JFS the Reviewer
Waterworld 25th Anniversary
Waterworld is a post-apocalyptic action that came out on July 28, 1995. It is also one of the most infamous movies for it not only being one of the most expensive film at the time ever made, and a film that has been reviewed to death by so many critics.
It was directed by Kevin Reynolds, who had directed past films like Proof (1980), Fandango (1985), the Beast (1988), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), the Count of Monte Cristo (2002), and Risen (2016) being his last film to direct. The film was produced by Lawrence Gordon, Charles Gordon, John Davis, and Kevin Costner, who was also the main character of the movie.
The story for the film was written by Peter Rader, who had directed Grandmother’s House (1988), Hired to Kill (1990), and last wrote The Last Legion (2007). While the other writer was David Twohy, who had been involved in Critters 2: The Main Course (1988), Warlock (1989), the Fugitive (1993), and the Riddick movies.
The was produced by Gordon Company, Davis Entertainment, and Licht/Muller Film Corporations. With Universal Pictures distributing the film. The film clocks in at about 135 minutes (Two hours & fifteen minutes). With a budget up to $175 million dollars and making back up to $264 million dollars.
The film is considered infamous due to the many problems it suffered during filming. Let’s start off with the budget. Originally, the film had a $100 million dollar budget, until it grew up to $135 million, and the final cost reaching to $175 million. The cost increased due to the fact the film was not set on stage or in an area where they had control. The fort that you see in the movie, where the people live in was built for the film. It took place in a large artificial seawater enclosure off the coast of Hawaii.
Unfortunately, a hurricane had wrecked the set, so they had to rebuild it again. There was also a stunt double that was lost at sea when his jet ski ran out of gas, another stunt double almost drowned underwater, Kevin Costner almost died in the storm, and one of the actresses in the film kept getting stung by jellyfish. The director, Kevin Reynolds had quit before the film was released due to a heated issue with Kevin Costner over his creative decisions, which led to Costner having to finish the rest of the film. This led to the film bombing in the box office, while receiving mixed reviews from critics.
Even after 25 years though and with so many critics reviewing it over the years. Is the movie really that bad? Or is there something to this movie that still makes it enjoyable? And maybe can still be a cult classic?
Let’s focus first on the story. The story takes place in the year 2500, where after the polar ice cap melted, much of the planet is now underwater. The remaining humans live on floating communities called atolls (a floating fort really) and are attacked by the main antagonists of the film called, the Smokers. The story focuses on our main character called, the Mariner (Kevin Costner). No, not the John Cena, the Marine movie.
He’s a lone drifter, who is revealed to be a mutant with gills and webbed feet. It’s revealed that those who stay out at sea for so long end up mutating and become more fish-like. They are considered abominations by the human communities and they try killing them. In this community, we find out there’s a little girl named Enola (Tina Majorino), who has a map tattooed on her back, which leads to a dryland.
The Smokers hear about this and attack the community to take the girl. However, she escapes thanks to the Mariner and Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn), who is her guardian. So, the rest of the film is our main character keeping both Helen and Enola safe from the Smokers, led by their leader, the Deacon (Dennis Hopper). All while trying to find dryland and get there without dying.
Okay, so let’s talk about the positives of the story. This story isn’t that bad. A movie about a world that is completely covered in water, you have our hero fighting against evil pirates, and with a lot of great action scenes sounds like a great idea for a story. It has a cogent storytelling, with the pacing being decent. They also do a decent job explaining this world of theirs, how the rules work, and how it’s a lot like Mad Max.
Only this is in a world covered in water and the bad guys are on jet skis chasing after you. Doesn’t sound that scary, but it does sound stupidly fun.
Now, for the negatives. Due to how bland the acting is and how there are times our main characters don’t feel like they are giving much effort into the film. I’ll get into the acting a little later, but yeah, the bland acting does bring the story down. It also doesn’t make sense why the community would want to kill someone who has gills and can breathe underwater.
You would think with how things are going they would welcome someone who can help them. In any case, the story really isn’t that bad and if told well then it could have been a lot of fun to watch. However, due to the acting, the story becomes less fun to watch, and you lose interest fast. So, how bad was the acting?
Well, let’s start off with Kevin Costner’s character, the Mariner. When you have a main character in an action film, especially around the 90s, you want to make them likeable. They can be relatable, they can be funny, they can be charming, they can have some awesome moments that make them look like a badass and are ones that people can get behind.
Unfortunately, the Mariner is bland, boring, unlikeable, and it feels like at times that Costner isn’t really putting that much of an effort into his role.
A good example of how unlikeable he is was a scene where he suggests killing off the little girl. Due to how little supplies they have, he suggests throwing her overboard, after she along with Helen saved his life. Why should we get behind a character like that, especially one who is so emotionless when he’s talking and gives literally zero effort in his delivery of his lines? I’m sure it must have been hell what they went through to get through those scenes, and they went with what they had.
The other characters, Enola and Helen weren’t exactly though likeable either. Helen was a pain in the ass, while Enola was annoying. I mean, okay she’s a little kid and of course not all kids will come off as likeable. At least the actress who played her, Tina Majorino, didn’t do a bad job with her performance. Jeanne Tripplehorn as Helen though, much like Kevin Costner, seem to give little effort with her performance in the film.
Unless she was the one that kept getting stung by jellyfish. If that’s the case, then I guess I can understand why her performance was the way it was.
The only one who does make the story worth it is Dennis Hopper’s character and how he does seem to put a lot of effort into the movie. Making his scenes fun to watch when he’s on screen and seem to have a good time with the crazy stuff he had to go through. So, much like his performance in the Super Mario Bros. movie, he was the only good part of the film. He knows he’s in a bad film, but he’ll still put effort into the film to get through it.
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny his amazing performance.
As for the other characters, a lot of them were very forgettable. They didn’t really catch my interest at all, except when I found out one of them was Jack Black. Watching it again, I realized one of the characters was played by him. But of course, if you watched it back then this was before he made it big in Hollywood.
But yeah. Due to how bad the acting from the main characters, except for Dennis Hopper, they brought the story of the film down. To the point that you lose interest, you don’t really care if they survived or not, and you don’t care if they find dryland or not.
Setting, Special effects, & Music:
The setup for the film was as I stated before off the coast of Hawaii. They did shoot other scenes in California, but they did a lot of the scenes in the water. Steven Spielberg had warned Costner and Reynolds not to film on open water, especially sharing his own difficult experience with the movie, Jaws. The mechanical shark had caused Steven so much trouble during filming, which is why you didn’t see the shark much throughout the film until near the end.
However, his warning was not heeded, and the filming was shot out in open water. This resulted as I stated earlier with a hurricane blowing down the set of the fort that the community lived in. This ended up with them wasting more money to rebuild it all. Then the loss of a stuntman, people almost dying, and jellyfish harming one of the actresses made filming the film in open sea difficult.
Now, the setup for it isn’t bad. Shooting this film in open sea isn’t a bad idea, but you shouldn’t have tried building an actual fort out in sea, where the chances of it getting destroyed was very high.
As far as any special effects, if you’re expecting a lot of CGI for this film, there is but it’s for anything underwater really or for stuff that you couldn’t do with real people. But it wasn’t that bad. When they did do some action scenes, it was actually very entertaining. It almost feels like they were doing a show with all these people riding around on jet skis, jumping off ramps, then explosions going off, shooting being fired, and some crazy stunts that were performed.
I can see why Universal Studios had their own Waterworld as a live show. I can also see why it is popular overseas and in other Universal Studio theme parks.
There was one thing they did focus a lot of attention on and that’s when the Mariner begins getting his boat ready to take off. They show him pulling stuff around and showing how his boat works. Now, yes this does take a lot of time out of the film to show this, but it is cool how it’s done and keeps your interest.
As far as the music was done by James Newton Howard, who had done past music for films like Pretty Woman (1990), the Fugitive (1993), Outbreak (1995), Space Jam (1996). Dante’s Peak (1997), the Sixth Sense (1999), Dinosaur (2000), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), the Hunger Games films, and the Fantastic Beasts films. The score for this film isn’t bad, but honestly? I enjoyed listening to is called “Escaping the Smokers”. A pretty song to use for an action scene and is one that I recommend listening to.
So, with the setting, I feel like they shouldn’t have tried doing this in open sea since they ended up risking losing what they had built. The action scenes weren’t bad and were very entertaining. The music is fine, but not going to listen to the whole soundtrack.
So, overall, the movie definitely has its flaws. It has a story that isn’t bad and has an interesting premise. The bad acting though brought the story down and made it less fun. I think the first act is okay and does a decent job introducing you to this world. However, once the second act gets going it slows down any interest and by the time the third act comes your waiting for the film to finally end.
Dennis Hopper is the only enjoyable part of the movie and was the only one that I feel gave a lot more effort than our main character. The action scenes were the most entertaining part of the movie. The setup for it isn’t bad, but with all the bad luck they had they really should have tried this somewhere where they could have had control. The music was decent and has one good song to enjoy.
All in all, this film holds up with its action scenes and the crazy stunts they did for the movie. However, the bad acting made the movie less enjoyable and hurt the story. To the point that you don’t really care how it all ends. However, if bad films are your thing, then this can still be an enjoyable guilty pleasure film.
If bad films aren’t your thing, then I don’t recommend watching this. However, when things reopen then I suggest going to check out the Universal Studios’ Waterworld show. If I recall correctly, it was a lot of fun to watch and was pretty crazy. I don’t know how the Japan, Singapore, and soon the Beijing version will look like.
If it does well and is crazier than the American version, then I recommend checking it out.