Smoker Doctor
Kim Coates as Crazed Drifter
Sab Shimono and Leonardo Cimino as Elders of the Atoll
Jack Kehler as Banker
Rick Aviles as Gatesman at the Atoll
Sean Whalen as Bone
Lee Arenberg as Djeng
Robert LaSardo as Smitty
William Preston as Depth Gauge
Chris Douridas as Atoller

Plot summary
The setting of the film is the distant future, although no exact date is given. (Suggested as 2500.)[1] The polar ice caps have completely melted, and the sea level has risen many thousands of feet, covering virtually all the land.
An antihero, known only as "the ...
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Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy

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