In a future where Earth is covered with water, the human race struggles to survive on dilapidated boats and makeshift floating cities. Seeking clues to the whereabouts of the mythical Dryland, Deacon (Dennis Hopper) attacks the atoll which houses young Enola (Tina Majorino) and her adoptive mother Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn). When the mysterious drifter, Mariner (Kevin Costner), is caught up in their struggle, he finds himself catapulted into an explosive war of good vs. evil with the open sea as his battlefield. Only later will he discover Enola’s wondrous secret – a revelation that may change the destiny of all mankind.
Due to his experience on Jaws, Steven Spielberg was asked by Waterworld director Kevin Reynolds for filming advice. The only piece he gave was don’t shoot on open water. The advice wasn’t heeded and Waterworld was filmed just off Hawaii, with the majority of the film being shot on the open sea. Prior to filming, the crew underwent a traditional Hawaiian ceremony to ask for blessing from the gods. “We thought it would be a good omen,” said one crew member. The gods took as much notice as Reynolds took of Spielberg. Sets were destroyed by hurricanes. Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tina Majorino and Kevin Costner all nearly died at various points whilst filming. Costner’s stunt double was washed out to sea and several extras nearly drowned.
The film quickly went over it’s $66 million initial budget, becoming the most expensive film ever made at the time. Legal wrangles, on-set spats, gossip, and rumor did the rest for the film’s reputation.
However, when you consider video and other post-cinema sales, Waterworld wasn’t such a disaster—it made a profit, and notched up its share of positive, as well as negative reviews. The Waterworld show at the Universal Studios theme parks remains a big attraction today. And, while Waterworld is probably never going to be a cinema-studies classic, it had—and still has—a vocal fan-base.
Waterworld was never a bad film, but rather one that fell victim to bad press and a hyper-critical social media. Fabulous Film’s new release is the perfect time to re-watch Costner’s epic without prejudice and maybe discover, not a flop, but a fast, fun, and ambitious romp.