Viking Night: Waterworld
By Bruce Hall
December 15, 2015
Only a few times in a generation comes a cinematic event so notorious that the actor most closely associated it would be mocked for longer than it will take for the sun to burn out.
I speak of course, of Waterworld, and I speak of Kevin Costner, who despite what a lot of people think of him (fairly or not), is a really successful guy. He's a go-getter. I can respect that. The thing is, there's really two ways to get things done. You can be the kind of guy who gets things done that nobody else can - as long as everything is done YOUR way. Or, you can be the guy who gets things done that nobody else can, specifically because you're good at motivating good people to apply their best talents to the problem.
I'm not saying that Kevin Costner is either one of these things. I'm saying that there's a ninety percent chance that he's totally one or the other. That's all. I'm definitely not about to put the blame for what doesn't quite rise to the level of the “Water” to “Watergate”'s “Gate”. But it does, in many ways...oh God...I can't believe I'm about to say this…”sinks” to unfortunate levels of camp in the critical veil between “transformative film experience” and “bloated, blowhardy vanity project”.
I'm not saying Waterworld is either one of those things. I'm saying that there's a 90 percent chance it's either one or the other.
And it's also a damn good idea for a movie.
Think about it. The polar ice caps melt, covering 99 percent of earth's land mass with water. Forget that this is scientifically impossible in the same way it is for the ice in the old fashioned I'm drinking right now to overflow the glass as it melts (your move, Don Draper). That's not important. What's important is what if it could happen? And everyone on earth had to live in or on the water, on boats, floating landmasses, or floating on their asses. To whatever their level of “just barely one bad night's sleep away from death” would endow them.
It's a world where freaking SAILING - something we associate with people whose names rhyme with “Kennedy” or “Roosevelt” - is an essential life or death skill. And you look astonishingly awesome when you do it. And, it's a world where everyone willingly drinks their own piss and eats the dead for dinner at night. It's a world where dirt - a cereal bowl's worth of the kind a college kid wouldn't bother trying to grow weed in - was literally the most valuable thing on the planet. Oh, how low we humans have...oh...I swear this was not intentional…”sunk."
No, seriously. I didn't even realize how that sounded until I'd already started writing it. You don't have to ask me to apologize. I've already offended you enough.
Anyway, this planet of which I speak is basically Mad Max on water. That's either the world's most homoerotic show on ice, or it's the most absolutely kickass thing I've ever heard of. Using that as your metric, where the former is zero (or as low as you want to go, really), and the latter is 11, Waterworld comes in at about...oh...a four. And that's a shame, because there's a lot of potential here. The universe is compelling, but our exposure to it is largely limited to discrete glimpses of the extreme austerity required in a world where pretty much everything has been destroyed. Knowing your way around a boat is a no brainer. Being prepared to start every day with a piping hot glass of your own urine would be prudent. And if it can't float, or isn't breathing, consider it food.