Kevin Costner is a big name. He’s one of the legendary actors to get big in the 1980s and 1990s and still be acting today. While he’s been in a lot of classic films, one of the most infamous movies of his career has to be Waterworld, if not just for all the of behind-the-scenes drama that happened with this one. The movie is now on Netflix. While audiences had mixed reviews of this at the time, they have eve
Waterworld is one of those movies with a premise that stands out right away. In 1995, when special effects were not what they are today, Costner and crew moved forward with a movie that took place on the water. Steven Spielberg, who’d made Jaws, warned them not to do it. There were not deterred. The idea was to made something like Mad Max, but on the water. The polar ice caps had melted, the world was submerged, and everyone is just fighting to survive in this dystopian story. Kevin Costner plays Mariner, a mutated man with gills. There are outlaws, called “smokers”. Early on, there’s a murder over some limes. Eventually, Costner’s character softens a little and decides to help a woman and child find dry land, which he considers to be mythical. You can get an idea of the general tone for the movie in the trailer below.
There are so many interesting things to talk about when it comes to Waterworld. You may want to watch it on Netflix just because of the dinner conversation it opens up. Whether you enjoy the movie or not, you’ll likely have things to say about it, whether that’s about the experience of the movie itself, other people’s reviews, or about the box office legend surrounding this one. Kevin Costner’s ego and reactions are a thing all their own.
In terms of reviews, Empire has said that it’s not the huge disaster critics claimed it was in 1995. They said it was a solid sci-fi adventure. This is an opinion said by a lot of people rewatching it today. However, others definitely haven’t enjoyed it. For example, the NY Times review actually says, “Oh, no. There’s more of it.” To make this more complicated, IMDb audiences give it a rating of 6.3, which isn’t great, but solid. Meanwhile, Rotten Tomatoes gives it 46%.
It’s really a strange movie. It’s difficult to compare to others, so it’s difficult to know who to suggest it to or what to say about it. This Kevin Costner movie stands alone.
Let’s talk about the process of making Waterworld, because it’s incredibly interesting. Kevin Costner was at a high point in his career in 1995. He was considered a sex symbol at the time, so you’ll notice while watching this that the camera closes in on his body several times throughout the movie. Costner wanted to be part of a huge hit, and he was determined that Waterworld was going to be it. He had a fair amount of star power, and he was throwing it around.
At the time this movie was made, Joss Whedon was a script doctor. Today, we know him for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and his infamously debated work on 2017’s Justice League. In the 1990s, he took scripts that were in trouble and punched them up, adding jokes and flavor here and there. He worked on movies like Speed. He was brought on to work on Waterworld for one week. It turned into what he called seven weeks of hell. He said the premise was great but the script was generic. And he said that Kevin Costner was in the way. The actor had ideas he wouldn’t let anyone touch. It was said to be a mess.
Then came production, with a script that wasn’t really ready. And things got worse. During filming, Kevin Costner was tied to the mast for one of the scenes. There was a squall, and he almost died. While filming in Hawaii, there was a hurricane, that ripped the multimillion-dollar set apart. They had planned to make the movie for $65 million, then just under $100 million, and then, it turned out to require $175 million to make. This was the biggest budget anyone had ever spent on a movie at the time.
To promote the movie, Kevin Costner did interviews. Waterworld released in theaters on July 28th, 1995. On July 14th, two weeks before Waterworld hit theaters, Costner did an interview with Entertainment Weekly that mostly complained about the movie. He aired Waterworld’s dirty laundry before the movie released. Generally, that’s considered a pretty bad look in Hollywood. More so when you had such a big hand in all the questionable decisions made on a film. Today, he does say that he enjoyed making the movie.
The movie went on to be considered a major box office flop and is often referenced as one of the biggest disappointments ever, but that’s not really what happened. Waterworld did earn a profit. The issue is that they spent a larger budget than anyone ever had before. With that kind of investment, people expected a much bigger return. Ultimately, they spent $175 million making this Kevin Costner movie and earned back $264 million.
At the end of the day, is this Kevin Costner movie worth checking out on Netflix? Definitely. It’s a part of Hollywood history, you’re not going to see another movie like it anywhere else, and you’ll come away with a memorable opinion on it, whatever that opinion may turn out to be.