Waterworld is the name given to the Earth several centuries after the polar ice caps have melted and many lives lost, as major cities now lie underwater. Many try to search for the mythical Dryland, in order to populate the planet once again, but none have succeeded. A secret lies in a tattoo marked in the back of a young girl which is, allegedly, a map which will take people to this place.
The mariner, the only name by which Kevin Costner is known throughout the film, is a trader on the sea and when he meets another it is the law of the “land” that they must trade something. We are first introduced to him on his extended-raft having a No.1, which, in order to save the world’s resources – or those that are left – he does so into a cup and then processes this through a machine producing clear, drinkable water which he downs with relish. He is directed towards an atoll by another trader where he is captured for not being human, since he has gills and webbed feet (!). In order for the plot to continue, he escapes with the girl – Enola (Tina Majorino) – and her companion, Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) who is more his age, while being pursued by the Deacon (Dennis Hopper) and his cronies.
So where did the $180 million budget go? On location shooting and huge metal structures that make this film look like Mad Max on water. Well surely for a film that expensive there’s a story behind it so original that it will be celebrated for all time? No. It’s a bog-standard tale of good-triumphs-over-evil as Hopper and co. go after Costner and co. as they work their way towards Hopper’s HQ, the good ship Exxon Valdez, as Hopper has kidnapped Enola along the way so he can find the promised land. The ship doesn’t have many safety features as Costner makes the threat of dropping a flare down an open funnel and when he does, it’s explosion-time.
Waterworld which starts of promisingly, but plays the obvious line all the way through. Plus, Hopper isn’t nearly as manic in this film as he usually is which adds to the disappointment. The film plods all the way through and the ending can be spotted a mile off; there’s a scene which could easily be cut out featuring a rogue trader, not of the Nick Leeson kind, but one who pops up only to attempt to rape Tripplehorn, before being bumped off quickly by Costner; one has to ask why hasn’t Hopper’s ship gone up in flames before if a spark is all it takes; the director Kevin Reynolds, with whom Costner has worked before on the smash-hit Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, was fired halfway through the making of the film which was later cut together by the studio – this may explain why when Hopper’s ship explodes, there seems to be a few frames missing of him and his cronies screaming during this time as they’re digitally-painted in too late; and the spiralling cost of the film was written off as a bad investment.
Kevin didn’t feel too well after drinking his own urine.
If, by some chance, you do find this film entertaining, then you’ll be pleased to know that the picture quality is nothing short of stunning, the ocean seascapes coming out perfectly with zero artifacts and lush colours. The film is presented in its original widescreen ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamorphically-enhanced for 16:9 widescreen televisions which provides 33% higher resolution – and the average bitrate is an excellent 8.8Mb/s, regularly peaking over 9Mb/s.
The sound is also spot-on as well with a good score from James Newton Howard and directional effects used well, including gunfire and explosions. The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.0 for English and French, while the German, Italian and Spanish languages are in surround sound only.
Note that although the back cover of the box states a 5.1 soundmix, the film was only ever made as 5.0, so you’ll be hard pushed to get something that was never there.
Dennis Hopper felt sure to win the King Harold lookalike contest.
- Chapters and Trailer : There’s a mere 16 chapters covering the 129-minute film which is a ridiculously short amount but no more than the region 1 DVD. It must be noted that chapter 4 suffers most by lasting a whacking 27 minutes. The original theatrical trailer is included.
Languages and Subtitles : Both English and French are available in Dolby Digital 5.0, while German, Italian and Spanish can be heard in Dolby Digital 2.0 (Dolby Surround). Subtitles can be seen in English, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Polish and Czech.
Filmographies and Biographies : Extensive biographies with accompanying filmographies are available for all the main actors plus part-time director Kevin Reynolds.
Menu : Similar to the first batch of Universal releases, the menu is static and silent with a picture mirroring the cover on the main menu while other menus contain pictures of cast members. On playing the disc you see the Universal logo and a copyright message before the main menu appears.
Jeanne Tripplehorn felt the time was right to audition for “Basic Instinct II”.
If you like the film and aren’t too bothered about major amounts of extras, then you can rest assured it looks good. It would have been interesting to see a documentary about the making of the film which went into detail as to the problems encountered during filming and the reasons why it went massively over-budget – I recall a good article in Empire when the film came out giving a blow-by-blow account on the budget – but I doubt Universal would be keen to make these facts public all over again.
Finally, does anyone know why this DVD is practically see-through? Hold it up to the light and it’s as transparent as the strength of the script.
Running time: 129 minutes
Cat no: UDR 90009
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.0, Dolby Surround
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Subtitles: 9 languages available
Disc Format: DVD9
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Producers: Charles Gordon, John Davis and Kevin Costner
Screenplay: Peter Rader and David Twohy
Music: James Newton Howard
Mariner: Kevin Costner
Deacon: Dennis Hopper
Helen: Jeanne Tripplehorn
Enola: Tina Majorino
Gregor: Michael Jeter
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.