What was wrong with "Waterworld"? (spoilers everywhere)

I remember (IIRC) that it was the most expensive movie ever made at the time. I remember that it was a flop at the box office. I remember that it became a running joke on late night talk shows, not only about Kevin Costner making really bad movies, but it became a stereotypical example of bad movies in general.

I saw this movie yesterday for the first time (it ran on a local tv station), and I liked it.

Aside from its length (even “Edited for television…to run in the time allowed” it managed to go for three hours), I didn’t see anything wrong with the movie, and in fact am half-inclined to pick up the dvd just to watch it again.

So what was so bad about it?

My impressions:

I liked Costner’s character, and appreciated the fact that the movie wasn’t a model shoot for him. “Braveheart,” for example, seemed to consist mainly of “Look at me! I’m Mel Gibson with long hair!” shots. I expected the same thing from this movie (only with Costner), but I didn’t get it. His character was interesting, and the development was interesting to watch. He didn’t come out of the gate as the do-gooder hero, although he ended up as one. The transition was long and gradual. Even halfway through the movie (if not later), he was callously unconcerned for the well-being of others. The scene where he got sick of the girl talking too much and just picked her up and threw her overboard was particularly shocking, as was the hair-cutting scene (although that ended up a bit humorously…the girl finally learned that she did talk too much).

Still, while he started out considering at least the girl to be completely disposable, he ended up going into the dragon’s lair single-handedly to rescue her just because he’d learned to care about her (which was pretty amazing, given how he was used to being treated by humans). He kind of reminded me of Han Solo from the original Star Wars movie: a very reluctant hero, but one that eventually has to accept his good nature, however deeply it’s buried.

The lead actress was beautiful (I kept getting reminded of Jolene Blalock from Star Trek: Enterprise, but it evidently wasn’t her).

I also liked the story, especially now that Al Gore’s film has come out and global warming has become a significant concern. Waterworld almost seems prescient now, even though it’s still fantasy (although I know that global warming was already being discussed back in the 1990s, it just wasn’t front page news like it seems to be now).

And then there was Dennis Hopper…

I’ve not seen most of his films, so I can’t remotely claim this was his best role, but it was a very enjoyable performance, and offered most of the comic relief in an otherwise very serious movie. I always like him, but I can’t think of when I’ve liked him better than in this role.

So why did other people think this movie sucked so much? Length is a problem maybe (in the theater, at least; I almost blew a kidney waiting for “Return of the King” to finish…blasted X-Tra Large Soda), but other than that, I’m not sure I see the problem.

I thought it was a great movie.

It was too much like Madd Max to me, except longer and with duller imagery.

It’s been a long time since I saw it, but I remember it as over-long, over-preachy, and under-original.

That was my problem with it. When I left the theater, I said to my co-attendee, “I liked it better when it was called Madd Maxx.”

But I didn’t think it was as bad as people made it out to be.

The reason why Waterworld got such a bad rep was because at the time, it was one of the most expensive movies ever made and was seen by many as proof Costner’s ego was out of control. For a film that was basically a bloated and water-logged retread of Road Warrior, the cost and time spent making it (its release had been postponed several times due to production delays) didn’t seem justified.

I wouldn’t have said it was a great movie, but I thought it was a good one. I definitely enjoyed it. I never really got all the criticism of it. OK yes, the plotline at it’s very base level was a retread, but this is Hollywood the home of the retread! :rolleyes:

Plus I never did buy the “Mad Max on water” analogy, the only thing in that regard they share is that they are both a post-apoclypse setting. One after an ecolgical disaster the other a nuclear war. Why does no other movie set in a post-apoclypse world get saddled with the “Mad Max on …” tag?
On a slight tangent, but related I also enjoyed The Postman. Yes, it was bloated, run-time wise, it could have easily had an hour cut out of it, and been a good movie. But I still enjoyed it.

The Mel Gibson movie being referenced was Mad Max (actually Mad Max 2, released in the U.S. as The Road Warrior). Not Madd Max, not Madd Maxx. Why would there be a double letter? It’s not about a hip-hop artist. There’s a guy named Max. . . and he’s mad.

Waterworld was a perfectly good stupid B-movie with a really cool catamaran; it was just seen as ridiculous to make a movie like that with such a gigantic budget. Costner wants (or wanted) to star in epic movies, but he’s really better suited for comedies and ensemble pieces. Jean Tripplehorn is, of course, hot.

Personally, I thought The Postman was a far more egregious example of rampant Costner self-love. Waterworld was no cinematic milestone, but it certainly isn’t the worst big budget bloatfest to be projected.

What I can’t figure out is what they did with all that money. It certainly doesn’t look like a $120M+ film; even accounting for the fact that shooting in, around, or underwater always increases costs by an immodest factor, it just doesn’t look all that expensive or indeed, impressive. George Miller could have shot this picture on a tenth of the reported budget.


I loved Waterworld, and I don’t give a shit about the budget. X Men 3, Superman Returns, and Titanic all cost more money to make, and all of those three put together didn’t entertain me 1/8 as much as Waterworld did. I also loved The Postman, thought it was a unique story and had great costumes and set design. I am a fan of Costner and will always stick up for him when others put him down.

My favorite part of the movie was seeing a photo of the Exxon Valdez’s Capt. Joseph Hazelwood in the captain’s quarters of the tanker that Dennis Hopper’s character commanded. That’s worth a thumb’s up, right there.

But that’s just the problem – B-movies by definition are not the most expensive productions ever made. If someone had strung it together with no-name actors and a bunch of maxed out credit cards, it would be an example of camp triumphing over unceasing adversity. See Plan 9 From Outer Space.

But when you spend $175 million, people expect a well-crafted story with realistic dialog and acting that doesn’t consist of Kevin Costner barking his lines into the camera. They expect good editing that doesn’t bog down the narrative with half an hour of extraneous material. And so on.

I thought it was fun – not the kind of movie you’d put on a top-ten list, but something to keep your interest while you’re munching on a bowl of popcorn.

Aside from the ridiculous budget, I think people just like making fun of Kevin Costner. While he’s not a world class actor, he’s done a few decent films and doesn’t deserve half the flack he gets.

The same movie could’ve been done for half the budget and half the running time, and should’ve been. Part of what killed it was the bad press. Plus, Costner doesn’t suit a movie with a comic-book over-the-top premise, which, as Dennis Hopper’s performance proves, this was.

I thought it was OK. Not great, but not as bad as I had been led to believe it would be.

I think the biggest problem with Waterworld was in the action sequences. Vast expanses of ocean tend to have a calming effect which, for me, negate any “action” factor. In the air, planes can crash into each other or get shot down; on land, vehicles can impact obstacles or each other. What can happen on the water except a really big splash?

Just my perception; YMMV.

I thought Waterworld and The Postman could have been edited into better movies. They’re both long-winded.

I believe a lot of the costs were invisible. As I recall, there were several storms that destroyed sets and required them to be rebuilt several times. But they weren’t filming the storms and the sets were rebuilt to look identical to the originals so none of the money spent shows up on film.

I think they used it to build that giant floating atol.

By comparison, The Perfect Storm also cost about $120 M but they managed to recreate a huricane at sea while shooting mostly in a sound stage with green screens.
I don’t think either Waterworld or The Postman are terrible in the sense they are unwatchable (like…say…Battlefield Earth). For some reason, if I’m hanging around the appartment on a Sunday afternoon and either movie shows up on TV, I manage to get sucked in (or at least keep it on in the background). Of course a young Jeanne Tripplehorn prancing around in a dress made from rags and fishnets may have something to do with that.

Ultimately, the problem with those movies, as well as Costner’s Robin Hood (which was saved by Alan Rickman IMHO) is that Costner basically just plays his wooden-headed self and that the films are too pretentious for what they are. Waterworld and The Postman aren’t Lawrence of Arabia but they aren’t sure if they want to try to be.

While we’re nitpicking, that’s Jeanne Tripplehorn. :stuck_out_tongue:

I seem to recall that the floating town thing sank at some point during filming and had to either be raised or rebuilt. I’m sure that soaked up some of the $'s.

I too rather enjoyed Waterworld. As long as you don’t take it seriously, it’s actually a pretty fun movie. My only real problem with the movie is Costner’s acting ability, or lack thereof. A better lead, a shorter runtime and I think it could have done a lot better in the press than it did.

The production was extremely poorly ran and planned out, and a lot of money was blown on paying people to sit on their asses.