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?
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.
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.