In our youth, we wonder just how and why every feature production escapes perfection. It may even be something that a few of us write about or debate amongst our friends and family. We somewhat naively figure that with as much time, money, and effort that gets expended how could it possibly be that the end result could fall short? It belies logic, and this conclusion perplexes us for a time. Eventually -- as we mature and come to grips with just how rare true, authentic perfection is -- we do come to accept projects for what they accomplish instead of sticking to our own falsely created high expectations, and we find a way to live with the finished product as is. We accept the good. We embrace the bad. And we might even celebrate the ugly. If we don't, then will we ever truly like a flick just as it is?
That's my take on Waterworld, one of filmdom's most controversial blockbusters. Throughout its production and well up into its release, industry insiders and media pundits were lambasting this -- cough cough -- waterlogged entity. Without ever having seen a finished cut, they decried how much money had been spent on bringing this Fantasy world to live on screens; and they stopped at nothing to see the picture's "impending failure" around star Kevin Costner's ankles, hoping that the sheer weight of it would pull him beneath the surface. And why? Why was there so much vitriol and venom surrounding what looked to be a studio's tentpole summer release? Well, who doesn't like being able to say "I said it would tank" well before it actually did tank seemed to be the only reasoning I could read from between the lines; and I think all of us deserved better critical analysis than what we got of the film.
Is it flawed?
Well, of course, it is. As I said above, there are few -- very few -- examples of true perfection within any single person's life; and is there any greater folly than hoping against hope that one motion picture -- a wild mechanical beast with an astounding number parts at any given point in its conception -- would be perfect? I think not, but -- again -- that's not a position I've always enjoyed. What little wisdom I had -- even upon Waterworld's release -- told me that I needed to look at it for what it was -- a flawed collaboration -- and hope I could see past the imperfections to something I enjoyed. And I'm happy to say, "Mission accomplished."
Are there things I'd change?
Well, again, good Lord, people! Of course, there are! I suspect that a great many number of people involved with the whole affair would say the same, be it a small effects sequence here or there all the way up to Dennis Hopper's over-the-top bravado that felt a bit misplaced more than once. One needn't be a film scholar to see that this world-building could've used a bit more spit and polish in a few places, and perhaps leaving so many questions unanswered never served the narrative as well as a bit of tightening around the belts could have.
Still ... at the end of the day, I think more people hated the picture for the wrong reasons than ever praised Costner, his cast and crew, and its creators for trying to achieve something different. Not every film has to be fashioned for every audience member; those of us who can still watch and enjoy Waterworld nearly three decades later -- even with its scars and warts -- might be small in number but we're big at heart ... and that's all that ever truly matters.
Also, if I may? I think it was a bit of a creative miss to not have something in production as a follow up. For the record, I'm not even remotely suggesting a sequel -- once was probably enough, especially given this one's expensive price tag -- but a follow-up novel? Maybe an animated show? A comic book or two? Would that have been out of order to suggest? Again, I realize that the audience for it may not have been as wide as Star Trek, Star Wars, or star anything: it's just that when creators go to such lengths to fashion a world as unique and different as this one was, it could've earned its sea legs by building a larger following over time with more material.
The Mariner deserved a chance to have a stronger legacy. For now, we just have to accept this one for what it is ... an imperfect Fantasy gem.
I said what I said. Deal with it.