In 1996 we got something we never saw before in Waterworld. An apocalyptic action film set entirely on water. At the time it was the grandest idea around and also the most expensive film ever made (at the time), clocking in at a whopping $172 million. It struggled to get off the ground though despite its astronomical budget but eventually managed to launch an entire legacy that included rides, video games, a tie-in novel and Dennis Hopper’s worst supporting actor Golden Raspberry Award.
Taking place after a global apocalypse that left the world as one giant ocean – The story follows The Mariner (Costner) who just pretty much wants to mind his own business and do his own thing but of course things are never that easy. The Mariners luck changes for the worse when he visits a settlement of humans who persecute him for being what they call ‘a mutation’. You see The Mariner is the next step in human evolution. The world having been destroyed hundreds of years ago, life had to adapt and The Mariner is the representation of that. As Enola later puts it in the film, he can hear and see a hundred miles under water and you won’t even see him until you’re DEAD.
Under the false impression that The Mariner knows where ‘dry land’ is, because he came rolling into town with a jar of dry dirt which is rare on a planet covered in water, Helen (Tripplehorn) frees him under the condition that she and her adopted child Enola (Majorino) go with him to this fabled place where everything is dry…and land…though if you ask me dry land is a little redundant since they haven’t seen any sort of land, dry or otherwise.
Things take a complicated turn when a rowdy gang of pirates attacks and begin pursuing our unfortunate hero. These guys are called The Smokers…simply because they somehow manage to still have tobacco and cigarettes 500 years after the apocalypse. Anyway, their leader, The Deacon (Hopper) discovers The Mariner has Enola and she just so happens to hold what they believe to be the ‘way to dry land’ in the form of a tattoo on her back. Adventure ensues with many explosions, fast-paced action scenes, a lot of sailing, some fishing, and even some forced prostitution. Fun for the whole family.
What makes this film great
There’s no one thing that really makes Waterworld great. It just is. Everything comes together and somehow works. From the nameless hero to the little girl who sucks at singing but can’t shut up, it all fits. The main characters are anti-social, understandably so even and are each complex in their own special way. Even the big blonde dude who seems to have a hard-on for The Mariner makes sense in some way and The Deacon is one awesome villain.
It really was something we never saw before and the only thing that ever really came close was Mad Max. In fact, this film is quite a bit like ‘Mad Max on water’. The explosions, crazy characters, high-speed action and strangely old machinery modified in cool ways are all reminiscent of a time that Hollywood still bothered to build sets and stuff that actually blows up during action scenes. The sets are great, it all feels real and the ideas are all nothing short of breathtakingly original.
Where are they now
Moving on from Waterworld, Kevin Costner continued to enjoy success in Hollywood while maintaining a surprisingly successful side career in a band called Kevin Costner & Modern West. He mainly appears in the ‘dad’ and ‘uncle’ roles these days when he does appear in film but remains as popular as ever and I still consider him the best Robin Hood ever.
Dennis Hopper continued his success, first in film and then in television, most notably he appeared in the television series 24 but sadly his career was cut short while doing voice acting in the film Alpha & Omega when he lost his battle against Prostate Cancer, the film was dedicated to his memory. Mr.Hopper was 74 at the time.
Jeanne Tripplehorn similarly still enjoys success today but manages to remain alive even though her acting career has pretty much gone down hill. After having established herself solidly in the 1999 hit romcom Mickey Blue Eyes alongside Hugh Grant, moving on from there the now 53-year-old Tripplehorn enjoyed regular appearances in film and most recently on television in the role of Dr. Alex Blake in the series Criminal Minds, since then though she’s not been up to much and will probably now follow Mr.Costner’s lead by portraying the ‘older’ roles in film and television.
And last but not least, Tina Majorino had her first real success in the unexpected 2004 low budget classic, Napoleon Dynamite as ‘Deb’ and then pretty much vanished into minor roles of obscurity until she resurfaced on television, first in the television adaption of Napoleon Dynamite in 2012 and then True Blood, Grey’s Anatomy and most recently in 2014, Legends. Since then though she very sadly seems to have slipped back into obscurity as I’ve not much concerning her for about two years now.
A true gem for the ages. Waterworld takes it’s place up on the shelf among the other great ‘end of the world’ movies involving crazy people, machines, and stories that make no sense. An overall fun action film with lots of appeal for the nostalgic adult or young movie buff, Waterworld is a prime example of what you get with a lot of dedication, production issues, 90’s level acting, some side-boob and what happens when you overshoot your budget by $72 million to create one of the most unique films ever produced.
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