Oh, WATERWORLD, how I’ve been meaning to rewatch you. Maybe I should’ve done it before FURY ROAD, though.

Let’s get the “flop” shit out of the way first. This is still most famous as a big expensive movie that pretty much just broke even. I don’t care. That’s none of my business. I’m old fashioned.

I always thought it was treated unfairly at the time. It was in the news for going over budget and the popularity pendulum was swinging back on Kevin Costner after a bunch of Oscars and hit movies. It became everybody’s target and they were excited for how terrible it was supposedly gonna be. (This article from The Independent at the time examines the reasons for the backlash against Costner.)

Here, let me check if it was nominated for Razzies. Yep, Dennis Hopper won worst supporting actor and it was nominated for worst picture, actor and director. (SHOWGIRLS was the big winner that year.) So that speaks well of the movie if those assholes were against it.

We’ve been looking at the other movies of that summer, so we can see in context that it’s somewhere in the upper range of quality for what was in theaters at the time. It’s for sure less embarrassing than BATMAN FOREVER or MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE, more impressive than CONGO, arguably better than JOHNNY MNEMONIC or JUDGE DREDD. It didn’t deserve all the hate that it got.

Unfortunately that’s not to say it’s some misunderstood gem either.

It’s a cool and unique idea: post-apocalyptic marauders at sea. A boat-based civilization. Even if we didn’t know about the set that sunk in a hurricane or the cost overruns that made it the most expensive movie ever made at that time, we could assume just by looking at it that it was a huge pain in the ass to do. It’s almost entirely filmed on water, there are all different boats and a huge Barter Town-esque atoll set and people jumping and swinging from one to another.

Just as a production you can’t help but be impressed. There are all these contraptions with giant gears, pulleys, kites, boats that fold out into bigger boats, hidden sails that pop out, all kinds of nets and harpoons and grappling hooks and shit. There are jet skis, a plane (piloted by Jack Black), a patchwork hot air balloon, a ton of stunts and fiery explosions, and other than a very special-effectsy sequence in the underwater ruins of a city (another unusual variation on the post-apocalyptic conventions) it’s all pretty much that beloved movie nerd buzz-adjective of 2015: “practical.” ‘Cause this is the year before after FORREST GUMP and the beginnings of invisible special effects. In those days if you wanted a movie with a bunch of boats and jet skis moving around in formation I’m pretty sure you actually had to do it.

(I guess we’ll see if technology is finally ready for water movies, because they’re doing an Aqua-Man movie now.)

mp_waterworldKevin Costner plays a guy we only ever hear called “The Mariner,” because, a little girl later claims, “He doesn’t have a name, so Death can’t find him.” He’s a scavenger, scouring the seas in a trimaran, growing a small potted lime tree, using a pulley-based diving apparatus to go down and search for junk he can use. We first see him peeing into a machine and then drinking and gargling the water that comes out. That’s some alchemy right there. Or one hell of a Britta filter.

He’s basically Wet Max. We see how ruthless he is in his first encounter with another boatman. When he thinks he helped him out he tries to be honorable. But when he finds out the motherfucker stole his limes… bitch, it’s curtains. Never steal a mariner’s limes, I always say.

There’s alot of gruff anti-hero stuff here. He ends up taking a woman named Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn, BASIC INSTINCT) and the aforementioned little girl Enola (Tina Majorino, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE) on the boat after they help him escape execution by anti-mutant racists (he’s a gillman, by the way, long story). He shows up at this atoll, which is basically like the gas plant in ROAD WARRIOR, but he gets in by offering them a jug of dirt, instead of an injured member of their community. Dirt is very valuable, and a guy tastes it to authenticate it, like cocaine.

Anyway, once they escape he does ungentlemanly things like suggesting throwing the little girl overboard, and Helen is scared enough that she disrobes as an offering to him. A bad person would take her up on it (SCHOOL DAZE), a true gentleman would tell her she didn’t need to do that and apologize, The Mariner just looks at her body and says “You got nothin I need.” Dis. Next thing you know he’s hitting her on the head with an oar, and he actually does throw Enola over the side when she gets on his nerves too much.

That would be an interesting popcorn movie if that was the last we heard of the girl, but she gets back on and he doesn’t stop her. And of course it’s a PERFECT WORLD type deal where the hardened asshole reluctantly becomes protector of the child. The first sign that he’s warming up to her is when they’re eating a giant sea monster he hunted, and he offers her the eyeball. Then he lets her use one of his crayons, encouraging her creativity. “I’m not givin it to her,” he emphasizes, though. It’s just a loaner crayon.

It’s not the most fleshed out transition, but it’s cute when he’s rescuing her at the end, the villain thinks it’s for the map tattooed on her back (long story) but the Mariner publicly admits it’s because “She’s my friend.”

The bad guys are called “Smokers.” At first I thought that referred to the exhaust of their jet skis, but then I noticed that they do actually smoke cigarettes. The Deacon (Dennis Hopper, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2) must’ve found a truckload somewhere and that’s probly why he’s their “dictator for life.” There’s a scene that pre-sages FURY ROAD where The Deacon stands above a sea of his followers and dumps a few cigarettes for them to scramble for. It’s a very Immortan move because it’s a decadent luxury and an addictive one. Of course the Smokers want to work for him. What else would they do? Be Quitters?

The guys who get to rampage around get to have some fun in life, at least. There’s an old guy who lives inside an oil tank, I’m not sure what his job is. But when The Mariner throws a flare in there to light the whole thing up he doesn’t scream, he says “Oh, thank God.”

I think the bad guys could use more personality, but there are some enjoyably weird moments. When The Deacon loses an eye in battle his lackeys make him a very unconvincing fake eye to put over it, a crafty thing with lots of flair around it. He asks how it looks and they all kiss his ass. “I like it!” You can hear one guy in the crowd say, “Nice eye.”

Also I gotta praise the part where some of the Smokers string up dead bodies marionette style to wave at the good guys and lure them to a little trading post. (Apparently that was the set that sank, not the giant one.)

Weirdly, the final battle takes place on the wreckage of the Exxon-Valdez, and they admire a big portrait of Joseph Hazelwood. For you youths the Exxon-Valdez was an oil tanker that ran aground and dumped 11 million gallons of oil into the Prince William Sound in 1989, the second largest oil spill in U.S. history. Hazelwood was the ship’s captain, who was accused of causing the accident by being drunk on vodka, but he was acquitted of this charge. So, a toast to Joseph Hazelwood. He was not too drunk. He was just really bad at his job anyway.

It’s all too non-specific to come across as a heavy-handed environmental message, but I think that was the idea. Waterworld is caused by the polar ice caps melting, according to the opening narration. And the bad guys are paying homage to one of history’s greatest water-ruiners. The idea is that these Smokers are wasteful brutes who can never be trusted to give a hoot and not pollute Dryland, the legendary last piece of land that they’re searching for and that may or may not exist, I’m not gonna say either way, and I’m sure they would do a movie where they search for a mythical land and never find it and then it’s just the end. Like a ZODIAC type movie. That absolutely may be what this could be about, potentially.

This has got to be the most MAD MAX inspired major studio production ever. They even went ahead and got ROAD WARRIOR/THUNDERDOME cinematographer Dean Semler to shoot it. Of course there are a ton of ROAD WARRIOR ripoffs, but all of them are cheaper than the original’s low budget, except for this one, which was at the time the most expensive movie ever made. But like so many before it it approximates much of what’s fun about MAD MAX movies (weird vehicles, scavenging, spaghetti western morality, strange factions and post-civilization ways of living) while missing one of the most important ingredients: fast, sleek storytelling. This one is long and meandering. MAD MAX movies move along at a pace that mimics their supercharged vehicles. WATERWORLD is about sail boats.

There’s a clear goal: find Dryland. But it’s never as clear how they’re trying to do it or what progress they’ve made. For historical purposes I watched the theatrical cut, but there’s an extended version that’s half an hour longer. I know about a slightly different ending, but I don’t know where the other added parts would go.

There’s plenty of cool stuff that happens, and one of Costner’s stunt doubles is the legendary surfer Laird Hamilton, so he knows how to move. And there’s a bungee jump/jet ski collision that causes a fiery explosion. But the big setpieces seem less like thrilling sequences than a bunch of loudness with James Newton Howard themes telling you how excited to be. And I like Costner, but I think he’s more suited for the vulnerable side of the character than for the heightened super-warrior they make him into at the end. He Rambos onto the Valdez and takes on like 100 guys by himself, ziplines in, blows up a bunch of shit, scares everybody. It would help if he’d been established more like this from the beginning, because it seems like Nola is full of shit when she’s captured and colorfully telling her captors how much trouble they’re in for. “He’s not a freak and he can take you any time. He’s killed dozens of people, and he doesn’t have any mercy or anything. He even kills little girls.”

I always thought the ending should’ve been that they finally find Dryland, and it’s just like a little square of gravel parking lot, and they’re like, “It’s beautiful!” and kissing the ground and shit. But instead it’s a lush island, Jurassic Park, aka Hawaii. And I have learned from reading that in the extended cut you see a plaque that verifies this is actually Mount Everest. Reynolds left the movie before preproduction was finished, and he couldn’t believe they cut that part out. Anyway, as it is, The Mariner is leaving and Helen and Nola go up on a cliff to watch him and it’s just like the end of POCAHONTAS earlier in the summer.

The script is credited to Peter Rader (writer of a 1995 version of ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, director of HIRED TO KILL starring Brian Thompson) and David Twohy (who at that time had written CRITTERS 2, WARLOCK, GRAND TOUR: DISASTER IN TIME and TERMINAL VELOCITY, but got in with the big boys by having a story credit on THE FUGITIVE). Joss Whedon, a hot property after script-doctoring SPEED the year before, did the same for WATERWORLD, and talks about it as a miserable experience being on set for seven weeks just to follow dictation from Costner. And he makes a good point that it’s a movie about a gillman but the climax is him fighting on a big boat, not in water. They wanted him to improve it, but so much of it was set in stone.

In an interview with the AV Club Whedon says he “wrote a few puns, and a few scenes that I can’t even sit through because they came out so bad.” But he’d say the same about ALIEN RESURRECTION, and I like that movie. If I had to guess which parts he wrote I’d have to go with the Nola quote above and the part where, after The Deacon has been making grandiose speeches about his prophetic dreams of things to come, and now everything’s on fire and people are swinging around on ropes and shit and it’s total mayhem, she pointedly asks, “Was this your big vision?”

The director, Kevin Reynolds, had been a constant Costner collaborator, or CCC they call it in the business. Reynolds’ first movie FANDANGO (1985) was also one of Costner’s first starring roles. They became close enough that Reynolds advised Costner with his directing on DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) and “directed some of the buffalo hunt,” according to Reynolds. He also directed Costner in ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991), and was produced by him on RAPA NUI (1994). But they had some friction over ROBIN HOOD and then had a major falling out on WATERWORLD. Reynolds told Entertainment Weekly in 1995, “In the future Costner should only appear in pictures he directs himself. That way he can always be working with his favorite actor and his favorite director.”

In other words, he thought Costner was all wet. And this was before they even knew the movie wasn’t gonna make enough of a splash. So their friendship couldn’t stay afloat. etc.


But the feud eventually dried up. Many years later they recorded a commentary track for ROBIN HOOD, and they finally worked together again when Reynolds directed three episodes of Hatfields & McCoys. But then they fell out again over a disagreement of whether the Hatfields were the good guys or the McCoys were the good guys. Disregard last sentence I made that up.

Luckily for Reynolds the perceived failure of WATERWORLD didn’t kill his career. He returned two years later with the small, but well-reviewed ONE EIGHT SEVEN, and has since done THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (2002) and TRISTAN + ISOLDE (2006), and has a Jesus movie called RISEN due next year. Cliff Curtis (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD) plays Jesus. I guess none of these have been all that successful, but hey, they are major movie releases, and he’s still making them.

comic_waterworldLike most aspiring blockbusters of the era, they tried to make WATERWORLD into the new STAR WARS or some shit. There were video games (Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Virtual Boy, PC). There was a board game. There was a pinball machine. There was a young adult novelization by Max Alan Collins (writer of THE EXPERT starring Jeff Speakman, but also the comic book that ROAD TO PERDITION was based on). The cover of that one calls this “the motion picture event of the year.” There was an official tie-in making of book. I doubt it goes into, uh, some of the stuff.

Of course there was also a line of action figures, so you could have your Bola Attack Mariner, or your Hydro Stinger Mariner, or your Power Bow Mariner hang out with your Amy the Gorilla from CONGO on the Trimaran, which boasts a 21 inch mast and “converts to fast attack combat ship!” Or if you can’t afford that you could just have your WATERWORLD Dennis Hopper fight your SUPER MARIO BROTHERS Dennis Hopper.

For those desperate to return to Waterworld and see more adventures of the beloved character of The Mariner, there was a four issue comic book follow-up called Waterworld: Children of Leviathan, in which The Mariner is portrayed as just some long-haired Liam-Neeson’s-stunt-double looking guy, because they weren’t allowed to use Costner’s likeness. Or you could go to Universal Studios Hollywood, Japan or Singapore for the 20-minute Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular stunt show and find out what happened when Helen went back to the Atoll to tell them about Dryland. It’s been running longer than the fuckin LIONG KING musical, and it was the winner of a 1996 Thea Award, so eat a dick, Razzies.

Co-writer Peter Rader went on to direct episodes of Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan. He got a story credit on THE LAST LEGION starring Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley.

David Twohy has gone on to improve our lives in many ways: as writer-only on G.I. JANE, as writer-director on THE ARRIVAL, PITCH BLACK, CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, RIDDICK and A PERFECT GETAWAY.

What was then infamously the most expensive movie of all time is now (when not adjusted for inflation) cheaper than a ton of also-ran blockbusters that I would assume were, like, medium range budgets for those types of movies. Just a few that were more expensive than WATERWORLD: MALEFICENT, 47 RONIN, PACIFIC RIM, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER, GREEN LANTERN, BATTLESHIP, MEN IN BLACK 3. Even adjusted for inflation, WATERWORLD is only the 9th most expensive of all time, seated just below JOHN CARTER. And script doctor Joss Whedon himself actually wrote and directed one of the movies that was more expensive adjusted for inflation, two not adjusted. Maybe The Mariner changed the world after all.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 27th, 2015 at 9:31 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

50 Responses to “Waterworld”

  1. I’m a fan. I’ve always liked WATERWORLD. You’re right that it’s a MAD MAX rip-off, but in 1995, when every other action movie was a DIE HARD rip-off, this was a sign of originality.

  2. Glad this is getting some props – since everyone went apeshit over Fury Road this summer, I hope they revisit this one too. It’s nowhere near as good, but I do think it might be a little influential in that it took the skeletal, no-frills Road Warrior template and added traditional things general audiences like – and does them well! I like the relationship with the kid. The love story’s not bad. I like the villain (not his Looney Tunes death though). I like the minor-sci fi elements like the monster fish.

    Plus I like that they keep the mariner rough and unlikable. He’s kind of a dick. But best of all, I like that he actually has a good reason to leave them at the end! (I like Mad Max, don’t get me wrong, but him leaving the good guys at the end of Road Warrior and Fury Road reeks more of “he leaves because that’s what he’s supposed to do” than an actual character motivation).

  3. Gene Siskel may have inadvertently created this film. In the SISKEL & EBERT review for STEEL DAWN, he asked why post-apocalyptic films were always about “not enough water” and suggested that “too much water, like POSEIDON ADVENTURE 3000” might be fun. Unfortunately it seems he didn’t care for it when they actually made it.

  4. WATERWORLD is far from perfect but I really like it as I do Costner’s similarly maligned THE POSTMAN (not from 1995 but worth a write-up to complete the Costner oeveure). The set pieces are well designed and some even ramp up the action enough to justify the scope. There’s that one shot on the atoll where the camera pulls out and up and you really gotta appreciate what went into constructing the scene as much if not more than the spectacle itself.

    I prefer the Theatrical cut as it already drags enough around the time Costner finally swims down to the submerged city. There are some good bits in the Extended cut but not enough to justify some of the drag the extende Smokers scenes add.

    I rewatch every couple of years, often as part of “action flops” marathon. It’s much more “studio” than many of the box office disasters I enjoy, but then again how often do we get so much star power and production design wrapped up in this sort of genre outing?

  5. Waterworld, Freakwave & Brendan McCarthy's Road to Mad Max 4 - Spinoff Online - TV, Film, and Entertainment News Daily

    Artist Brendan McCarthy talks about similarities between Waterworld and his 1983 comic "Freakwave," how they led to him co-writing and designing the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road, and his possible influence on Inception.

  6. Ah yes, the classic Joss Whedon defense: “It’s never my fault, it’s always the others.”

    Anyway, I never hated this movie, but I also never liked it enough to defend it. The one scene that stuck the most with me, was when the Mariner pimped out Helen to a pervy guy on a float*. I mean, he was totally against giving the little girl to him, but before he changed his mind and saved her mother, enough time passed to have at least some kind of rape or molestation happen. That was a pretty dark moment for a super expensive PG-13 crowdpleaser IMO.

    One part of the review from the asshole movie critic from my local newspaper (who I already mentioned on here several times), that always rubbed me the wrong way, was when he critizised the bits of humor as “Monty Python shenanigans”. That motherfucker HATED Monty Python. Every time LIFE OF BRIAN was on TV, they re-rpinted the same review, in which he told us how offended he was by it. (He also hated THE SIMPSONS. I guess he had no joy in his life.)

    *While watching it for the first time, I thought he was played by Timothy Balme from Peter Jackson’s BRAINDEAD, but later I reallized that it was Kim Coates.

  7. I rewatched it a few months ago and one thing I didn’t really notice during my first viewing 20 years ago but I now feel really spoils the mood is how much of an unlikable asshole Costner’s character is for most of the movie. Not a cool antihero, not a funny bastard, really just a dick. He doesn’t come out as a gruff guy who just wants to be left alone and does what he needs to survive, like, say, Mad Max, he really seems like he’s constantly going out of his way to be unpleasant to people. I generally like Costner ok and he did a more interesting version of that type of character in POSTMAN, but in WATERWORLD it doesn’t work. He doesn’t have the charisma to pull off the Man With No Name attitude, and there’s really nothing compelling enough about the character to balance his assholeness, so you wind up not really caring about what happens to that fucking jerk.

  8. Just a note: Forrest Gump camp out a year BEFORE Waterworld not after. Still, great write-up!

  9. Karlos – Thanks for that link! I had seen Freakwave mentioned in other FURY ROAD related articles, but had no idea it was so similar to WATERWORLD.

    CJ – Well, I don’t think it’s ever gonna be fair to blame the script doctor. I doubt there’s too many cases where the scene is great and the guy who gets flown in to punch it it up on set ruins everything.

    braypocalypse – whoops, I guess I’m not the Gumpological expert I thought I was. I’ll have to fix that. Thanks for the correction.

  10. AnimalRamirez1976

    July 27th, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    I remember checking out when that guy bellowed “Mutaaatioooon!” The gills were one silly thing too many for my cynical teenaged brain. Other than the Atoll/Bartertown stuff, most of this movie is beyond the reach of my memory. Nothing about an underwater city rings a bell. One thing that stuck with me is the goofy villains. Monty Python is actually a pretty good reference point, although Yellowbeard may be closer to the mark.

    The idea of someone hating HATING! the Simpsons is pretty funny to me.

  11. Like this movie a lot and even though it was a very expensive at least the money is up on the screen.
    Costner’s boat is a damn cool practical piece of production design. The giant floating atoll city is another example of great production design. The action scenes are often pretty epic in scope and exciting. It’s fun to watch Costner’s character basically be an asshole the first half of the film which is unusual for a blockbuster-type movie. Jeanne Tripplehorn gives a solid performance, Dennis Hopper gets a lot of laughs, as does Tina Majorino who is very good in the kiddie role which can often be a detriment but is not here at all. The rousing score is also a positive here. On the negative side, there are a few too many times the viewer cannot suspend their disbelief with some things which happen during the action scenes. There’s a love story which felt forced-fed into the movie.

  12. Haven’t seen this for a long time but I’ve always been in its corner. Sure, it’s a bit of a mess but it does too much right to account for the reputation it has.

    As said, the production design is ludicrously good as is much of the stunt work. The Mariner being such a dick was a total hoot to me at the time – maybe I’d see it differently now – and the relationship with the kid is amusibgly Iron Man 3 blunt.

    I think where it falls down is with the villains. There’s a fine line between ridiculous and awesome. One that the Humungous is this side of, while Hopper and the Smokers are just the other. It’s a shame because, having just seen Blue Velvet for the first time a couple of days ago (I know), I’ve a better idea of what they thought Hopper could bring to the party.

    Ah well. I’ll pour a cold one out on the kerb for the time when a big studio thought it made sense to rebuild an airport runway as an incidental part of creating an OTT post-apocalyptic adventure not based on a story from another medium.

  13. I knew WW wasn’t an actual flop, because I remember trying to go see it and the screening was sold out! My friend and I were forced to go see this weird movie we hadn’t heard anything about called Clueless instead. I think it turned out for the best…

  14. flyingguillotine

    July 27th, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    I saw this as a double feature with MORTAL KOMBAT, and lemme tell ya… It was a hell of a fun night at the movies.

  15. Vern, it’s just my favourite Joss Whedon pet peeve. I never saw him taking responsibility for anything and whenever someone brings up some bad scripts or simply lines of dialogue that he wrote, his standard reply is “The actor(s) said the lines wrong.” (Sometimes with a “The director directed it wrong” added.)

    No, I definitely don’t blame the script doctor on anything, but when I read the quote that you posted, I just slammed my head on the desk and moaned with my bloody teeth: “Ugh, that again?!”

  16. Yeah, he even complained about *that* line in X-MEN being said in “mathematically precisely the wrong way”. It’s just a really stupid line Joss

  17. I re-watched this after FURY ROAD to get another shot of post-poxyclipsic action and actually still enjoyed it. It’s obviously a more kid-friendly film than Miller’s, but the only thing that really always annoyed me, even as a kid, was Tina Majorino, with her weird, truncated neck waddling around on that tri-maran. I just couldn’t (and still can’t) stand that character. Jeanne Tripplehorn’s nude backside left a more positive impression on my young mind, though I recently learned that that wasn’t her ass at all. It was some body-double she hand-picked herself to best match her own derriere.

    I recently made an illustration looking in on Old Man Mariner (http://zehpeh-two.tumblr.com/post/122421878101/waterworld-ii-ink-acrylics-digital-2015-im) and considering studios are now producing sequels to famous flops BLADE RUNNER and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, perhaps it’s not that absurd to look for more WW in the future. I wouldn’t mind a sequel. Lots of potential there: Mutants, Fishmen, daft vehicles. Maybe the seafaring outcasts finally realise that there’s bound to be way more Dryland than that bit they discovered, because there really isn’t enough water on the planet to cover everything.

  18. I remember when I first watched this as a 9 year old when it came out I had nightmares about the ice caps melting, apparently if that actually happened the water wouldn’t cover all the land on Earth.

    I thought that during that Hopper eye scene one of his cronies says the eye “looks like shit” to which Hopper says “and it feels like COLD SHIT!” or did I imagine that?

    One of the funniest things about this movie is the line “dry land is not a myth, I have seen it!” was never in the actual film – I wonder where this came from? I know Jim Carey says it in THE CABLE GUY.

  19. The weird phenomenon of popculture hearing things that aren’t there (“Beam me up, Scotty”, “Welcome to EARF!”, “Harry, hol schonmal den Wagen” [Yes, Germany has one too]), is something that interests me for a while, on a purely philosophical level.

  20. The Original Paul

    July 28th, 2015 at 5:08 am

    The Whedon apologist in me (so he directed my favorite film of 2013, so what?!) points out that when he said the “Same thing as everything else” line, it was hilarious. It was meant to be a casual throwaway line before Halle Berry turned around started walking off while Toad was still hanging there, raised one hand, and fried him without even looking back at him. Hell, if it had been directed like that, it would’ve established Storm as a badass.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen WATERWORLD twice, and it left zero impression on me either time. I’m not a huge fan of one-colour post-apocalyptia anyway (sorry, MAD MAX) and I didn’t find anything particularly interesting or memorable about this one. I really have nothing else because this movie just bored me… I didn’t think it was terrible, nor did I think there was much good about it, to my recollection. I’m not particularly surprised it flopped, because how the heck do you make this look interesting?

  21. The Original Paul

    July 28th, 2015 at 5:23 am

    But you know what, I might be being hard on it. I’m plainly not the intended audience for the MAD MAXes and WATERWORLDs of this world. I can’t get “into” them as much as you guys can. I gave FURY ROAD about as much praise as I’ve ever given a movie of this genre, and to me that was the perfect “rollercoaster movie”.

    I went back over my ROAD WARRIOR write-up and a lot of the criticisms I applied to that movie could also, I think, apply here. Except WATERWORLD has none of ROAD WARRIOR’s good points to balance those things out. I liked ROAD WARRIOR. I didn’t like WATERWORLD. I can’t really give a more in-depth analysis of why one film resonated more with me than the other, because I remember so little about WATERWORLD. But I’m pretty sure that ROAD WARRIOR is just plain better in many of the ways that matter. Where’s Bruce Spence when you need him?

  22. CJ, the “Harry, hol schonmal den Wagen”-line gets pretty tricky when the lead actor in DERRICK, Horst Tappert, claims he heard himself saying it when he watched television with som friends. I’ve seen all the 281 episodes, so I know he didn’t say it, but what can you do…

  23. I’ve been known to be annoyed by Whedon’s constant slagging of ALIEN RESURRECTION. But I think he’s right about the X-MEN line. I don’t know if he should’ve said it publicly, even in his defense, but she delivered the joke wrong, and Singer should’ve understood that.

  24. I remember when this movie came out, I was so excited to see it. I remember reading a review of it in the newspaper that he had gills and recycled his pee to make water, and for whatever reason that was enough for 11-ish year old me.

  25. Oh, I just saw that Peter Milligan wrote that Freakwave comic. He’s written some of my favorite comics. Maybe I’ll try to find that on ebay or something.

  26. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    July 28th, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    It looks like Sam Worthington on the cover of the picture book.

  27. I have never understood what was supposed to be so terrible about that “same thing that happens to everyone else” line, even when it’s said in the melodramatic way Halle Berry said it. It didn’t strike me as good, but it also never occurred to me be outraged by how bad it is.

  28. > “The Whedon apologist in me (so he directed my favorite film of 2013, so what?!) points out that when he said the “Same thing as everything else” line, it was hilarious.”

    Sorry, it’s still a dumb line. It’s made into a disastrous line in the finished movie, which is the fault of Singer and Berry, but that line is a clunker from the get-go; it’s a really labored setup for a bait-and-switch non-joke. I’m with CJ, Whedon’s made some great stuff but I don’t think he’s as infallible as he appears to believe he is. Although (judging Reynolds’ testimony), I don’t doubt that working as Costner’s script doctor at the height of his hubris was not a particularly rewarding job.

  29. Also even if she had she said it Whedon’s way, it would have been completely out of tone with the movie at that point, which was really striving to be serious and epic (and in doing so, almost singlehanded paved the way for other comic movies to be taken serious). A goofy postmodern anti-joke like that was going to deflate the moment exactly where Singer wanted it pumped up.

    Frankly, in the context of the movie as it appears, there is no right way to say that line. They should have written a real badass one-liner, or just junked the idea for something else. I fault Singer for not realizing that, but it’s not like a different take would have really saved that clunker.

  30. The Original Paul

    July 28th, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Mr Subtlety – I don’t want to turn this into an X-MEN movie debate, but I will say this: you have to take into account how spectacularly the movie’s IQ drops in the final twenty minutes. You have Wolverine using one claw to “flip Cyclops the bird”, which to this day I’ve only ever seen ten-year-olds and Ronda Rousey do; you have the horribly-delivered “Yellow spandex” line (which to me is way, way worse than the Halle Berry one, by the way; it’s a horrible in-joke that isn’t funny and completely breaks the film’s immersion); you have “there’s a storm coming”, which is just another clunker of a non-joke; you have the “international conference” which turns to be a USA love-in (not quite as bad as Superman 4’s universally-praised nuclear disarmament, but close, I do not see why this doesn’t get heaps more scorn poured on it); and so much more.

    Honestly, with the way things had gone up until that point, I think the Halle Berry line, if delivered correctly, would’ve fit right in. That might be more of a denouncement of the film (which I honestly think is fantastic up until the moment they all suit up for the final showdown) than praise of the line in question, but hey, whatever works. The only things that DO work in those last twenty minutes, for me, are the moments of sheer badass that the characters have. Wolverine has one, Mystique has one, even Jean Gray gets one brief moment to shine. Storm needed this, and they flubbed it.

    I agree largely with JTS by the way – I’ve never thought it was a horrible line, and it certainly doesn’t get my back up as much as “yellow spandex” (followed by knowing smiles at camera) or the “international conference”. It just falls kinda flat. At worst I think it’s a missed opportunity.

  31. I can picture Buffy saying a line like that in a cheesy TV kind of way. It doesn’t fit with the tone that the movie was going for.

  32. Waterworld is one of those films that at as time goes by, you begin to fool yourself into thinking that it “was’t that bad”. Maybe, just maybe, that after all these years, the movie will make sense, and you can appreciate it – like some expensive wine or some shit. Sadly, it’s like Slip Stream in that it’s never going to be as good as your…pre-memory(?) leads you to believe or hope.

    But there as some badass moments that you can’t forget. I love it when the Mariner harpoons that uber gun-boat and drags it, altering the firing line. The gunner is all blinded by grease and smple from all the guns, and he doesn’t notice he’s going to blow the crap out of the Deacon’s prized deathbarge.

    Plus, like in Mad Max 2, I was gutted when his ship gets trashed. It’s one of those “wtf is he going to do now” kind of moments. We all know he’s going to get another ship/car, but it’s never going to be as cool. I couldn’t give a damn about the kid or the woman, but I was bummed about his ship.

    As much as all the behind the scenes backbiting seems to paint Costner as the overbearing twat, Hopper is at least allowed to run wild (unlike Alan Rickman in Robin Hood). I’m also suprised you didn’t highlight the obvious non-masked/diseased physical similarities between Immortan Joe and Deacon’s number two dude, Nord (Gerard Murphy – Batman Begins). Clearly Waterworld was influenced by Mad Max. But was Fury Road influenced by Waterworld?

    It’s a cool concept/world, and the production design is nice. Sadly, it’s got such a negative money stigma, that I’d imagine a sequel or remake would be impossible.

  33. Ya know, Vern. I’m surprised you haven’t reviewed 187 (ONE EIGHT SEVEN) yet! As I recall it was really good, with some crazy fucked up parts with Sam Jackson hunting students?

  34. Jareth Cutestory

    August 8th, 2015 at 8:17 am

    I suspect that the persistent reputation of WATERWORLD as a spectacular failure is largely due to the reporters who coined the mock-titles FISHTAR and KEVIN’S GATE to describe the troubled production. You get pun titles that good and no one wants to let go of them, regardless of the actual fact of the film’s profitability.

  35. It was the moniker of GILLDA that killed it for me.

  36. When Hopper made his tribute to “Saint Joe,” I was the only person in theater who laughed.

  37. I thought the shout out to Saint Joe was a reference to the captain of the Exxon Valdez??

  38. 2021 update; not only is the stunt show still going, a new iteration just opened (or was at least expected to) in Beijing! Given that people old enough to have laughed at Jay Leno monologues about the Mariner’s gills or whatever are now no longer part of the key demographic for movies, I wonder if a WATERWORLD reboot is starting to become a question of if rather than when. It would be cool, if extremely obvious if it were about adult Enola and had a Costner cameo.

    Also a longer cut based on an extended TV version (about 40 minutes longer) was released on Blu-ray a couple of years ago, but I haven’t seen it.

  39. Honestly, I can’t see them doing any kind of WATERWORLD movie ever again. Neither a late sequel or a remake, not even a premium cable/streaming show. Yeah, the movie is semi-beloved now and even made a profit, but Hollywood is still run by the same people who were around when it was an easy popculture punchline and I doubt that any of them will risk their job for WAtwoWORLD. This just a too hard sell. As soon as this is gonna be announced, they would have to deal with hundreds of articles talking about what an infamous bomb it was. Over and over. Every casting announcement would read like “Actor XY is gonna play a role in the sequel to the legendary box office desaster from the 90s, which currently holds 15% (or whatever) at Rotten Tomatoes”.

    You can sequelize box office bombs like TRON, because that one was actually pretty revolutionary and even general audiences now understand the computer language, that was in 82 perceived as gibberish, or HOCUS POCUS, because that one actually became a cult phenomenon thanks to endless TV reruns. But WATERWORLD? That seems unlikely.

  40. Good points. You’re almost certainly right. But in the IP battlefield of the 2020s? It honestly wouldn’t shock me. Vin Diesel says he’s only got two more FASTs in him after all.

    Interestingly the RT for Waterworld is 47%, higher than you might expect, and for Top Critics, many of which are trade and paper reviews from 1995, it’s 69%. It actually seems like critics liked this more than PRINCE OF THIEVES!

  41. The extended cut certainly makes it feel more like a traditional Costner movie but the action scenes actually get too bloated. It’s not Reynolds’ edit and it hurts them.

  42. Guess what guys…

    ‘Waterworld’ Sequel TV Series in the Works

    Proving that in the streaming era, every well-known genre title has reboot potential: A TV series sequel to the 1995 film Waterworld is in the works. The original film’s producers, John Davis…

  43. Well, fuck me with a scepter. I guess Hollywood is really browsing Film Twitter and Critic You Tube and rEbOoTs everything that is at least mildly liked for nostalgic reasons.

  44. I feel like making a TV show out of a famously disatrous production that’s set and shot almost entirely on water would be a phenomenal way to launder absolutely ungodly amounts of money.

    IRS: So how exactly does one spend $350,000,000 on an hour of footage?
    SHADY PRODUCERS: Set sank again. The fuckin’ sea, man. She’s a fickle mistress, amirite?

  45. It is an godalmost amount of money. Just stop. STOP!

  46. In all fairness, water based special effects improved a lot since the movie came out and they will probably shoot the show in a studio backlot water tank with all vehicles and cities submerged in only ankle deep water.

  47. Fuck yeah, adult Tina Majorino as grown up Enola!

  48. And yet,yet,yet…out of the ashes of PRODUCTION HELL 101 rose a still giddily entertaining action epic. Today, Zack Snyder would CGI everything barring the cast, it’ll be a breezy hassle free shoot…and produce a floating turd.

    It says something about vision and craftsmanship needing a combustible atmosphere of stress to flourish. Reminds me of my Alien Quadrilogy Box Set and the hours of behind the scenes docs.

    Ridley Scott was under considerable stress from a studio breathing down his neck for ALIEN.

    Cameron pissed off the crew playing Tin Pot Dictator in ALIENS

    It was all Fincher could do keeping his sanity on the ALIEN3 shoot and we still haven’t got his original vision.

    Jean-Pierre Jeunet had a largely smooth shoot for ALIEN RESURRECTION and can be seen frequently smiling.

    Pick out the stinker in that bunch.

  49. “Jean-Pierre Jeunet had a largely smooth shoot for ALIEN RESURRECTION”

    That shoot was so stressy, it made Jeunet turn his back on Hollywood and even decline surefire autopilot hits like a HARRY POTTER movie. He barely spoke English (which admittedly was his own fault), according to him all the good technicians were working on LOST WORLD, STARSHIP TROOPERS, 5TH ELEMENT and TITANIC, so even something as simple as making a gun shoot on cue could become a huge challenge and rarely worked, every actor got a middle ear infection from the weeklong underwater shoot, they had to cut more than one cool scene from the script because after part 3, the studio was really careful with the movie’s budget and then he had to reshoot and digitally alter much of the last act, because they got an NC-17 over the alien hybrid’s genitals. Not to mention that afterwards Joss “It’s never my fault” Whedon kept trashtalking the movie because “It was written as comedy, but everybody played it straight”.

    So yeah, compared to Fincher’s shoot it was all cake and unicorns, but let’s not pretend that Jeunet left the set laughing by the end of each day, just because he didn’t disown it.

  50. CJ, yup most of that was covered in the behind-the-scenes. Jeunet’s discomfort was on par with Alfonso Cuaron’s on the set of PRISONER OF AZKABAN where he said he felt jealous the cast were talking to each other in English. Sorry Jack, that’s on you, learn the majority mode of comms if you want to fit in. What the actor’s went through on the underwater scene was unfortunate but there’s been worse. Tell them to talk to Ed Harris if he ever breaks his vow to discuss THE ABYSS shoot (another text book Hellish Water Shoot that yielded the most thematically ambitious and dazzlingly visual entry of the trifecta of Nautical thrillers we were inundated with in the same year). And Joss Whedon’s currently taking a meeting with Karma, so fuck him.

    So, I’ll concede, RESURRECTION wasn’t all shits and giggles, but an absolute cakewalk compared to the previous entries.

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