Waterworld provided watershed moment in the history of cinema. It cemented the downfall of the once mighty Kevin Costner as king of the box office after a few years of some pretty remarkable movies. But the failure of this movie was more about the oversized budget and the lack of a proportional return on investment once the movie hit the big screens. Its failure was headline fodder for years and forever soiled the once bank worthy Costner name. The sad part of all this is that it isn’t really that bad movie and suffered more than it should have because of all the negative publicity at the time.
Set in a post apocalyptic world where the Earth is entirely covered by the ocean and denizens (are they even really denizens if they do not belong to any landmass anywhere?) live on boats and giant floating fort flotillas cobbled together by bits and pieces of whatever solid matter is available from the past. Think of ‘Mad Max’ on water.
Some people talk about some mythical land but people don’t even seem to be sure that the planet once had land before the ice caps melted. They trade and barter on the high seas where both soil and fresh water are valuable commodities. Sad looking potted plants offer up the occasional fruit or vegetable and, as one can imagine, piracy is problem. The biggest worry are attacks and pillages by an organized gang of ‘smokers’ led by Deacon (Dennis Hopper). Replace motorcycles by Seadoos and you get and idea of what their runs are like. The smokers also have a massive, nearly depleted oil tanker as their main ship.
Keeping to himself for the most part, the sailor simply known as the Mariner (Costner) enters one such floating fortress to make a few trades one day when he runs afoul of some of the nastier elements. The confrontation leads to a surprising disclosure about his identity which ends up with him being imprisoned. But a timely smoker attack allows his to escape but with the added burden of two extra passengers on his intricately designed catamaran. Also unfortunate for the Mariner is the fact Deacon is specifically seeking out one of those passengers as she is reputed to have the secret to finding ‘land’. The movie slowly notches up the action as streetwise savvy (without the streets) Mariner outfoxes sea pirates, nutcases and Smokers.
The challenges of filming almost entirely on water proved to be a bit too much and the sinking of a city block sized set midway through filming sealed the fate of the movie. Even today, I find most reviewers are overly harsh. It is a more than just a simple action movie in that it has something of an interesting and novel premise (if you don’t over think the logic of it all) and aside from decent (if subdued) acting by Costner, decent (if over the top) acting by Hopper, we have also have Jeanne Triplehorn (Mickey Blue Eyes) as the damsel in distress.
Not a fantastic movie but entertaining enough.