Universal // 1995 // 136 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 26th, 2009
Ahoy! A webbed-toed Kevin Costner swims into high-def, with the speed of a roid-raging manatee.
It's the future and the polar ice caps have melted, despite Jake Gyllenhaal's best efforts. Now the entire world is covered with water, forcing humanity to take to the seas, sail around endlessly, and drink their own urine. It's a sucky life, but the Mariner (Costner) doesn't have it so bad. For one, he's evolved, developing gills and frog feet. He also floats around on a kick-ass catamaran with collapsible sails and harpoon guns.
But his nice little existence is about to be disrupted, when a simple trading expedition turns into a life-or-death free-for-all with a detachment of "Smokers," the local rabble. The Mariner manages to escape the firefight, with two passengers: a young girl with a tattoo rumored to be the map to dry land, and her hot woman friend (Jeanne Tripplehorn, The Firm).
Ah, Waterworld...a shipwreck not quite the Box Office nuke it seemed destined to become. Objectively corny and featuring some truly groan-inducing moments, reports of the movie being the cinematic Anitchrist were greatly exaggerated. Actually, I think critics just liked saying "Kevin's Gate" and "Fishtar."
I have a soft spot for Waterworld. Maybe it's because of the nostalgia associated with my first viewing -- watching it with pretty much the entire male detachment of my family. It was summer vacation, the theater was a retro setup, and we were all in a good mood. Granted, in that laid-back, feel-good vibe, I probably could have watched Leonard Part 6 and come out convinced I had just witnessed the greatest motion picture of all time.
But come on party-poopers, Waterworld is kind of fun, right? Kevin Costner's deadpan acting style is perfectly suited for the glum Mariner, a guy who would much rather sail around and trade for plants on the high seas than save a hot woman and a little girl from pirates. That sourpuss persona stays the same, even as he goes all in and gets his hero on. But it works: he talks trash, kills bad guys, rams dudes with jet skis, and blows up large boats without ever changing his expression. Classic Costner.
What else do I like about this movie? Well, for as pricey as the production was, we can see all that money on the screen. You've got the big Atoll siege sequence -- a typical Mad-Max-like action set-piece with marauding dirtbags opening fire on innocent bystanders, just totally staged on water. It's an impressive set, bolstered by well-choreographed mayhem from Director Kevin Reynolds and a worthy kick-off to the aquatic zaniness that follows, capped with the overblown, but eye-pleasing final showdown on the Smoker's home base, a massive oil tanker.
And then the Mariner bungee-jumped.
Why Kevin Reynolds? Why did you have to undo all the good with this ill-conceived final scene, where three bad guys for some reason decide to accelerate towards each other full speed on jet skis only to collide and explode as the Mariner leaps out of a hot-air balloon with a rope that is conspicuously not a bungee cord to...ah, I can't do this. How about we just focus on the positive memories, of sailboat/airplane fights, Dennis Hopper's scenery chewing, airborne Smoker water-skiers landing in pools of snot, and gratuitous shots of Jeanne Tripplehorn's side boob.
Too bad there's not much going on with this Blu-ray. With no extras -- None! -- the onus falls squarely on the technical side to make the upgrade worthwhile. The good news is the audio and video treatments are up to the challenge, both sporting the kind of fidelity high-def owners have grown accustomed to. The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is a treat, its expansive oceanic scenery looking fantastic and actions scenes popping in enhanced resolution. I'll stop just short of anointing the "King of Blu-ray Catalog Releases" thanks to some softer detailing that occasionally dulls the experience. Audio is solid, getting a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix that powers out clear sound...which, unfortunately, includes a totally forgettable James Newton Howard score. No extras is intolerable.
You're lying to yourself, if you maintain there isn't a little bit of fun to be had here. The dearth of bonus materials lands like a dead fish, but the rehabbed tech might be enough for fans to climb aboard.
Waterworld gets a not guilty, but Universal is shot with a harpoon gun
for a lean Blu-ray.
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French, Canadian)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (German)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Italian)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish, Castilian)
* English (SDH)
* French (Canadian)
* Spanish (Castilian)
* Spanish (LA)
Running Time: 136 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13