Case Number 00867


Universal // 1995 // 136 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 17th, 2000

The Charge


Opening Statement

Woe to Kevin Costner. Has any one star been as lambasted, scoffed at or generally crapped on more in the last decade over their movie choices? Lately Costner has been scrutinized at every turn, whether it be the sappy Message In a Bottle, the critical box office bomb The Postman, or this, the once coveted "most expensive movie in history." Although by no means Citizen Kane, Waterworld is mindless entertainment for those who want to shut off their brains and let them slowly leak out. Universal has released Waterworld on DVD in the original widescreen format. The question is, does it float?

Facts of the Case

Doesn't this movie sound conspicuously like a 7th grade biology filmstrip about the effects of moisture on our environment? Well, it's not. Instead, in the future the polar ice caps have melted and water has covered the earth (so says the God-like prologue, done by the same guy who tells us "If you see only ONE movie this summer..." on movie trailers). People now live like refugees from a Sally Struthers infomercial, except there's no one sleeping under doorway awnings or subway cars. No sir'ee Bob. Now we all live on boats and barges that make the cars in Mad Max look like Vipers. Atop of these "pintos of the sea" are the last remnants of the human race.

Enter "the Mariner" (played by Costner looking like the dirtiest rock star since Tommy Lee). The Mariner is only out for himself, trying to stay alive on the open sea by bartering with A-tolls (a floating oasis) and filtering his urine through a purifying machine for fresh water (this must be very enticing on his dates. "More pee-pee with your linguini?"). He also has a secret that many on the A-tolls fear (I won't tell what it is, but I can say that he and Aquaman could have been college drinking buddies).

At a local A-Toll, the Mariner runs into Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and a child she looks after, Enola (Tina Majorino). These two characters would be pointless extras IF Enola didn't have a birthmark for the coveted "dry land" map on her back. Word on the stree...err, water is there's a big ole' kegger on dry land, and everyone's trying to find it (and that includes finding Enola).

Oh, but the movie couldn't be as simple as that. We gotta have a bad guy, and that comes in the form of Deacon (played with maniacal gusto by Dennis "I'm a loony in real life" Hopper). He knows about the map on Enola's back and wants to find dry land and FAST. See, he wants to stop the kegger and put up a new strip mall with yet ANOTHER Starbucks and Sam Goody inside (Booo! Hisss! No wonder why he's the bad guy).

Okay, so there's no kegger and no desire to erect a strip mall. But that's the plot if I would have wrote this thing.

And so the race is on to find dry land as the Mariner and the girls out run, out step, and out swim the Deacon and his goons. Will the Deacon find Enola and retrieve the map? Will the Mariner find the coveted dry land? Will this be the last movie we have to sit through in which Kevin Costner wears seashells as earrings?

Let's hope so.

The Evidence

I can vividly remember seeing Waterworld in the summer of 1995 with a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless). Rusty and I went in with little hope of it being a good film, which is probably why we ended up enjoying it so much. The movie gets high points for making you really, TRULY believe that this was filmed on an Earth that has no land. You go left, you go right...nothing but the world's largest bathtub. I'd never seen a movie like this before, so right off the bat I was excited to be seeing something completely different.

Okay, so there were enough plot holes in Waterworld to make Swiss cheese look dense. But most of them are forgivable. This isn't the type of film you should be looking at for an airtight story. The plot is really just there to keep the action moving, and there sure is plenty of that. Ships explode. Jet skis fly through the air. People are shot, burned and drowned. We even get to see a really BIG fish swallow a guy. I needed a cigarette after it was finished.

The performances work well, if second rate to the action. Costner is good as the Mariner, a stoic man who doesn't have a lot of dialogue. The Mariner is actually a fairly interesting character (especially considering the genre). At times we assume he is the hero. At other points, he does a 180° and turns against other allies. Much like Mel Gibson's character "Porter" in Payback, the Mariner has more depth than most cookie cutter action stars.

The rest of the cast does what they can with their roles (which is basically to look scared and dodge flames). Dennis Hopper chews the scenery as Deacon, spouting off such lines as "he's like a turd that won't flush." Classic.

Everyone else is just there to swim, scream or die.

Waterworld is presented in it's original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and looks beautiful. Colors showed no bleeding and there was a minimum of grain or scratches. No digital artifacting was found, and when such scenes as large pans over the ocean are in view, it's breathtaking (okay, well maybe not that exciting, but you get my drift). A very nice transfer with great quality. Audio sounded nice as well, with no distortion of dialogue by effects or music. This is an effects heavy film, so you're going to hear a lot of "crash-boom-bangs" going on all around you. The Dolby 5.0 mix is maybe not as good as the video, but it's certainly not a bad deal. All around this is a great presentation by the folks over at Universal.

For extras, Waterworld is skating on thin ice. Universal has given us some flimsy production notes on the making of Waterworld, a widescreen theatrical trailer, and some basic biographies on the cast and crew. For a film touted (at the time) as the most expensive movie in Hollywood history, you'd expect there would be plenty of promotional materials or documentation to put on as extras (I know there certainly wouldn't be a commentary track, as director Kevin Reynolds stormed out of the editing process, leaving Costner to finish it up). I wouldn't be surprised if, years from now, Universal released a more comprehensive version of Waterworld filled with more extras and bonus materials.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

As stated, Waterworld does have a few plot holes that should be mentioned. First, where exactly are these people finding fuel for their ships and jet skis? Everyone seems to be joy riding around like teenagers from the '50s. For a world that has no natural resources except saltwater, this is a question that begs to be answered. Along those same lines, where is everyone getting all this tobacco they're smoking? Everyone on the Deacon's team look like representatives from Phillip Morris. And maybe it's just me, but I'm pretty sure you can't recycle your own urine over and over again, living off it for weeks on end. Or maybe you can. I'm no urinologist, so consult a physician before you mix yourself up a tinkle cocktail.

Being the fair and open-minded person that I am (no snickering), I can see why many people thought Waterworld sucked the big one. The script to Waterworld makes Titanic (you know, that OTHER little known water-based movie) look like Shakespeare. Whereas Titanic had a mass-appeal love story, Waterworld's love story is pretty dark and bleak. I've talked to many people who thought Costner's portrayal of the Mariner was one-note. I disagree. However, I am the same person who's responsible for an online petition to resurrect Pauley Shore's career, so you may want to get a second opinion on that.

Closing Statement

A generally bare-bones edition of the film, Waterworld is a decent buy at around $24.99 (with a nice transfer and audio mix). If you're a moderate fan, I'd consider just renting it once every blue moon and saving your money to pick up Titanic for the same price. It's an enjoyable water-based romp with plenty of action and funny moments to satisfy your craving for gooberish Friday night fun.

The Verdict

Waterworld is free to go due to the fact that it has a good transfer and audio mix. But someday we're hoping he'll be back in court with a few more extras to show off.

Review content copyright © 2000 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 96
Audio: 92
Extras: 60
Acting: 88
Story: 90
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 136 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Cast and Crew Biographies
* Theatrical Trailer
* Production Notes

* IMDb