At $170 million, "Waterworld" is far and away the most expensive film ever made. The big budget of "Jurassic Park" was clearly visible on the screen; in the new film starring Kevin Costner, you'll wonder where it all went. That doesn't mean you won't enjoy the film, however. As overblown and overhyped as the movie may be, it's still a decent action flick.
The story takes place centuries into the future, long after the polar icecaps have melted and made the planet Earth one big ocean. A lone mariner (Costner) with gills and webbed feet cruises into a floating town only to be sentenced to death for killing someone in self-defense. When the town comes under attack by Smokers, pirates on jet skis, the mariner's life is spared by a woman named Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) who does so on the condition that he take her and a little girl named Enola (Tina Majorino) with him when he leaves.
After their escape, the mariner finds that he has no use for the pair of females and is tempted to throw the little one over the side of his craft to make his rations hold out longer. Helen, who is the girl's adopted mother, looks out for Enola's well-being whenever the ill-tempered mariner threatens them with harm. Unfortunately for Helen and Enola, the mariner is the least of their worries. Deacon (Dennis Hopper), the leader of the smokers, will stop at nothing to capture Enola because of a tatoo on her back that supposedly is a map to dry land.
Comparisons between "Waterworld" and "The Road Warrior" are inevitable. In both films a skillful loner attempts to continue being one but is instead persuaded to help out those who are less fortunate. Thankfully, aside from some gun-play and a striking similarity in costuming, the comparison can end there. "Waterworld" has elements of drama in addition to action which help establish it as a unique creation. Costner, although seemingly out of place in an action-oriented film, does well in his anti-hero role.
On the down side, the screenwriters of "Waterworld" were very sloppy and left plenty of nagging questions. Why is a handful of dirt is so valuable? How can evolution work to create gills on humans in only a few hundred years? If Enola came from dry land, why did she leave it? Why does she have that tatoo? Why doesn't she speak up when people talk about dry land as a myth? Come to think of it, if there was dry land somewhere, don't you think someone would have bumped into it now and then? And finally, if people live their entire lives on a humongous body of water, why is everyone so blasted dirty all the time?