What’s so wrong with Waterworld. Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper battling it out to gain a foot hold in this post environmental apocalypse at sea. Yeah, I like the 1995 action adventure with an environmental conscience, and it’s unfortunate that critics allow factors outside the movie screen to affect their judgment.
In other words, whenever the word gets out that a film is running over budget, critics begin to lose their professional objectivity. Worse yet, once the ledger revealed that this production ranked as the most expensive movie ever made to date, critics seethe as if they were personally footing the bill. “We would never have heard so much about Waterworld if it were only Waterworld, a reasonably diverting sci-fi film,” wrote New York Times critic Janet Maslin in 1995.
Reviews are not reasonable.
But you’re not being reasonable if you taint its merits based on what someone else paid to deliver the film.
Nonetheless, the polar icecaps have melted and dry land is likely a myth. The horizon literally stretching forever, Kevin Costner has a kickass America’s Cup type cruiser that definitely shows the wear and tear of this post-apocalyptic world.
He’s also a mutant who can breathe above and below the water. Several hundred years the earth wiped out in a deluge, such an evolutionary skip is pretty farfetched.
The same goes for the giant creatures Costner blows up to sustain himself. Unfortunately, the more film learned among us site bigger issues.
“The characters are two-dimensional, including, somehow, Costner’s nameless 'The Mariner,' whose background and motivations are unknown. There is virtually no exposition or explanation of the context in which the tribes of water-bound survivors find themselves either, which should have been the most compelling part of the film,” wrote Newsweek’s Ryan Bort in 2015.
If you insist. I was more than amenable to following the story and action nonetheless.
Content to play the outcast as an anomaly, Costner’s only problem in navigating this perilous world are those situated below his evolutionary standing. That would be human beings, and once his gills are revealed, he’s given him a prime spot on the endangered species list.
Human beings fearing anything they don’t understand is certainly nothing new, but Dennis Hopper’s feudal cascade over Waterworld accrues plenty of entertainment currency. In fact, he’s pretty much the reason to watch the movie.
Characters have enough depth.
As if emerging from the residue of the conservative short-sightedness that sunk the world, the Deacon and his followers remain in denial and continue to carry the message. They consume resources as if on a holy mission to reclaim the false narrative that humans hold preeminence over mother nature. Drill baby Drill if you will.
In accordance, the only thing in abundance is Hopper’s ability to dole his warped ideology. Our introduction arrives as Costner tries to escape the initial battle on his schooner. As such, Hopper directs his smokers to snuff out more than just the man. “I hate sails,” the Deacon sets his gunners on killing the idea too.
Hopper fails on both fronts, and we’re left with the surly fish-man, a desperate mother (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and little girl (Tina Majorino) who never shuts up. “I talk a lot ‘cause you don't talk at all,” Enola isn’t afraid to get under the Mariner’s skin.
Costner still isn’t amused and refuses to forget the species-centric arrogance of humans. So niceties such as women and children first do not apply. Enola’s chatter gets her tossed overboard, and her mom is almost trafficked to another wayward pirate.
Two-dimensional, according to the connoisseur, but there’s plenty of depth for the trio to grow on each other and allow the rest of us to ride the wave.
Demagoguery makes all the difference.
Of course, it would be nice to know how a tattoo on Enola’s back could point to dry land, and who put it there. But the omission is easily missed as Hopper has more than ample crescendo to settle your bearings.”You wanna come over here and sit on my lap,” the Deacon has no idea his creepiness is suspect. So then offering a cigarette to the little prodigy plays perfectly too.
Hopper’s at his best, though, as a leader who must use all his refuge to keep to this floating society together. Propaganda is obviously the bandaid he applies in wait of dry land. “If there's a river, we'll dam it, And if there's a tree, we'll ram it,” the Deacon rouses and sets their sights on the future.
He’s not above going biblical either. "And a child shall lead you,” he trots out Enola and her tattoo.
Aroused into a frenzy, the masses suffice as sheep in the future too and sink their teeth right in. At the same time, the Deacon understand the limitations as well as any demagogue. “They'll row for a month before they figure out I'm fakin' it,” Hopper dismisses his lone demographic.
Either way, we aren't surprised when the Mariner comes to rescue and finding dry land does turn out to be pretty anticlimactic.
But before the formulaic happy ending, Hopper gets the last word before going down with the ship. “Don’t just sit there, kill something,” he rides the Exxon Valdez to the metaphorical bottom and provides enough rise to get my approval.
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