PG-13 Dir: Kevin Reynolds | Universal | 2h 15min
Plot: What’s it about?
This weekend I was sitting around the house with my wife and two children. My sons are five years old and a few months old respectively. To try to give my wife some extra sleep I decided that I would watch a movie with both of my kids. This is always a hard task, because most of my tastes run into more mature categories. Then, I saw it, beaconing to me from the edge of my alphabetized Blu-ray collection. It was a film I had not seen in probably seventeen years, and had been released when I was ten years old. I knew immediately that my oldest son was going to love it. The movie: Waterworld.
I know that many people look down on this movie as one of the biggest box office disasters and a critical disaster as well. They are about half right. The film actually managed to receive on average about a two star review with some people loving it and some people (like my mother) hating it. I remember that even as a kid I was a little bit let down by the film, but still enraptured in all of the imagery in the movie. The movie may not have been a box office success state side, but it did actually achieve decent numbers over seas and eventually regained all the money that it initially lost. People at the time took to calling it “Fishtar” and “Kevin’s Gate” and relegated the film to the realm of flops and critical disasters. This reputation did not stop me from buying it for about five bucks. When I was a ten year old living in Arkansas, my favorite channel was the Sci-fi channel. I would watch reruns of The Twilight Zone and anime on Saturday mornings and anything else that could hold my ADD at bay. One of the great things about the Sci-fi channel was that they ran extended segments on any upcoming science fiction films, so even though I wasn’t allowed to see most of the actual films I would gaze in wonder at the worlds they were creating. Features on 12 Monkeys, Event Horizon, Dark City, and Waterworld immediately come to mind. That meant that I was extremely excited that at least one of these movies was only PG-13.
The plot of the movie is a bit of a mess. The polar ice caps have completely melted and the world as we know it is completely underwater. People live in tribes that have formed small floating communities on top of the water. Resources are incredibly scarce, especially soil. When we first meet Kevin Costner’s character he is peeing, purifying it, and drinking his own urine. Costner plays the anti hero of the film, an unnamed mariner that likes to go it alone in his decked out sail boat. Costner meets a woman named Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and a child that has prophecy of where to find dry land and a map tattooed on her back. All of this makes sense and I could get on board. There is also an evil leader of rough pirates named Deacon played by Dennis Hopper. Through circumstance Costner must help Helen and the child to avoid Deacon and get to dry land. Oh yeah, Kevin Costner’s charcter also has developed gills….. Yeah…. You read that part right. Gills.
Watching it all these years later, I found myself actually really enjoying Waterworld. Don’t get me wrong. Parts of it are flat out terrible, mainly anything to do with Costner having gills, but parts of it are jaw dropping. The set design and imagination shown throughout the film are mindblowingly good. The film was made for $175 million dollars, and it really looks like it (aside from the dated special effects in the last thirty minutes of the film.) The stunts in the film are some of the best put to celluloid, sometimes besting scenes from the Mad Max Trilogy. The acting was actually, given the circumstances, great. I am not secretive about the fact that I like Kevin Costner, and Dennis Hopper was more fun than I remembered as the villain. At the end of the day, Waterworld is a stupid idea executed brilliantly. I found myself really enjoying most of the film and laughing out loud at the bad portions of it. To this day, no movie looks or feels like Waterworld. Depending on who you are, that is either a good or a bad thing. For me, I definitely would recommend checking it out and forming your own opinion.
Video: How’s it look?
This is easily one of the best transfers I have seen for a catalog release of an unpopular film. The movie looks fantastic. The ocean looks gorgeous and the cinematography is wonderful. Compare this release to 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas and the results are night and day. Waterworld was designed to be played on big screens, and Blu-ray is the only way to go for this film. Fine detail is excellent and the level of detail in the set designs needs to be seen to be believed. Kudos to Universal for really giving it the proper treatment.
Audio: How’s it sound?
From the start of the film to the finale, Waterworld shines in the audio department. Action scenes are robust and surrounds are used to great effect throughout the entire film. I enjoyed this mix more than I had imagined. Sound editing throughout the film (especially considering the breakneck pace of most of the action scenes) is incredible. For a film over twenty years old, the sound mix is on par with the best offerings that we see today.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
Waterworld is a polarizing film. Some people can’t get over the stupidity of a man having gills for no real reason. Some people can’t see the hard work and breath taking art that was created for such a disaster. I am not one of those people. Waterworld may be laughable in numerous areas and have pacing issues (it’s about twenty minutes too long at least,) but I still enjoyed it anyway. So did my son. If you own a standard DVD, throw it in the garbage, because the Blu-ray offers a VERY SIGNIFICANT upgrade over the previous DVD versions. If you are a fan, I highly recommend a purchase. If not, you may want to rent it first.