The landscape is changing, whether it be through man’s actions or the inevitable acts of mother nature, we are at the mercy of elements. The rather pleasant status quo we take for granted could be rendered asunder. In 1996, this fear served as a backdrop for a higher-than-high seas adventure, a tale of oceans, pirates, and Land Ho! A tale of Waterworld.
At some point in the near future, due to catastrophic climate change, most landmasses are gone. Mankind persevered of course and built floating settlements. Our hero, The Mariner, makes his living trading, rare dirt, to the locals (who’ve long abandoned the hope of ever seeing land), he’s quickly taken for a mutant and captured. But when The Smokers (think pirates with petrol) raid the atoll looking for a young girl, Enola, with a tattooed map of the location of the last bit of land (named Dryland), The Mariner escapes, with the help of the girl and her guardian, Helen. Now the three must head to Dryland and survive the wrath of the Deacon… If they don’t kill each other first.
Waterworld is quite a swashbuckling adventure, full of pirates, port towns, etc. The only difference here is that Waterworld has given the tropes a post-apocalyptic flair. By setting the adventure into a post-ice cap world, with colourful characters straight out of a late 80s V.H.S. camp-tastic flick. His Mariner has evolved gills allowing him to breathe underwater, but on land, he’s a loner, not used to the imposition of his new companions, played fantastically by Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino. Dennis Hopper plays The Deacon, an eye-patch wearing, charismatic & crazy cult leader, who is a mixture of hilarious and terrifying. Even the eccentric goons and other ancillary characters feel like they’ve wandered straight out of Mad Max’s Thunderdome, but they’ve brought with them fun and flippancy that feels right at home here.
While we spend a significant amount of time on The Mariner’s vessel, it’s impressive the level of world building and scale that the sets of the film demonstrate. The creative floating ports, or Atolls as they are called demonstrates how life, finds a way. The Deacon, who, commenting to the environmental allegory, resides on the rusted carcass of the Exxon Valdez. Much like his subsequent work on The Postman, the attention to details really hammer home the film’s themes, and the use of effects and choreography help the visual exhibition of the exciting fight scenes.
Waterworld isn’t an overly special-effect laden summer smash, but it does have a lot of spectacle, action, and engagement an adventure in the purest sense of the word, but with modern sensibilities. It is an energetic outing for Costner et al. Full of marauders, treasure and tribulations, While Waterworld may not be the greatest nautical tale ever told, I can think of worst naval tales to submerge into.