Waterworld

on July 28, 1995 by Kim Williamson
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   Perhaps $200 million later, the question everyone is likely asking is, Will "Waterworld" make its money back? Based on its final narrative quality, the answer is, Probably not. But not for lack of trying. As director Kevin Reynolds displayed in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," he knows how to direct action sequences, and "Waterworld" is filled with some fabulous physical moments. Unfortunately, as Reynolds displayed in the (perhaps underappreciated) "Rapa Nui," he has a tin ear for narrative. When pirate Smokers--led by the Deacon (Dennis Hopper)--attack the floating fortress of the modestly more peaceful Atollers, for example, you see where much of the money went: The sets and crafts are well-imagined and authentic, and the danger therefore seems so real you feel it in your bones. When the key characters--Kevin Costner as the solitary Mariner and his two tagalongs, a woman named Helen ("The Firm's" Jeanne Tripplehorn) and the orphan Enola she's raising ("Andre's" Tina Majorino)--begin to talk and interact, however, the film's sails go limp. The Smokers argh! level behavior doesn't help. Given the setting--a world covered over by water, with the continued existence of humanity itself a question mark--the story and dialogue provided by Peter Rader and David Twohy are surprisingly insubtantial, and Reynolds' only contribution to hemming this tear in the fabric is to show, not say, as much as he can (which he does with feeling).
   No complaints can be made of Costner; in his most otherworldly role, as a mutated man with gills and webbed feet, he seems his most real. Leaping dynamically around his well-contrived catamaran--a sort of precambrian Batmobile--and whacking an obstreperous Helen over the head with an oar, he creates a convincing characterization of a being at one with the sea and at odds with humanity. For the project's total outlay, some special effects are little better than borderline, although last-minute fine tuning (including work by James Cameron's Digital Domain house) helps keep afloat the final version.    Starring Kevin Costner, Dennis Hooper, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino. Directed by Kevin Reynolds. Written by Peter Rader and David Twohy. Produced by Charles Gordon, John Davis and Kevin Costner. A Universal release. SF. Rated PG-13 for some intense scenes of action violence, brief nudity and language. Running time: 140 min.
Tags: Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tina Majorino, David Twohy, John Davis, mariner, smokers, Kevin Reynolds, environment, sea, water, land, adventure, fishing, post-apocalypse, science-fiction, action, boats
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