This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Waterworld.’ (See more offerings here.) So why this photo of Kawaihae harbor? Well, this was where the 1995 movie, Waterworld was filmed. Actually, most of the filming took place beyond the stubby rainbow in this photo, out there in the deep blue ocean.

The movie blew away its original budget, spectacularly overran its 96-day shooting schedule, and suffered a laundry list of disasters from start to finish. It started shooting without a finished script despite the efforts of multiple screenwriters. The director and the star had different ideas about how the movie should work. It was shot almost entirely on water. Actors and production crew got seasick. Two actors were dumped from a boat and then run over by it. Several of the cast were stung by jellyfish. A stuntman nearly died from the bends after a diving scene. The star himself was lashed to a mast, 40-feet up, for one scene but when it was over, a gale sprang up, and he and the boat couldn’t be retrieved for half an hour.

Bad weather often prevented any shooting and numerous delays carried the production into hurricane season. High winds duly destroyed one of the intricate and expensive floating sets.

The completion of filming didn’t end the movie’s traumas. The director quit before the editing was complete. Test audiences gave it a lukewarm reception leading to continued tinkering. Ultimately, the movie wasn’t a total disaster. While it didn’t do that well in the U.S.A., it covered its costs with overseas income. There’s even a popular Waterworld attraction at Universal theme parks.

I saw the movie when it came out and made it the subject of one of the weekly columns I wrote for my local newspaper. That column is reproduced below, as it was written at the time. Bear in mind that was 25 years ago and some things have changed in that time (if you don’t know what a VCR is, look it up!).

Waterworld on the rocks, no ice

I went to see Waterworld last week. That’s the movie that was supposed to be the most expensive ever made at around $100 million, but turned out to be the most expensive ever made at more than $175 million.
It’s set way in the future when some cataclysm, such as the balancing of the Federal budget, has caused the polar ice caps to melt. The survivors live on wacky floating stage sets and dream of finding dry land and pizza without anchovies.
Right from the start I was in trouble. Where was all this water coming from? I wondered. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, if all the world’s ice melted, sea level would rise about 230 feet. While this would bode ill for the likes of New Orleans and Miami, there would still be quite a bit of land sticking up, such as Asia. I would have thought that someone, somewhere would have bumped into some of this land by the time the movie started, possibly during the previews of coming attractions.
Still, as readers of this column know, I am not one to let facts get in the way of a story. Perhaps, in addition to the ice caps melting, it also rained a lot. Or, maybe, the cataclysm that caused the ice to melt was a gigantic alien intergalactic water tanker crashing into Earth.
In any case, in this water-covered world the only clue as to the location of dry land is a little girl with a map tattooed on her back and a glossy real estate brochure offering view lots at attractive prices.
This girl is sought by bad guys whose bad lifestyle includes riding jet skis, living on the Exxon Valdez, and worst of all, smoking cigarettes. (Presumably they’re stale cigarettes since there isn’t anywhere to grow tobacco and or any government to provide subsidies.) The bad guys are even called Smokers just in case anyone might not realize how thoroughly awful they are.
Pitted against the bad guys is Kevin Costner sporting webbed feet, gills, and a mean temper. This may be because his last three movies bombed or it could be dissatisfaction at the amount of money being wasted instead of going into his pockets.
Unlike Meryl Streep, who tends to research her character’s background and come up with appropriate behavior and accent, Costner acts in the John Wayne tradition. He sounds pretty much the same in Waterworld as he does in all his movies. For all I know his dialogue is the same. That could explain why the couple down the row from me decided to chat all the way through the movie.
Now, I’m not an intolerant person (and anyone who says I am should be taken out and shot), but people talking through movies is one of my pet peeves. It drives me bonkers when something happens on screen and I hear someone ask, “What did he say?” By the time the explanation is given, another scene has gone by prompting the question, “What happened there?” They never catch up.
This is why God invented the VCR. VCRs allow such people to have no idea what’s going on in the privacy of their own homes. They also avoid the risk of having me pour hot buttered popcorn on their heads.
Playing opposite Costner in almost the only female role, apart from the girl with the map, is Jeanne Tripplehorne. You can tell hers is a supporting role because she did not get as much material for her costume as Costner and consequently ran short in the bosom area. Not that I’m complaining.
One reason there are so few women in the movie is because Waterworld is an action/adventure movie. Hollywood rules state that in action/adventure movies, women cannot appear for more than about 20 minutes and during that time they must be either naked and/or get killed.
Because it’s an action/adventure movie, it also features a stipulated number of explosions, fires and, of course, meaningless violent deaths. There is even a mandatory car chase, not an easy thing to work in when the freeways are deep under water.
Actually that scene is one of the many tongue-in-cheek bits in the movie. In fact, apart from Costner being permanently cranky, everyone else seemed to be having a pretty good time, albeit while acting as though they’re desperate and starving.
It may be that this lighthearted attitude spilled over to the accounting department of Universal, the company that made Waterworld. That was my first thought to explain where the $175 million went. But then I noticed that all those fires burning through the movie were fueled by studio executives throwing actual dollar bills into the flames.
I understand that, in an attempt to recoup some of their costs, Universal plans a sequel. It’s about a movie studio that drowns in a sea of red ink when the accounting department’s computers crash and burn.
It will be called Realworld.

14 thoughts on “Waterworld

  1. Pingback: Yesterday’s swim | Graham's Island

  2. Terri Webster Schrandt

    A scathing review indeed, Graham, and right on. I saw it and enjoyed its dystopian ideals, but it was fun to imagine that much water. I’m glad you took this prompt literally and shared the image of where the movie was shot. Hawaii is a great setting for so many shows and movies. Hope you got your swim in today. I managed to paddle although I had to sit on the board because it suddenly got windy. It’s now very hot here and the temps will hit 100 tomorrow. We’re home now and enjoying the AC.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Graham Post author

      A guy I worked with here used to bring up the Waterworld story on a regular basis so it became something of a running joke. I did get my swim and tomorrow you’ll see how it went. 100 sounds way too hot for me. Is that normal?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Snow Melts Somewhere

    Hahah, your style is recognisable and quite British with that dry sense of humor (my mum’s husband is British and this sounded like him on a good day.) I saw Waterworld back in the 90’s and was unimpressed. And I don’t have to google vcr’s. Luckily! I think it was pretty cool we had vcr’s and tapes to record on. In retrospect 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Graham Post author

      Not sure I ever had a VCR, but luckily had a great local cinema which showed a good variety of films. These days, I have a DVD player because my computer doesn’t have a DVD slot. I actually liked Waterworld, just because it was so preposterous.

      Liked by 1 person


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