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Movie Reviews

Waterworld  

No movie I have ever seen has managed to insult the viewer's intelligence as quickly or as often as this one. Pass over the fact that the depiction of the globe in the opening credits filling up with water as the ice-caps melt is itself scientifically impossible, in the very opening scene the Kevin Costner character depicts not one, but two absurdities.

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We are asked to believe that in a world reverting to near savagery, the technology exists to make a simple device to purify human urine so it is drinkable [not something we can easily do today with an intact technological base]. Then the Costner character spits some of the water on his potted plant - - when in fact the chemicals in the original urine would be a form of fertilizer.

It all goes downhill from here, as physical, behavioural, and scientific absurdity are piled one on top of another until your horseshit reaction destroys all willing suspension of belief: * The character played by Jeanette Tripplehorn is the only woman in the film who is washed and clean -- is she hoarding the last soap in the world? *

When the aquaman Costner, who is depicted as a wily survivor, is accosted by a woman on the floating base he goes to for trading purposes, he turns her down, thus exciting suspicion, whereby he is exposed as not completely human -- surely he would know enough to fake acceptance, if he has survived this long? * Costner's merman breathes underwater through gills hidden behind his ears; these are wrongly placed to aerate blood in a humaniform body, and are much too small to do an effective job [compare the gill size of a fish with the approximate mass of a human body]. *

Without much land to break up wave action, and with a world-sized surface of water exposed to evaporation, one would expect titanic waves and ferocious storms as a matter of course, but the sea is always calm and the sky always blue.

* Probably the most repellent scene in the film happens after Tripplehorn, her daughter, and Costner have made their escape on his raft, when Costner tells her he is throwing her overboard because there is not enough water for three. Tripplehorn's response is to take off her clothes [a rear scene too, boo, hiss], to which the suddenly gallant merman reacts with rejection -- he then keeps them on the raft.

Now this scene admits of several interpretations: 1. There really was not enough water on the raft, in which case Costner's reaction is preposterous -- and the emergence of any extra water is unexplained. 2. There was enough water on the raft, in which case Costner's character is a slimy liar, and Tripplehorn is not smart enough to see this. 3. Costner is really an honourable merman, and very attracted to Tripplehorn, but the nobility of her gesture shocks him into decent behaviour. 4. Tripplehorn expects that they will work up so much sweat during sex [that Costner would reject her never occurs to her until it happens] that there then will be enough to drink.

The point here is that this scene demeans all parties involved, by making them look stupid, vicious, callous, or dishonest. * Costner takes Tripplehorn on an underwater dive, sustaining her with a bubble of air held under a plastic dome about twice the size of her head -- there would not be enough air in such a dome for 5 minutes of underwater exertion, nor would it have remained uncrushed at the depths to which the characters descend.

* The villain, Dennis Hopper, lives aboard the _Exxon Valdez_ [revelation that this is the name of the ship involved is one of the key plot elements], which involves not one but 4 entirely different absurdidities: 1. We are asked to believe that a vessel of supertanker mass could be rowed by about 200 men like an ancient galley -- simply impossible. 2. The oil on the tanker is still volatile after something like 100 years -- since the ship is open to the sea through the rowing locks, the oil would have emulsified with sea water long before. 3. The portrait of Captain Hazlewood, who captained the tanker when she ran aground, is still displayed on the bridge bulkhead; since he was dismissed in disgrace, this is scarcely credible. 4. Finally, either the producers of the movie did not know, or assumed the public would overlook, is that after her famous disaster, the _Exxon Valdez_ was renamed; but in the movie her name boards are unaltered.

This is not exactly a movie which makes you fall asleep -- it in fact becomes fun to keep track of all the stupidities portrayed on screen -- but the cynical contempt [one has to believe that at least some of those involved in making this movie knew the facts set out above, or God Save the Republic!] which it shows for its audience ranks it as one of the most insulting, and therefore bad, movies ever made.

John Howard Oxley

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