June 20, 2023

WATERWORLD (4K): Not Plausible? Not a Problem!

WATERWORLD (Limited Edition 4K UHD)
1995 / 135 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

Sometimes a movie’s overall worth depends on your acceptance of its implausibilities. 

As someone who smoked about a pack a day for a couple of decades, it took me a long time to kick the habit. Though I finally quit for good about fifteen years ago, there were at least a dozen previous attempts, including one time when my quest to be a non-smoker was thwarted after discovering a year-old half-pack of Camels in an old jacket. That’s when I learned even cigarettes have expiration dates…that first drag was like sucking the end of a burning twig.

So when the wife and I were watching Waterworld in a theater back in 1995, I immediately knew from personal experience that no way in hell could cigarettes survive intact for 500 years (when the story takes place). But in the movie, they're abundantly available and used as an incentive by the film’s primary antagonist, The Deacon (Dennis Hopper), to keep his underlings happy… 

…or maybe the melting polar ice caps miraculously spared North Carolina and its tobacco plants while submerging the rest of the world. 

Did this glaring lapse in plausibility impact my overall assessment of the movie? Not one damn bit. Nor did I care that the setting itself was scientifically impossible (if the polar ice caps ever did actually melt, more than just North Carolina would remain above water). Or that it’s unlikely Hopper would be sucking down a fifth of Jack Daniels (label intact)…or that responsible parents would never tattoo an elaborate map on their infant child's back before sending her out into the sea sea all alone…or that jet-skis wouldn’t still be running…or that… 

My point is Waterworld never had any pretenses of realism. Hell, even its original screenwriter confirmed the whole thing was simply Mad Max on water. As such, it was grand, over-the-top entertainment on an epic scale, with massive sets, spectacular action sequences and (mostly) convincing special effects. 

Somehow, the Mariner manages to step on the world's last remaining Lego.
I really enjoyed Waterworld for what it was, though my opinion wasn’t fashionable at the time. With its massive budget and ongoing stories of a tumultuous production, the film was mostly written off before it was even released. Sure, it often stretched credibility to the breaking point, but was pulled-off with enough chutzpah that only pretentious cynics allowed such trifles to ruin a good time. And yeah, The Mariner (Kevin Costner) was no Max Rockatansky, but as amphibious mutants go, his anti-social tendencies and overall distrust for human beings arguably made him the most plausible aspect of the story. 

And you know what? If one leaves their scrutiny at the door and ignores its ongoing stigma as a flop - which it actually wasn’t - Waterworld is still a lot of fun. Aesthetically, the film has aged remarkably well, with action and special effects that remain impressive two decades later. 

Despite a notorious history (or perhaps because of it), Waterworld has become something of a cult film over the years, which Arrow Video acknowledged a few years ago with a pretty substantial Blu-ray release. It’s now being issued as a limited edition set featuring three versions, including a brand new, great looking 4K UHD restoration of the theatrical cut. The other two (the extended TV version and the European “Ulysses” cut) are on standard Blu-ray. The 4K disc includes bonus features carried over from Arrow’s original 2019 release, along with a batch of physical goodies. 


NOTE: Free Kittens Movie Guide was provided with a “check disc” of the 4K version for review purposes. Additionally, physical material included with the final product (booklets, artwork, inserts, etc) were not made available for review.

THREE CUTS OF THE FILM (“TV Cut” & “Ulysses Cut” not available for review)

“MAELSTROM - THE ODYSSEY OF WATERWORLD” - A fascinating feature-length retrospective documentary, featuring many interviews with those involved in its production. 

GLOBAL WARNINGS - A video essay by critic Glenn Kinny, though some of his “knowledge” is questionable. It occasionally sounds like has forgotten details about some of the apocalyptic films he discusses.




DOUBLE SIDED POSTER (not available for review)

6 COLLECTORS POSTCARDS (not available for review)

60-PAGE SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET (not available for review)

REVERSIBLE COVER (not available for review)

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