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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Waterworld

Starring: Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 136 Minutes
Release Date: July 1995
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action

*Also starring: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tina Majorino, Michael Jeter, Gerard Murphy, R.D. Call, Kim Coates, John Fleck, Jack Black

Review by Brian Koller
2½ stars out of 4

We all know the rap about Waterworld. It was one of the most expensive movies ever, but still turned a profit. It is like "The Road Warrior" but not as good. It is overlong. Well, all these things are true, and there are other problems as well, but the movie is still marginally good. Just maybe it was worth the cost after all.

Waterworld takes place in a future when the ice caps have melted, making a planet a landless ocean. To their credit, mankind has survived, in limited numbers, on man-made atolls and on various boats and ships.

Kevin Costner is the mariner, a loner who spends all his type on his boat, and his interaction with others is purely to trade. Visiting an atoll to trade his dirt (more valuable than gold), Costner meets Jeanne Tripplehorn (JTH to save keystrokes) and buys all her supplies. He meets trouble at the colony, however, and is discovered to a mutant, with gills behind his ears. For some reason, he is then put in a cage and condemned to death. Just as sentence is being passed (his cage is slowly descended into a mudpit) a band of Smokers (described later) attack the atoll. In the carnage that follows, JTH makes a bargain with Costner: she will free him from his nearly-submerged cage if he takes her away on his boat with him. They also take her adopted daughter, who has a tattoo on her back that may be a map to dry land.

Much time is then spent developing the bonds between Costner, JTH, and the child. At first Costner considers dumping the both of them overboard, especially the bratty child, but gradually they become a family unit, protected by Costner.

The Smokers are after Costner's boat, because they want to kidnap the child in order to find dry land. The Smokers are led by Dennis Hopper, who has apparently survived getting beheaded in "Speed" although he has only one eye now. Hopper is the comic relief, necessary since no one else has a sense of humor, and has several good lines. His band of outlaws also supply several good stunts with their willingness to perform dangerous, often fatal maneuvers on speedboats.

The inevitable happens. Hopper kidnaps the child and torches Costner's boat. Some guy in a helicopter, that we met at the atoll early in the film, has good timing and rescues Costner and JTH.

The child is now on Hopper's battleship, annoying Hopper and his sidekick with her brave prattling about how her new stepdad will come to rescue her. The odds that Costner would get to the battleship, find the girl alive, successfully confront the villian, destroy the ship, and save himself and the girl are about the same odds that a snowman would survive a Dallas summer. But it happens.

Using the helicopter, the girl's tattoo, and some old National Geographic maps, dry land is discovered. Even more amazing, no one else has settled it yet. But the mariner does not want to enjoy bliss on Eden, and returns to the sea.

The film is full of non-sequitors. How can a large group of Smokers continue to consume cigarettes when there is no arable land to grow tobacco? How can man develop gills in a few hundred years when whales, seals, penguins etc haven't in millions of years? I could go on but you get the point.

But I shouldn't be too hard on the film. The big budget delivers good sets, stunts and explosions. I like the movie's attitude as well: humanity finds a way to survive despite the odds. No, it isn't as good as "The Road Warrior", but don't tape over it just yet.

Copyright 1995 Brian Koller

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