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Screen Savers: Waterworld (1995)

Screen Savers: Waterworld (1995)


‘Tis the season to be jolly! The holiday festivities of December are just around the corner as we finish up the last few days of November. The spirit of cheer has caught upon us here at The Arcade, mainly because of the free time that we will get away from work and school, but also because we tolerate love spending time with our families too, I suppose.

Traditions, beliefs and values in the holiday season are different all over the world, but one prevailing school of thought is the idea of togetherness with fellow members of your kin. For myself and my family, togetherness is being crammed next to each other on a couch, shutting up for a while and watching a movie.

As a spiritual predecessor for this typical one hour and fifty minutes of relative harmony, I have decided to be a little cheeky and start this tradition three weeks early all by my lonesome self. Instead of basking in the glow of my loved ones, I will instead share with you a taster of my viewing experience in the spirit of togetherness, so that you will all feel the same warmth that I felt.  

On this week’s Screen Savers, we’re talking about that absolute cracker of a Christmas classic, Waterworld.



Originally released back in July of 1995, Waterworld has become a surprise, beloved classic that unites families together during the most wonderful time of the year. To pin down exactly what element makes Waterworld truly special to so many people, is a task that could only be accomplished by a far more eloquent critic than I.

Is it the incohesive script that saw its lead star Kevin Costner constantly insisting upon changing to the behest of director Kevin Reynolds? Is it the charming and not at all insensitive approach that it has to female characters? Is it Kevin Costner’s moving performance as Grunting Fish Man?

I can’t say. All I can say is that Waterworld is the story of one macho mariner fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic land that is absolutely nothing like Mad Max: Road Warrior, why would you even suggest that? They’re completely different. That’s on land. This one is on water. The costumes and aesthetic similarities are pure coincidence.


The plot on hand here is a journey of epic proportions as we see the rise of one tough man, who is also a mutant with functioning gills and webbed feet, protecting an utterly helpless woman and child. The Waterworld that they inhabit was caused by the melting of the polar ice caps and led to a revolution of nobody understanding how to use soap and forgetting altogether where they left dry land. Also, mutants happened in between there somewhere. The film is fuzzy on the details. It shrugs it off as evolution. Which occurs over millennia, so this film must be set insanely far in the future.

Impeding the progress of our “hero” is a jet ski gang known as ‘The Smokers’, who desperately want to find dry land and know that their only shot is the young child accompanying Kevin Costner in his sea-faring vessel that inspired the Zelda creators to make Wind Waker, probably. Dennis Hopper, who plays the leader of The Smokers, discovers that this young child named Enola (Tina Majorino) has a tattoo on her back that has a map directly to dry land. A convenience of which is not explained in the one hundred and thirty-five minute run time. Kevin paired up with Enola and her guardian Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) seek to evade Dennis Hopper’s dastardly jet ski pirates and find dry land, so that they can start a new life and so that Kevin can feel the earth beneath his feet and toes. Although unintentional, the delivery of this line has a fetish connotation.


It’s hard to define who is really “in” Waterworld.


Kevin Costner is there, but is his heart really in it? His love interest played by Jeanne Tripplehorn is present, but if a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is there to hear it, does it still sound as wooden as this performance? I would say no. The stand outs among the cast are the enjoyable Dennis Hopper in his most manic and over the top role since Speed and Tina Majorino, who genuinely inhabits the innocent and curious Enola very well and competently shows up her co-stars in the majority of scenes. Although, when your character is not a vacant goldfish man or a half-hearted attempt of empowerment that actually harms due to the nature of it just being lip service and not allowing for a proper dominating female role, it is easy to be a scene stealer.


At the end of the day, Waterworld will always be synonymous with success. Kevin Costner said so. From its modest budget, intriguing characterisation of a woman’s role in a world of water, intelligent dialogue and fully formed script that was not at all rushed, came a truly unique experience that felt really like Mad Max.


Tonally, it grabs your attention in the sense that one moment you will be semi-immersed in a serious exchange between Costner and Tripplehorn, only for it to be undercut in the next moment by a comical eye-patch wearing Dennis Hopper. Generally a production of this scale has its intent set out beforehand, so that they know what feelings they want to convey to their audience. Here the luxury is foregone in favour of whatever sticks to the wall. We want gritty! We want mature! Let us get Costner brooding. Let us give him a dark presence, but not dark enough to be interesting because the kids need to go see this too. Call Dennis Hopper. Tell him he has to mug to the camera in every scene with his goofy prosthetic eye. The kids will eat it up! Remember though, it has to be gritty.

It is this foundation that led to Waterworld becoming the highest grossing movie of all time and a true classic.

Gather your family and friends around during the holidays and enjoy a lovely mince-pie accompanied with this magical epic for the ages. I do look forward to a sequel in the future, perhaps with the title Waterworld 2: Landworld or Waterworld 2: Road Warrior


Piranha, any of the Mad Max movies – even ThunderdomeEscape from New York, Jaws.

I don’t like Waterworld.