(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a poem with long lines, so I used twenty-syllable lines in this meditation on the ocean.)
Look to the north, to the south, to the east, to the west, and as far as you can;
Your whole field of view is a blending of blue with the sea and the sky in your sight.
At the end of the day, in first orange, then gray, they display for the sea-faring man
The blush that soon fades in the darkening shades as the two become one in the night.
Again, when the sun declares darkness is done and awakes from its sunken abode,
The sea and the sky heave a secretive sigh as the line that divides them is drawn.
The sailor can stare with a personal prayer as he plies the invisible road,
But all he will glean is duel aquamarine till the sundering stria is gone.
A seafarer seeks the foreseeable peaks that he hopes the horizon will yield,
And promise of land is as sharp a command as any ship captain could give.
Yet after he’s tasted the crowd and embraced the stability water can’t wield,
He’ll miss the blue pair and their distant affair where the loneliest mariners live.
MPAA rating: PG-13
After years of huge successes like The Untouchables, Field of Dreams, and Dances with Wolves, Kevin Costner delivered one of the most notable career-stalling bombs in Hollywood history, 1995’s over-budget Waterworld. Despite the jeering reviews at the time, Waterworld did break even in the end, but it has pretty much receded into the ranks of forgettable science fiction. This is a waterlogged shame because, regardless of its reputation as a flop, I enjoyed Waterworld. In fact, I watched it with the incredulous realization that “Hey, this is a great movie.” (Note that I say movie rather than film. It’s not what I would consider Oscar-worthy, but it’s darn good.)
Perhaps Waterworld didn’t take off simply because it was ahead of its time. It’s essentially Mad Max: Fury Road on water. An unrealistic cataclysm has covered the world in water rather than desert, forcing humans to adapt and settle in isolated communities or else join roving gangs of water-skiing thugs. A laconic wayfarer lacking a name (Costner) wanders this dystopia where seeds and dirt are rare commodities (as opposed to seeds and water) and is grudgingly forced to protect some fleeing females (Jeanne Tripplehorn and young Tina Majorino) in search of a fabled paradise, while being chased by the hammy head of a cult-like water gang (eyepatch-wearing Dennis Hopper). Like Fury Road, it takes a while for any of the characters to get some actual development, but the explosive action ably makes up for such faults. It even ends in similar Fury Road fashion, with an unlikely happy ending and a reluctant departure.
The themes and characterizations don’t quite have the nuance of Fury Road. There’s no female empowerment subtext or criticism of utilitarian societies, but when Deacon the villain stands high above a crowd of his followers with promises of survival, it’s hard not to see the resemblance. Waterworld does include a few mockable elements, such as making Costner’s mariner a mutant with gills, but they work with the story, and hey, Fury Road had some silly aspects too (“V8! V8! V8!”). The eccentric characters and expansive action were clearly influenced by the earlier Mad Max films, but the plot seemed to prefigure the latest installment.
It’s certainly not on par with his best films, but Kevin Costner didn’t deserve the mockery he received for Waterworld. From what I’ve read, it did take his ego down a peg, but I for one found it to be a fun and exhilarating boat ride with many set designs and effects worth praising, one particularly awesome boom, and more water than you can shake a lit flare at. I just don’t understand why Fury Road earned universal acclaim while Waterworld became the butt of jokes. Waterworld is proof that one shouldn’t always trust the critics.
Best line: (Deacon) “Let’s have an intelligent conversation here: I’ll talk, and you listen.”
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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