Waterworld (1995)


“He’s like a turd that won’t flush!”

The Scoop: 1995 PG-13, directed by Kevin Reynolds and Kevin Costner and starring Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Dennis Hopper

Tagline: Beyond the horizon lies the secret to a new beginning.

Summary Capsule: Fish-man breaks his code of uppity-ness to help a naked woman and a tattooed kiddo find dirt.

Justin’s rating: How does Kevin Costner keep getting work?

Justin’s review: Sometimes films are such monumental disasters that it staggers the mind how so much went wrong that could possibly go wrong. Waterworld needs no introduction — this here be one of the most expensive and boring flops of the nineties — so we can just get right into the thick of things. Why Waterworld went wrong. Why Kevin Costner has the acting talent of a soggy turnip. Why Jeanee Tripplehorn effectively disappeared after this film’s release.

Stay tuned. The answers might shock you!

Aaand we’re back to the show. Our first guest is a film pitch guy, responsible for coming up with exciting ideas for future movie projects that are both marketable and attractive. Apparently, Mr. Film Pitch Guy put the two and two of “economy” and “vast ocean vistas that already exist” together, selling a movie solely based on the idea that you wouldn’t have to really make any sets or do location scouting, because it would be in a world where there isn’t any land. Water’s everywhere! The oceans are vast! Water has to appeal to a mass demographic, right?

Excuse me. [SLAP!]

While he regains consciousness, let me be about the fifteenth millionth person to say the obvious: a movie with people set in an ocean-only environment is bound to be duller than the entire works of Tolstoy. This gave the movie trailer voice-over guy a bit of a problem:

MOVIE VOICE-OVER GUY: In a world … where the ice caps have melted and water has covered the surface of the earth… um… [pause] a bunch of people are floating around! Because there’s nothing else to do! Until one day… when some hero-type person comes along… with, what the heck, GILLS? Okay, that’s it, I quit!

The sad thing is that the movie studios really missed out on the interesting part, showing the whole story of the polar caps melting and people trying to survive, and instead went straight to a heap of dull storytelling. About the only cool thing in this movie is the first half minute, where the Universal logo shows the earth’s surface disappearing under water and the real-life “In a world” movie voice-over guy does a brief introduction. Okay, so the earth is not in a good way. And Kevin Costner has developed gills and webbed toes, which doesn’t really add a lot to his already enigmatic personality. It only gets more painful from here. And it’s over two hours long.

Costner is Mariner (got that from the Big Book of Obvious Names, did ya?), a freak who’s adapted to life on his small Noah’s Ark. He barters in dirt, which actors who show such astonishing heights of talent are able to gush endlessly about (and even taste — TASTE — in abject wonder). Mariner also subscribes to Reluctant Hero Monthly magazine. It’s a pitiful existence.

Mariner gets mixed up with a woman (Love Interest #1) and her small child (Token Plot Point #4) while Dennis Hopper (We Needed A Dependable, Yet Cheap Bad Guy #16) chases them. They go on a quest for the last of the dry land, tra-la-la, and the audience is left thinking, “If I wanted to see a movie where people fashioned junk into more junk in a somewhat-futuristic setting, I would’ve gone with Mad Max, thank you very much.” Cars are cooler than jet skis. Always.

Is it a horrible movie? Not especially; it’s merely a routine action piece that happened to cost a crapload of money for no good reason. At the time, it was the most expensive movie ever made at around $200-275 million (in 1997, Titanic would top it), and its box office wasn’t anywhere near that amount. To make matters worse, script rewrites abounded (Buffy’s Joss Whedon was involved at one point), one of the huge sets sank in a storm, and the original director Kevin Reynolds walked off the set, leaving Mr. Costner to take the reins.

There are things to enjoy while you whittle away two hours of your life on this flick. Dennis Hopper entertained me in small, measured doses, for when the good guy is as dull as the currency this new world revolves around, then the bad guy’s gotta pick up the slack. These are just a pittance, however, scarcely enough to recommend anything. In fact, I’d tell you to see The Postman first, and then while you’re drugged into a stupor by Costner’s robotic acting, I’d tie you up and make you watch Waterworld anyway. ‘Cause I’m sadistic.

Nancy’s rating: It’s funny when the very mention of a movie emits shudders.

Nancy’s review: This, along with The Postman, is the film cursed with dooming Kevin Costner’s name. It gave him the title of Overdramatic Weird Guy Who Makes Long Post-Apocalyptic Movies At Bargain Prices. It’s why he is constantly ridiculed via Simpsons and Family Guy. But hey, Lisa Simpson forgives him, why can’t we?



I don’t understand exactly why Pooly assigned me to review this for Gender Clash week. It’s just… long and trite, and the plot crosses that line over from innovative and original to… crappy McCrap crap.

Plot summary: Waterworld is the story of Kevin Costner after the world has been covered in water and he has gills. It has something to do with evolution but nobody else has gills. He’s got a girl and a kid with him and the kid has a map tattooed to her back for some reason. The map shows how to get to land and the evil guy, Dennis Hopper, wants to get to dry land so he kidnaps the girl.

Costner. Gets. Pissed.

Except his facial expressions don’t change enough for me to be satisfied with the change of mood. Costner’s just… dull, to be frank. Granted, I was a little choked up when, upon being asked by Bad Guy why he wanted to save the girl, he said, quite simply, without too much sappy inflection … “She’s my friend”. However, then a lack of acting was suitable and moving, but in various other spots within the movie it’s the most aggravating thing ever. I scream “Gah! Change your tone!” but Costner doesn’t hear me, his passionless voice is drowning out any other sound.

The bad guy, however, is exciting and entertaining. He’s only got one eye, and it’s kooky! Dennis Hopper I always found to be creepy; his role as Bad Guy here was apt and enjoyable.

But still, it’s Waterworld. It’s like we don’t even have to talk about it… I resent it being my crossover assignment.

(That last comment was to assure you that I didn’t review it by choice. Ever.)

Wow, in some alternate universe where boring equals cool, can I be you, Mr. Costner?
Wow, in some alternate universe where boring equals cool, can I be you, Mr. Costner?


  • The Slave Colony, a key set, was sunk by a storm and was unusable.
  • Joss Whedon flew out to the set to do last minute rewrites on the script. He later described it as “seven weeks of hell”.
  • Waterworld wasn’t as big a financial disaster as people were led to believe. It grossed a respectable $88 million in the USA, and an impressive $167 million overseas. It has also produced more than $40 million in rental income over the years, so it has probably come pretty close to breaking even, given broadcast rights and retail sales.
  • There is not enough ice in the polar icecaps to submerge the earth upon melting. If there were, the resulting seawater would be diluted enough to make it drinkable.
  • Drinking yer pee. Yum.
  • The Peter Gunn theme
  • He threw the child off the boat, yay!
  • So where did these mutant fish come from, exactly?
  • The most remembered line from Waterworld, “Dryland is not a myth; I have seen it”, is never spoken in the actual movie.

Groovy Quotes

Deacon: He’s like a turd that won’t flush!

Deacon: If I ever see him again, I’m going to cut open his head and eat his brain.

Deacon: Dry land is not just our destination, it is our destiny!

Deacon: Wanna cigarette? Your never too young to start.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • The Postman
  • The Road Warrior
  • Six-String Samurai

One comment

  1. A movie with people set in an ocean-only environment is bound to be duller than the entire works of Tolstoy.

    I respectfully disagree. It’s not the premise that’s flawed but rather the execution. That and the blatant ripping off of Road Warrior. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet has shown that it’s possible to feature a waterworld type setting and be able to tell an engaging story (though admittedly it’s hit a few hiccups in the past couple of weeks).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s