Because of the inevitable attention on the film’s all time record $175 million pricetag, the problem-plagued shoot and the falling out of the two Kevins – director Kevin Reynolds and producer-star Costner – the unfortunate temptation for critics and public alike will be to review the budget rather than the picture. The short answer is that, no, the $1.3 million-per-minute cost isn’t really on the screen.
Putting all that aside, Waterworld is a not-bad futuristic actioner with three or four astounding sequences, an unusual hero, a nifty villain and less mythic and romantic resonances than might be delivered. Pic owes more than a passing debt to the Mad Max movies.
Pic’s opening gambit is among its most clever: the premise of a world whose land masses have been entirely covered by water. Like a quintessential Western wanderer without a name the Mariner (Costner) sails the endless seas and has developed survival instincts to the point where tiny gills behind his ears allow him to breathe under water and webbed feet enable him to swim like a dolphin.
The Mariner pulls into a floating scrap-metal island whose folks represent easy prey for the savage Smokers who take orders from the maniacal Deacon played with full-tilt relish by a bald-headed, eye-patched Dennis Hopper.
In an incredible 12-minute assault sequence, the Smokers overtake the atoll but the Mariner manages to escape, reluctantly taking with him Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn), as well as her feisty adopted daughter, Enola ( Tina Majorino) on whose back is tatooed a a sunlike symbol that may indicate the whereabouts of the mythical Dryland. It’s little Elona who the Deacon really covets.
The story has a sort of grim obsessiveness about it. The humour that might have helped the film could have derived from the central male-female relationship. But Tripplehorn provides a terribly serious, overwrought woman quite unable to leaven Kevin.
The sets, costumes and many of the effects are stupendous.
Nominations: Best Sound