Waterworld Limited Edition Blu-ray Review

When people talk about WATERWORLD, they often immediately point to the film’s famous “flop” at the box office.  Before the movie hit theaters, everyone knew that WATERWORLD suffered a terrible production with problem after problem which skyrocketed the budget to over $175 million.  At the time, that was an insane number, especially for a movie that already had a questionable premise.  But in a rare feet, I think history has actually been kind to WATERWORLD and people have looked back and realized that a) the film wasn’t as big of a flop as originally thought and b) it’s actually a fun film.  True, the film only grossed $88 million domestically, but it earned it’s budget back overseas and when coupled with home video sales and cable licensing, the film eventually turned a profit.  A big reason why is because when all of the behind the scenes drama is ignored, the film turned out to be a good time.

In the opening shot, our no-name hero (Kevin Costner) is urinating in a cup, which he then proceeds to pour into a contraption and drink.  It’s a strange way to open a film, but sets the tone that the world we’re about to enter is…unique.  The premise is that the polar ice caps have melted and the world is one giant body of water.  Think “Mad Max” on water.  Our hero gets stuck with Heln (Tripplehorn) and her sort of adopted daughter Enola (Tina Majorino).  Enola has a tatoo of a map on her back that everyone wants, including the evil “smokers” led by a crazy Dennis Hopper.  So our hero has to step out of his drifter lifestyle to protect them and maybe find the way to dry land.

Before we get too far into this, let’s be clear that there are a lot of problems with WATERWORLD.  The “map” is a circle with an arrow, the hero’s origins and mutation are never explained, we never learn how Helen and Enola met and we never really understand how everyone just happens to know that Enola has a map to dry land on her back.  So there are a lot of problems and it doesn’t take long to pick apart the plot holes.  And that’s why the movie is hailed as such a flop; movies that cost $175 million aren’t supposed to have those kind of problems.  But through the plot holes and continuity problems, director Kevin Reynolds has created an interesting world that’s fun to explore.  Kevin Costner adds a lot as our mysterious hero, making him likeable without being too obnoxious.  Could I have done without him selling trading Helen for a few pieces of paper?  Sure, but again, the good outweigh the bad when it comes to our hero’s charm.

Revisiting the film so many years later was enjoyable and I was most surprised by how well the action pieces hold together.  It was fun seeing Costner jump around his boat to outrun and outsmart the bad guys.  But again, the stunts performed don’t add up to $175 million.  And maybe that’s the overarching problem with WATERWORLD; if the film had cost $80 million, I think people would have given it a little more leeway in terms of expectations.  This is a perfectly fine apocalyptic action-adventure.  But it can’t live up to the lofty expectations it’s production price tag merits and so it feels like a bit of a letdown.  But time has done the film a lot of favors and when you experience WATERWORLD without the burden of caring about how much it costs or seeing it covered on the news every day, it turns out to be a nice surprise.

The price tag on this limited edition Arrow release is going to scare away a lot of customers, especially for a movie most people don’t remember much about.  But if you remember liking WATERWORLD or if you are anxious to revisiting the film, I highly recommend investing the $30 or so to pick up this copy.  Arrow has gone out of their way on this release, giving us a great video presentation and an exhaustive documentary that covers the film’s troubled production.  That, coupled with some nice packaging, and this is a release that will look great in any collection.


Video: I was surprised by how good this transfer actually is.  The older Blu-ray release of WATERWORLD left a lot to be desired, but Arrow Video has really gone above and beyond when it comes to cleaning up a forgotten blockbuster.  This is without a doubt the best the film has ever looked.  Colors are bright and vibrant, details are cleaned up and backgrounds and settings are more noticeable and distinguishable than ever before.

Audio: The DTS-HD audio on all of the versions of the film are quite solid.  Again, this is a significant upgrade over the original Blu-ray.

Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld (1:42:20): This featurette was not made specifically for fans of the film, this was made for fans of all movies.  It’s a fascinating look at the making of one of the most interesting pre-productions in Hollywood history (at least to me).  This covers just about everything you want to know about the film and offers several candid interviews with various people involved in the making of WATERWORLD.

Dances With Waves (9:20): This is an old featurette looking at the film.

Global Warnings (22:20): The Global Warming and apocalyptic themes get a closer look.

Image Gallery


TV Cut – 2:56

Ulysses Cut – 2:57


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