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DVD Review

DVD cover

Waterworld (1995)
(2020 Reissue)


Starring: Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Jean Tripplehorn, Tina Majorino, Zakes Mokae, Rita Zohar, Gerard Murphy, Robert Joy and Jack Black
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £9.99
Certificate: 12
Release Date: 12 October 2020

Kevin Costner is the illustration of the “dogpile” filmmaker for our times. Mel Gibson is a close second place but can’t be included because of his populist boxoffice numbers and awards. To be a true dogpile filmmaker one has to have had some success but now is doing work that is, by consensus, faecal. Thus the critical consensus, newspaper, magazine, journal, internet, webzine critics leap on WaterWorld and Costner.

Let it be said right now that I am a first hand recipient of critical dogpiling. Doing a film about Hollywood cerebral colonoscopy and thinking everyone would think it was as funny as I did. I and my creative team weren’t ready for the universal critical dogpile. Thankfully my co-writer and producer knew this was our fate. He had submitted our film to the L.A. Times for review. The response was, okay, for $5,000 we would be reviewed but without guarantee of listing beyond the paper’s internet archive and maybe not there but there would be no single word that was positive. To get positive words would cost more than the base rate.

Thankfully my producer was a cynic from Europe and felt an objective review was more possible from European critics. Expose it first in Europe, he said. First review in UK (ahem, we owe our zombified film life to Darren Rea.) Review in UK, debut in Germany, this did stimulate a small wave of good maverick reviews across the United States. What’s this to do with Kevin Costner’s Waterworld? Nothing, except our picture cost 1/100 of Waterworld but it got more kindly words. Costner got a Hollywood industry echo litany: failed story, absurd story, bomb, flop, budget disaster, most expensive film of all time. Why should an actor be praised for stepping out of line to produce a personal film? Every Dances With Wolves takes boxoffice oxygen and space from a studio (and the Mel Gibson Jesus picture wasn’t hated for its subject matter as much as for its billion dollar boxoffice gelt, a lot of oxygen for an empty tomb.)

This Fabulous Films standard version DVD is clear, clean and sharp with crisp multi-layered audio, orchestral score by James Newton Howard, Cinematography by Dean Semler. Future talk is quickly learned, to the point where the whole movie could play as a silent film, it is that understandable. Between music and emotive speech the story is told, jeopardy on top of jeopardy. In the middle of a siege of Smokers, Mariner (Costner) is sinking into the community sewage plant and asked by Helen (Tripplehorn) if she and Nola (Majorino) rescue him, will he save them. “Sure,” he says.

The head of the Smokers, “Deacon” (who else but Hopper) wants Enola for a tattoo on her back showing a map to dry land. Oh, that’s right. I forgot, the whole world has flooded and remnants of culture are relegated to anything that floats. The Universal logo suddenly goes no ice cap and all ocean. Hopper who has only one eye, pulls his eye patch off showing us his eye-socket and says, “We’re going to have to keep an eye out for them.”

Navigation to dry land is an escalating battle with the Smokers but more. The Newton Howard music, the centrality of the child and Mariner’s future in the new Earth, is a multi-layered opera toward rescue and resolution. If this sounds and feels like a Spielberg movie it’s because it is but I think better. One never hears about Spielberg’s failures because he’s one of the Hollywood favourites with his own studio and flocks of obeisant critics buzzing around like mayflies. This is a good old fashioned adventure like they don’t make any more.


John Huff

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