I Saw A Film!
Friends, I am here to praise the tremendously moist, post-apocalyptic epic that is Waterworld. What clever ideas. A boss catermaran tricked out with counterweights and harpoons (and a below deck somehow?). A sea of sunken cities. The remains of the floating world collected together on a few atolls. Dry earth a tradable commodity. A weary loner of the sea protagonist played by Kevin Costner wearing a samurai hairdo, pumping his urine through a filter to recycle every last possible drop of drinkable water, for himself and his lime tree. Calamity after calamity spoil the otherwise idyllic sea and sunshine for our mariner as he trades in some soil for some water. It is soon discovered that this outlander (I mean, like any good western, you have your drifter character) ain’t exactly hooman, he’s outfitted with gills and webbed toes, a mutant! And he’s immediately strapped with execution by the not so peace-loving floating islanders.
Before long we’re introduced to the bad guys, called “smokers” as they still have enough fuel for their ocean-going craft. And like any gang of outlaws they’re cigar comping filthy killers, rampaging and despoiling everywhere they go. They are lead by Dennis Hopper, in a role made for him. His jokes are dripping, his snide asides are charged with Caligula-esque menace. When he says he won’t kill an informant, he agrees that he might have promised that, and hands the weapon off to a lieutenant for the coup de grace. In all he’s one deadly direction. His leadership must find the promised land. And throughout we get some of the more creative action sequences of moviedom.
See, there’s a map plastered on the back of a cute teeny kid (for whatever reason) and that map is rumored to be the key to finding the remains of the world and riches, of course. One side protects it, the other seeks it. One for the promise of a better life, the other for the loot. Problem is, no one seems able to read it.
And here’s where things get tricky, Costner’s mutated defiant loaner swinging from his mast like Tarzan ends up taking the tattooed girl (later to be side-ponytailed Deb in Napoleon Dynamite!) and her minder (Barb from Big Love) aboard his modified cat. Our gilled man isn’t too excited about having them aboard. His boat is sinking, they’ve no supplies. He’s deadly practical about their situation-throw the kid overboard. This doesn’t go well with the minder, nor us. But I’m amazed by the powerful anti-heroic direction. We’re not dealing with someone who is ready to adopt a family. He knows the cost of such and that he can’t afford it. He also reminds them that up until a little while ago he was being consigned to the compost pit. So there’s some distrust and antagonism to get over while they’re chased by Hopper and his smokers.
The smokers live on a huge tanker, which carries the remains of their oil supply. They are somehow manufacturing the fuel from this oil, and rowing the enormous tub around like an immense ancient quadrireme. It’s a very creative, if largely hard to imagine, visual. But what else is a movie supposed to do but surprise us with impossible visuals.
I can’t begin to give you a play by play, and that’s generally the worst kind of walk-thru review style anyway. What I liked about this film was the unexpected spaghetti western style. The world is insane, the pressures impossible to quell, and what we’d call PTSD would have ruined any recognizable human compassion, at least, mostly. There are, certainly, many arguable events. Long distance shots that land, and perhaps some anti-physics sequences, but all in all, for a wet version of Road Warrior, it’s damned satisfying. I would say the only thing possibly lacking is a sort of romantic angle between our gill-man and the lady Helen whom he’s mostly bickered and fought and threatened. I realize they kiss at some point, but I’m terrible for feeling these things. I suppose the pressures of Waterworld might put them together, and might make her appreciate his sacrifice. And he hers. Who knows? It’s just a movie! But bear in mind that I’m the fellow who didn’t recall that Maud’ib had a family in Dune. It just did not register.
This running on Netflix for a few more days, and has some of the most creative large scale action sequences you’ll ever see in any movie. Lots of money was spent, but by today’s standards these numbers don’t seem particularly numbing. A last joke involving the Exxon Valdeze provides a good chuckle. If you bear in mind films like The Good the Bad and the Ugly, and Samurai epics like Yojimbo, this film begins to feel like familiar ground with an epic setting. I will say that the solving of the map puzzle was fairly lame, but, lameness existed even in Lord of the Rings so we can let a few things pass.