Dry land is not just our destination, it is our destiny!
Starring Kevin Costner
and directed by Kevin Reynolds, jointly released with a tie-in novel and video game. It used a then record-breaking budget of $175 million, but was a massive flop in the U.S., only grossing $88 million at the box office. However, it did quite well at the box office elsewhere, where it managed to make $176 million, saving it from becoming a financial failure, or not; it's complicated
Set In a World where the polar ice-caps have melted
(due to a havoc caused by a geomagnetic reversal) the world is covered by water. What's left of humanity is surviving on ramshackle crafts tied together to make Atolls (villages). The Mariner (Costner) enters one of these Atolls to trade, but is discovered to be a mutant and sentenced to death. After a group of pirates, led by Deacon (Dennis Hopper
) and known as the Smokers
, attacks the Atoll, a woman named Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and her adopted daughter Enola (Tina Majorino) bribe the Mariner to take them to Dryland, the legendary last remaining island. Conveniently, Enola's back has been tattooed with a map indicating the way to Dryland. However, with The Smokers hot on their tail, their journey encounters more than a few bumps along the way.
Contains examples of the following tropes:
- Adaptation Distillation: Not for the movie itself, but the Universal Studios show based on it is actually quite good and has been going on for seventeen years.
- After the End
- All Hail the Great God Mickey!: The Deacon every so often mentions "Old Saint Joe" with the same reverence as an actual saint. Near the end of the movie it's revealed that the Smokers' base is the remains of the Exxon Valdez and "Old Saint Joe" is a portrait of the ship's disgraced captain, Joseph Hazelwood.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Don't like Kevin Costner's gills.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Smokers seem to fit this to a T.
- Anti-Hero: In typical '90s fashion.
- Apocalypse How: Class 2.
- The Apunkalypse: Civilization has collapsed humans are adrift and the punkish, scavenging Smokers play the part of a large jet ski gang.
- Artistic License – Biology:
- Somehow, the Mariner can inhale water with his gills and exhale breathable air indefinitely to allow Helen to breathe underwater. Needless to say, gills do not work that way.
- Even if we accept the Mariner's gills, has it really been long enough for a giant, three-jawed vertebrate mutant like the one he catches to eat to have evolved?
- Artistic License – Geology:
- If you melted all the ice on the planet, you would cause a 60 metre (about 190 feet) rise in sea level, which is a lot, but only lowland areas would be seriously affected, and at the very worst people would have to resort to living on long chains of large islands. Everest would still tower six miles above the sea, and it has the rest of the Himalayas to keep it company.
- Even if there were enough ice to cover the world to the extent depicted, the ocean salt water would become diluted enough to be drinkable. (And kill everything that's adapted to live in salt water.)
- The shores of the island at the end had sandy beaches. It takes a long time to erode rock to sand...
- Artistic License – Physics: Even if the world were totally flooded in water, the moon would not appear as huge as it does in the movie.
- Barbarian Longhair: Pretty much everybody has barbarian hair, with the notable exception of the Deacon's Bald of Evil.
- Big Bad: The Deacon
- Brutal Honesty: The Mariner, who at first glance sounds like a Deadpan Snarker, but each of his comments is proven real and dead-serious.
- Bullet Holes and Revelations: The knife-fight variety, when the Mariner killed the drifter after cancelling their deal.
- But Now I Must Go
- City on the Water: Atolls and the Exxon Valdez.
- Changed My Mind, Kid: Played straight.
- Character Development: Kevin Costner's character changed from Jerkass to Jerk with a Heart of Gold halfway through the movie and lost his "jerk" persona by the end of the movie.
- Conflict Ball: Helen, listen, first of all, when you've just blackmailed a man into saving your life, expecting trust is a little much. On top of that, in the middle of a firefight when that someone is trying to save your life and his is a really stupid time to answer any random question he asks you with "Can I trust you?!"
- Cool Boat: The Mariner's Trimaran, and the Exxon Valdez.
- Cool Plane: The Smokers' seaplane. Cool by virtue of being ancient, rust-colored, and probably the last of its kind.
- Also, piloted by Jack Black.
- Crapsack World: All that appears to be left is small communities on the edge of genetic extinction, traders, slavers, pirates and marauders.
- The Dragon: The Nord.
- Dull Surprise: Costner, a notorious contrast to Dennis Hopper's Ham and Cheese. Which is kind of justified, as he's spent most of his life alone on the ocean, keeping away from people to hide his mutation. Some people deal with that much solitude by going bonkers (like the sailor they encounter at the halfway point of the film), and others react by emotionally shutting down.
- Epic Movie
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Mariner. Subverted in the extended edition, wherein after the heroes reach Dry Land, Helen gives the Mariner a real name just before he heads back out onto the ocean. It's Ulysses, the Latin name of the main character of Homer's Odyssey.
- Eyepatch of Power: The Deacon gains one during the movie.
- Fantastic Racism: You'd believe that being able to breathe underwater would be quite a desirable asset in a ocean world, but people seemed to think otherwise.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Subverted when Helen strips nakednote , appropriates the Mariner's weapons and threatens to kill him, only for the Mariner to lower his sail directly onto her.
- Future Imperfect: While going through the Mariner's belongings, the Atoll's citizens assume that a yo-yo, flute, and exercise machine are garrote wire, a spy listener, and a torture device.
- Well, the last one isn't completely wrong...
- Green Aesop: Surprisingly averted, considering the film's portrayal of a ruined Earth and the bad guys' use of an oil tanker, which would have been a perfect opportunity to exploit an environmental message about pollution. That said, the Smokers are portrayed as wasteful and unsustainable, but the movie does not make a message about it.
- He Will Come for Me: Enola defends the Mariner with a speech intense enough to scare her captors, and when orderednote to put a lid on it, finishes with "He'll come for me, he will."
- Human Resources: How the residents of the Atoll dispose of their dead... they need the organic material for sustained growth. They call it "recycling," and it's done to the dead as well as to prisoners they want to execute.
- Incest Is Relative: When the residents of the Atoll ask the Mariner to impregnate one of their women, one of the men comment that they can breed with each other but the results are sometimes "undesirable" (nodding towards a man with glasses), implying that the Attollers have resorted to incest to keep the population going.
- Jerkass: The Mariner. He tossed a little girl overboard to drown. Justified in that he didn't know she couldn't swim. He even lampshades it.
- Lamarck Was Right: Kevin Costner has evolved gills behind his ears. The comics imply that the mutation may have been brought about by deliberate engineering.
- Large Ham: Dennis Hopper as the Deacon, the leader of the smokers.
- Logo Joke: The Universal Pictures globe floods to the levels seen in the movie proper.
- Long Runner: While the film bombed, the stunt show based on the film has been running at Universal Studios Hollywood since 1996. The parks in Japan and Singapore opened with the attraction in 2001 and 2010.
- MacGuffin Girl: Enola.
- Made of Explodium: A Wronski Feint between three smokers on jet skis creates a giant fireball explosion. What fuel they used to create the massive, towering fireball is still unknown. There are also traces of Outrun the Fireball, but on a bungee.
- Mood Whiplash: So the world has gone crap, few survivors left are squabbling against each other and there's tension between the protagonist and two females he saved... Suddenly, over-the-top Smokers hijinx!
- A smaller example happens during the escape from the Atoll. Whenever the boat is cut to, the music sounds triumphant, but whenever the slaughter on the Atoll is cut to, the music sounds tragic.
- More Dakka: The Smokers' idea of a siege weapon is a four-barrel antiaircraft machine gun emplacement trained at your enemy's floating citadel. It gets hijacked by the good guys, and shows itself very effective against ships too.
- No Indoor Voice: "Maybe he has some FOOD!"
- Ocean Punk
- Of Corpse He's Alive: The Smokers make the residents of a small trading post, whom they've recently killed, appear to be waving to the Mariner as the latter approaches, intending to draw him into a deadly trap.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "MU-TA-TIOOOON!" "HE'S-A-MU-TAAAANT!"
- Rasputinian Death: The Deacon.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: One of the leaders of the atoll does what he can to give the Mariner a fair trial and the benefit of the doubt, and is genuinely sorry when he is sentenced to be recycled anyway. Regardless, it's enough for the Mariner to save his life when the Smokers attack.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: It's Mad Max... on JET SKIS!
- Religion of Evil: In the extended edition, The Deacon refers to the Smokers as the Church Of Eternal Growth when talking with Enola.
- Ruins of the Modern Age: Seen underwater when the Mariner takes Helen to see where he got dirt from.
- Scavenger World
- Scenery Gorn
- Sdrawkcab Name: Enola is "alone" spelled backwards. Fitting considering she was orphaned.
- Spent Shells Shower: A Smoker operating a Maxon Mount four-machine gun chassis in the atoll assault scene showers the boat it is mounted on and his crew with hundreds of .50 calibre brass shells.
- Steam Punk: All over the place. Actually, it's more like Man-Power Punk, but visually and thematically it's very similar.
- Technology Porn: Done for Padding.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: When the Smokers raid the atoll, the Mariner impales one of them with a thrown machete.
- Title Drop: "Nothing's free in Waterworld"
- Token Romance: The Mariner and Helen.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Enola, who lives in a world covered in water and doesn't know how to swim.
- The people who persecute "mutants" who can breathe under water.
- Traumatic Haircut
- Underwater Ruins