Well, after last week’s foray into the dark world of JFK assassination conspiracies, I decided to keep it a bit lighter this week with a viewing of Waterworld. Released in 1995, almost a decade and a half into Costner’s movie career he finally reached his peak — and in the process went careening off the mountaintop in what could best be described as an atomic cannonball into the deep end of a 200 million dollar sea water tank — tank being the key word here. On record as the most expensive movie ever made at the time, Waterworld was a domestic box office disaster. Several months before it was released into theaters that summer, news reports were already decrying it as an inevitable flop; a shambling mess of cinematic production wrought with infighting between Kevin Costner and the director Kevin Reynolds, with a wildly overblown budget that smelled like the hubris of an actor and director who had no where else to go after winning the hand of Maid Marian, rescuing a tribe of Sioux from annihilation, becoming a Baseball prophet, putting Capone in the slammer, saving Whitney Houston from a stalker, and uncovering the plot to kill president Kennedy. I mean, what else can you do after all that?
Well, if your name is Kevin Costner, you can dump millions of your own money into recreating the Madmax franchise in the ocean, grow a pair of gills and webbed feet, blow up an army of chain-smoking numbskulls on jet skis, play it cool while Dennis Hopper calls you a “turd that won’t flush,” bungee jump from what looks like a hot air balloon straight out of the Flintstones, save a group of smug refugees from extinction by salt water, take crayons away from an orphaned 5 year old, and fall in love with Jeanne Tripplehorn before sailing off into the sunset like you just don’t care while on your way to make The Postman. The opening shot of the movie is Costner taking a whiz into a cup, running it through a make-shift chemistry set to give it some carbonation and then drinking it. Yes, folks, the first thing we see in this movie is Costner literally drinking his own urine. Is this a metaphor for the entire production of the film? No comment.
Critics gave Costner a lot of crap for this movie, for all the reasons just mentioned, but I don’t care — I think it’s awesome. Is it a brilliant film? Of course not. Is there anything in it to justify its ridiculous budget? Heavens no. Is this what happens when a man accumulates enough wealth and clout to put whatever he bloody well wants to on film? Heck yes it is. Is it pure 90s action extravaganza? Absolutely. In the same year that gave us Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd, and Val Kilmer as the freaking Batman — Waterworld was right where it belonged, forever enshrined between Billy Madison and The Brady Bunch Movie, but inevitably eclipsed by such classics as the first Toy Story, Braveheart, and Apollo 13.
I’ve always had a soft spot for post apocalyptic dystopia… and Taco Bell. The two things go together quite remarkably. And like Taco Bell, which is great in small doses, but gastricly deadly when the object of overindulging, so these post apocalyptic movies and television shows have begun to leave a bad smell behind them nowadays. I apologize, that’s a really gross metaphor… I don’t know where I was going with that. The point is— I was lucky enough to see Waterworld when I was still a young guy, and back then, in the middle of the 90s, these types of stories still had happy endings for the most part. Waterworld, unlike many of the dystopian futures being conjured up in today’s market, still left us with some hope when the credits rolled. That’s good story-telling in my book. And beyond that, it’s just a really fun movie.