Universal // 1995 // 313 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // November 4th, 2008
"The future. The polar ice caps have melted, covering the Earth with water. Those who survive have adapted to a new world."
When times are rough, there's something relaxing about settling back in a comfy chair, putting on a DVD, and watching dystopian science fiction. Movies like WaterWorld remind us that, no matter how bad things get, they could always be worse, even if you're munching on store-brand popcorn instead of the gourmet stuff you used to gobble.
It's been more than a decade since Costner first chartered a boat and set sail for dystopia, so Universal is re-releasing WaterWorld: 2-Disc Extended Edition. The studio has decided that what WaterWorld, which clocks in at two hours and 16 minutes, needed was more footage. Will Universal's new cut make a splash, or is it all wet?
A Drifter (Kevin Costner, The Postman) purifies his urine for drinking water and, after gargling, uses the spittle to water a plant. Another drifter tells him of an atoll where he can get supplies, paying for them with precious dirt. When he gets there, he finds little left to buy except a tomato plant. The atoll denizens find out he's a mutant -- with gills. They cage the "mute-o" Drifting Gill Man and plan to "recycle" him into dirt, but their plans are disrupted when Deacon (Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider) and his insane water ski team of Smokers attack. In the ensuing fracas, DGM escapes, reluctantly taking Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Big Love) and young Enola (Tina Majorino, Big Love) with him, but not before causing a blast that takes out Deacon's eye. Big mistake!
Maybe not so big. Even if Deacon hadn't lost an eye because of DGM, he'd still be on his tail. It seems the girl Nola has a map tattooed on her back that could lead to Dryland.
I've seen many a dystopian movie, but WaterWorld got lost in the shuffle somehow. Thus, I'm watching WaterWorld with fresh eyes. Not quite. I've heard a lot of jokes about the movie, especially that opening recycling scene.
The movie, as it ran in theaters, is less weighty than you'd expect for a dystopian sci-fi drama, thanks to Dennis Hopper's scenery chewing villainy and a lot of big, loud action scenes. It's entertaining, but predictable and maybe even a bit long in "short" form. You know that DGM's gonna lead his friends to Dryland, but not before he goes in singlehanded and blows up Deacon's ship. That said, it's not totally mindless (just mostly). Costner and company do take the time to consider the logic of a watery world, realizing, for example, that in a world covered with salt water, fresh water is scarce. And the final showdown between DGM and Deacon, with Enola's "Ransom of Red Chief" nagging of her Smoker captors as narration is effective. There's even a point in there somewhere: When DGM leads a small band to Dryland, he finds himself a fish out of water; he's adapted to aquatic chaos too well.
The main thing that the extended version does right is to expand on the character of Dennis Hopper's Deacon. There's a little bit of pseudo-religious mumbo-jumbo in the theatrical version, but seeing more of his "bible" reading ways fleshes out the idea that DGM is dealing with an obsessed fanatic. A scene with Deacon practicing his putting adds a laugh and builds on his motivation; the guy's not only fanatic, but he sounds like a real estate developer as well when he talks about Dryland.
Here and there, the expanded version adds nifty details, such as beggars trying to get the atoll denizens to open their gates before DGM shows up. The additional details will get you paying attention to the little stuff that's in both versions, like the fellow drifter juggling the fruit he stole from DGM's boat.
An extended version wasn't a bad idea; it just got extended too much at times. For example, the dialogue between DGM and Helen on Dryland works, but does he need to say goodbye to all of the folks from the atoll? And that silent goodbye they shared in the theatrical version had some grace to it. Yeah, I see that the expanding made it a little more than just another action picture, but then they went and expanded it too much.
This extended version might have been put together for TV purposes, since I noticed the absence of at least one profane exchange even as it got longer. Keep in mind, then, that you may have already seen it. Also consider the off chance that Universal could come back someday with a third "Director's Cut" that adds back the additional character and mythology points without the padding.
The picture and sound quality are good, with lighting choices adding fairytale or ominous qualities when needed.
Although the movie has a profanity free version, you might not want to rent it for family viewing, since young Enola gets menaced a lot by drifters and Smokers.
While the theatrical version has French and Spanish dubbing options, the extended version only has French and Spanish in subtitles.
And, yeah, that opening scene of DGM "recycling" his piss is ridiculous and jokeworthy, even if you understand what it says about WaterWorld.
If you have WaterWorld, would you upgrade for this? If you're a Dennis Hopper fan, maybe. If you're a Dennis Hopper fan who gets obsessed with minutiae, most likely. The lack of other extras, besides a trailer, would be a strike against it.
If you like a good dystopia now and again and don't already have a copy of WaterWorld, having both versions on hand makes this a decent buy and gives fanatics an excuse to watch the movie twice, which they probably will do anyway.
Not guilty. While it's not quite 1984 and leans heavily on action, WaterWorld manages to stay afloat.
Review content copyright © 2008 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 313 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13