Awfully Good: Waterworld

Let's take a dive in the shallow end and look back at the time that Kevin Costner played an Aquaman...


Waterworld (1995)


Director: Kevin Reynolds
Stars: Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tina Majorino, Dennis Hopper

Waterworld banner

Bodyguard-turned-fishman Kevin Costner must now protect a little girl with an unfortunate tramp stamp.

WATERWORLD is mainly remembered for two things:

  1. Being the most expensive film ever made at the time, with a budget of $175 million. ($275 million when you account for inflation.)
  2. Oscar-winner Kevin Costner filtering and drinking his own urine.

The pee thing is even funnier because it's literally the first shot of the movie. You get a fancy graphic of the Universal logo the where globe floods with water as narration explains that the polar ice caps have melted and forced humanity to adapt and survive. And then BOOM—Kevin Costner pissing in a container, pouring it in to a device, and immediately drinking "water" that has clearly not had enough time to properly filter.

^^^ This is the first thing the filmmakers want you to know about this epic fantasy world they've created. 

waterworld cast
The moment everyone realizes that a fresh Rotten Tomatoes score isn't just a myth.

That opening pretty much tells you all you need to know about WATERWORLD: They took $200 million and made what is essentially a B-movie; the most expensive film Roger Corman never got to make. Think MAD MAX: CRUISE CONTROL.

Sure, the practical sets, costumes and overall production are all impressive, but everything else about this makes it a colossal waste. The script is uninspired at best, leaving the actors to struggle with the material. Even when it's occasionally fun and passably entertaining, it's still unbearably silly. The only saving grace would be the action, which ends up being equally unimpressive, plagued by bad effects and some truly goofy sequences. Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Michael Bay could all team up and they still wouldn't be able to make the concept of bad guys riding around on synchronized water skis cool and/or menacing.

waterworld kevin costner ride
After the Waterworld Stunt Show closed at Universal Studios, children were forced to go on Kevin Costner: The Ride. 

Kevin Costner can be a fine actor with the right material (I still believe OPEN RANGE is one of the most underrated movies), but WATERWORLD is definitely not the right material. For one, Costner seems to think he's in a completely different movie, playing the Mariner overly serious without an ounce of humor or self-awareness, as if he was in a period drama and not a fantasy action film. The actor is just not up to the task of selling the movies's cheesy concepts and even cheesier lines like, "I've sailed further than most men have dreamed!"

Perhaps less his fault is the fact that the script turns the Mariner in to one of cinema's worst heroes. It's one thing for a protagonist to not immediately get along with other characters, giving them room to grow throughout the movie. But it's another thing when you constantly have the main character physically assaulting women and children throughout the film. Get ready to see Kevin Costner hit Jeanne Tripplehorn with an oar and knock her out, then later brutally attack her, pin her down and forcibly cut off her hair, AND THEN trade her as a sex slave to a stranger literally for a piece of paper. If that's not bad enough he picks up Tina Majorino's character, a child who doesn't know how to swim, and throws her overboard as the ship sails away, leaving her to drown. And this is the guy you're supposed to root for!

Even after Costner eventually comes around and isn't actively trying to hurt everyone, he still doesn't seem to care about their well-being that much. When Majorino is taken hostage on an oil tanker, Costner's brilliant plan is to casually walk on to the ship in front of everyone and set fire to the giant fuel tank and blow the entire vessel up. And then when the villain flies the kid on a plane to escape the exploding ship, the hero's best idea is to sabotage it during takeoff so it violently crashes. I think I'd rather take my chances with the bad guy.

waterworld dennis hopper eye
I was going to make a joke, but I'm sure a GOONIES prequel centered on One-Eyed Willy is already in the works.

While Costner, Tripplehorn and Majorino flail, the only cast member who thrives with the material is Dennis Hopper as the aforementioned bad guy. Hopper is clearly having a blast as a one-eyed aquatic warlord, who somehow has a southern accent even though the South hasn't existed for hundreds of years. The EASY RIDER star knows exactly the movie he's in, relishing every cheesy line and delivering it with a sneer for maximum effect. Whether he's calling Costner a "freaking retard" to his face or rigging up dead bodies to make it look like they're alive HOME ALONE-style, Hopper is honestly more likeable and engaging than any other character and the only person who actually feels like they belong in this movie.

waterworld jack black
DEMOLITION MAN, MARS ATTACKS, AIRBORNE, WATERWORLD... Is there any mid-90s classic that a yioung Jack Black didn't have a bit part in?

WATERWORLD is so goofy that honestly the most interesting thing about it is the insane story of how it got made. This was a massive production that seemingly made every unnecessary bad decision the entire way through. The filmmakers reportedly used all the available steel in Hawaii to build enormous quarter-mile 1,000-ton sets off the coast…in an area famous for strong winds and bad storms that constantly damaged everything. Even worse, no one thought to include any bathrooms while they were building the set, meaning that anytime a cast or crew member had to go, they had to stop production and ferry them by boat to use restrooms on dry land. The budget quickly ballooned from $100 million to $175 million, with tales of crazy expenditures like thousands of costumes being made from real fish skin and seaweed to rumors that they had to use CGI to enhance Kevin Costner's quickly receding hairline. Eventually things got so bad that Costner clashed with director Kevin Reynolds, who quit halfway through production, leaving the actor to finish making the movie on his own.

Also not surprising is that they started filming without a finished script. Joss Whedon was brought on during production to try to salvage what he could, famously calling his time on set "seven weeks of hell." All told, something like six different screenwriters worked on 40 drafts of WATERWORLD—and somehow this is the best they could come up with. Allegedly there's an extended cut of the film that might fill in some plot holes and flesh out the characters a bit more, but considering this movie is already 2 hours and 15 minutes, let's all just cut our losses and pretend this movie is like dry land and doesn't exist.

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"From the same visual effects team that brought you this explosion from DIE HARD 2!"

For more on the troubled production of WATERWORLD and what exactly went wrong, watch our WTF Happened To This Movie? video.


Dennis Hopper's greatest hits and Kevin Costner's worst.

Kevin Costner being a dick to women and children. Also, some of the best action moments. But mostly Kevin Costner being a dick.

Jeanne Tripplehorn wasn't getting naked for this pile of crap, so you get to enjoy her body double's backside.

waterworld score
Probably more fun than drowning! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Someone says "dryland"
  • Kevin Costner assaults a woman
  • Kevin Costner is mean to a child
  • Kevin Costner shoves someone
  • Dennis Hopper's eye socket makes an appearance
  • There's unfortunate greenscreen

Double shot if:

  • Jack Black makes a cameo!


Thanks to Benjamin and Matthew for suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Source: JoBlo.com



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