Waterworld isn’t just a bad movie. It’s a bad expensive movie. The film cost $175 million to make, which set a record at the time, and people who manage to sit through it often wonder just where the hell the money went. The special effects are horrible, it certainly didn’t go into the script, and Kevin Costner’s mullet can’t have cost that much to maintain. The answer lies somewhere at the bottom of the ocean between the damaged atolls and the sad remnants of his once promising career.
The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the polar ice caps have melted and ocean levels have risen dramatically. Kevin Costner stars as The Mariner, a sort of mutant fish-man who roams the ocean in his personal watercraft and stumbles upon a young girl who has a map tattooed to her back. It supposedly leads to dry land, something that is considered a myth by most people, and dastardly thugs led by a one-eyed Dennis Hopper will stop at nothing to retrieve it.
What follows is all manner of bad action sequences, horrible dialogue (“He doesn’t have a name, so death can’t find him”), and more plot inconsistencies than you can shake a stick at. Everyone in the movie smokes cigarettes, despite the fact that it’s been two hundred years since the fall of civilization. Kevin Costner has a personal submarine bubble even though he is a moody loner who can breathe underwater. There is also an odd preponderance of still-functioning jet-skis in the world; perhaps there was a floating Jiffy-Lube somewhere that the movie never depicted.
Near the end of the film, Kevin Costner kills his way through the Smokers that have kidnapped the girl and sets fire to some convenient oil tanks. The camera then cuts to an old man in a boiler room who says, “Oh, thank god,” thus showing that the slaves there are miserable and absolving The Mariner of any guilt for the murder of over five hundred people. Our hero and his companions manage to escape the sinking oil platform, defeat Dennis Hopper in a climactic battle, and follow the tattooed map to that most fabled of notions, dry land.
Spoiler alert: It turns out it’s Mount Everest. So when Jeanne Tripplehorn states that they’re going to go out there and find more dry land, um, no they’re not. That’s pretty much all that’s left.