Waterworld Review

by Michelle Dean (ac676 AT freenet DOT carleton DOT ca)
July 31st, 1995

A film review by Michelle Dean
Copyright 1995 Michelle Dean

    I wasn't really expecting much when I went to see this film on opening night. I too had read all the articles about this expensive epic, about all Kevin Costner's problems with it. I was expecting one expansive, expensive mess of a movie. However, surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it.

    The premise is this: The inhabitants of Waterworld, which is really a flooded Earth due to melted polar ice caps, are in constant search for that mythical place they call Dryland. There are two "peoples" in Waterworld; the Smokers and the Something-elses (I just can't remember the name, they only said it once, if at all). Markings on a young Something-else girl named Enola's (Tina Majorino) back have been rumoured to show the way to Dryland, and so the Smokers head off to raid her "village." She and her friend, Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) escape the battle with the mysterious Mariner (Kevin Costner), a mutant man who has gills and webbed feet, who says he'll take them to Dryland. Upon learning of Enola's escape the Smokers, led by the Deacon (Dennis Hopper), set off in pursuit of the trio. Complicated enough?

    You really have to suspend most of your knowledge to bring this film anywhere close to believable, of course, but it has its moments. The biggest problem with the film is the fact that it spend little or no time explaining what it's doing and why. We haven't a clue why the Smokers are pitted against the Something-elses. We just don't like them because it doesn't seem like we're really supposed to, although the Something-elses don't appear to be any better than their neighbours in the first hour of the film. We don't really get to know any of the characters at all. Granted, it wasn't meant to be any sort of thinking film but I would have liked to know what was going on at times. There are also way too many characters in the film, many of them too incidental to even remember their names. It was tough keeping track of the names of the four main players. But somehow it manages to all tie together and be completely watchable.

    The action scenes, which are numerous, do send adrenaline shooting through your body. However, they do tend to be confusing, and you don't always understand what it is that the Mariner's doing until the result makes it obvious. There are a lot of explosions and fire and the special effects waver between spectacular in the scenes on the tank, and, in a few scenes where the characters are flying in a hot-air balloon, mediocre.

    The performances are about as dependable as the special effects. I love Tina Majorino (CORRINA, CORRINA; WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN), and always have, and she's just as good here. She isn't really given much to do but she works well with what she is given and I heard more than one person walk out of the theatre saying "I love that little girl!" Kevin Costner (FIELD OF DREAMS, DANCES WITH WOLVES) actually manages to bring some feeling into that flat dumb-jock speech of his and give a solid, if not spectacular, performance. Jeanne Tripplehorn is an actress I hadn't seen before and will only see again if she's headlining with someone I do like, because she was perfectly unremarkable. Dennis Hopper is horrible. He spends his whole time swaggering about and yelling. He needs to be taught that just because you yell a line doesn't make it believable.

    All in all, the film was worth about $6.50 of the $8 CDN that I paid to see it.

Erin Michelle Dean
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