Waterworld (1995)

DIE HARD, BRAVEHEART, Batman, Spaceman.  Welcome to the Summer of 
Acceptance, where even the *best* of the big-gun blockbusters must be 
accepted on their own, flawed, faulted terms.  Overlong, overdone, or 
overhyped, the ticket sales are the testimony to one simple fact: we're 
*willing* to accept the flawed (but still spectacular) visions of 
filmmakers like John McTiernan, Joel Schumacher, and, now, Kevin 
Reynolds.  (Of course, we also embraced CONGO.  Go figure.)

WATERWORLD floats, though not very high above the surface.  The joys of
the Most Expensive Movie Ever Made ($175M and it doesn't show) include a 
breezy tone, good humor, and *dynamite* action.  Director Kevin Reynolds 
(ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES) has clearly beaten his playmates at the 
punch bowl.  Sure, it's THE ROAD WARRIOR on water, but the stunt-heavy 
set-pieces are more open and relaxed than anything we've seen in DIE HARD 

The first hour is the best, successfully suspending our disbelief that a
world covered with water would still support human life.  (And, for that
matter, would still support so many late-20th century relics!) Into that 
picture drifts the Mariner (Kevin Costner), a wandering mutant with 
slimy webbed-feet and gills that look like little vaginas.  He's at odds 
with everyone, including the Atollers (who live in harmony on a man-made 
atoll) and the Smokers (who like to smoke and kill and not necessarily 
in that order).  The Mariner just wants to be left alone with his 
ecology lesson, but that proves difficult after he befriends a little 
girl (Tina Majorino) with a strange tattoo.

WATERWORLD starts to sink in the second hour, as the film begins to feel 
less and less "finished."  The logic problems are the worse, ranging 
from a casual deep-sea dive that offers no mention of decompression-- 
much less the dangers of tangled support cables!-- to the return of a 
patchwork airship that looks better suited to GILLIGAN'S ISLAND than THE 
ROWED WARRIOR.  Skipper!!  The second hour also marks the deterioration 
of the FX, particularly in the matte department.

Another albatross is the story, which is thin even by summer-movie
standards.  The plot is essentially an extended chase sequence with a
dash of characterization for Costner.  Numerous dead-end references 
don't help, either, and suggest a number of cut scenes.  Hopper calls
for "the trackers," but we're only shown some shark fins in passing.
Tripplehorn talks about a "music box" as something "nobody else has
seen," but when did *she* see it?  And the list goes on.

(The sexism doesn't make much sense, either.  Why not paint the future  
as a place where the sexes are equal, and where the Mariner not only  
thinks about selling his woman, but also himself??)

Despite a production history more difficult than a James Cameron shoot, 
the acting in WATERWORLD in surprisingly strong. Costner is amazing as 
the brutish, brooding hero who is more prone to throwing little girls 
overboard than to waxing wisecracks while killing. For someone who has 
never been licensed as an action figure, he's also *very* nimble on his 

The villain, the Deacon, the bald-headed leader of the Smokers, is
played with customary gusto by Dennis Hopper.  (He's here because of a
new industry rule that requires the actor to play the villain in at 
least *one* summer blockbuster a year.  His characterization for *this* 
role: Southern accent.)  He gets upstaged, though, by young star Tina 
Majorino (WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN).  She's plays the little girl with 
the map on her back, and she's a scene-stealer.

(Only Jeanne Tripplehorn-- as the love interest-- doesn't fit.  With her 
shaved armpits and shiny hair, she's too clean-looking.  The actress has 
spunk, sure, but she acts like she walked (trippled?) in from another 
movie, entirely.  She's awful.)  

The other technical credits are a mixed catch.  The production design is
a winner, with the Mariner's trimaran as the coolest contraption next to
the Batmobile.  The lighting is inconsistent, imagine that!, but the
photography makes great use of the water, water that's everywhere. 
There's also the slight problem of overscoring-- this is not a story 
that needs swelling strings.

BOTTOM LINE:  Though one can easily imagine a longer and more robust cut
              surfacing sometime in the future, the current version of   
              WATERWORLD is great eye-candy with just a little bit of 
              depth below the waves.
Grade: B-           
Copyright 1995 by Michael J. Legeros     

Originally posted to triangle.movies

Home   |   Recommended   |   Reviews   |   Views   |   Letters   |   Links   |   FAQ   |   Search!

Please report problems to mike@legeros.com
Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros