Waterworld – All Wet

The earth is covered in water because the polar ice caps have melted. Humankind lives on boats and fortresses that float on the surface. There is hope that someday they will find a legendary place called dry land. Kevin Costner plays a drifter who sails the ocean in his sailboat and encounters a woman and young girl who may hold the key to finding dry land. There are also pirate-like bad guys called Smokers who want to kidnap the girl so that they can find dry land. This is the premise of Waterworld.

For me, the most dramatic scene in the film occurs when the Smokers capture the girl and burn Kevin Costner’s boat. What struck me as I watched this scene unfold, however, was not that the bad guys had kidnapped someone, but that Kevin Costner’s boat was being destroyed. I cared more about a prop than about a character; Kevin Costner’s boat is really cool, arguably the single most interesting thing in the whole movie.

(I know that Kevin Costner is an actor and not a character in Waterworld, but they never give his mariner character in this film a name, so I just call him Kevin Costner.)

Speaking of Kevin Costner, he’s not really a good actor. His performance is a little flat. None of the other performances really struck me as particularly good either. The acting comes off as a bit cheesy and the characters are forgettable.

The movie’s plot unfolds pretty much exactly as one would expect it to. Once all the characters are introduced, we pretty much know what’s going to happen, what choices the characters will make, who will die and how the movie is going to end.

The goal of the film, as far as I can tell, is not so much to create a brilliant story, but rather to build a unique world filled with neat gadgets, costumes and other such eye-candy. The filmmakers spent a lot of money on the sets, and we can definitely see why. The world of Waterworld is certainly very interesting to look at.

I’m sure one could easily pick apart various technical details of how this world works. If dirt is as rare to the people of Waterworld as they seem to imply, how can they grow enough fruit and vegetables to sustain their needs?  Even if the polar ice caps had melted, there wouldn’t be nearly enough water to submerge entire cities thousands of feet beneath the surface, but it’s really just an excuse they came up with to show this neat environment that the filmmakers created. Nitpicking aside, the world of Waterworld is a neat place to look at.

Unfortunately, that’s all the film is; interesting to look at. There are a bunch of neat gadgets, a couple explosions, but not much else. It is possible that if the characters had been written better and the performances had been sharper that this film could have been an ultimately memorable and rewarding experience; unfortunately, this is not the case. This is probably why Waterworld is one of the biggest domestic box office bombs of the last century.