Kevin Costner's 1995 epic "Waterworld" was infamous not only for questionable acting, plot holes, and awkward pacing, but also for incredible cost overruns that took place during filming.

The film was supposed to be a low budget science fiction film about life on a future earth where the polar ice caps had melted and the entire surface of the Earth was submerged beneath a global sea1. Kevin Costner became involved in the film, and things began to spiral out of control.

The film's action centers on Kevin Costner's heroic loner, The Mariner, a sort of waterborne Mad Max. The Mariner falls afoul of Dennis Hopper's bad guy character, the Deacon, and his band of "Smokers" - so named because they burn the last of Earth's fossil fuels to run their piratical operations.

"Waterworld" was almost entirely shot on and in the water. A huge waterborne set was built to be the ring of manmade floating islands Costner's character visits early in the film. The elaborate action pieces involve jet skis and a barely-seaworthy oil tanker.

The film was plagued by staff problems at the highest levels. Kevin Costner's friendship with hand-picked director Kevin Reynolds ended over the film. There were three different producers, one of whom was Costner himself. Costner disliked the first cut of the film so much he redid it, producing the final edit himself.

Various weather related disasters made things worse, with long shooting delays, and even a sunken set.

All this led to significant bad press prior to the opening. Costner's defensive reaction in media interviews only sharpened the industry's taste for blood. The film was dubbed "Fishtar" and "Kevin's Gate" by industry wags before release (in memory of previous disastrous releases "Ishtar" and "Heaven's Gate"). Coming in at around $175 million US dollars, "Waterworld" returned $88 million US dollars in domestic release. It went on to eventually break even through international release and video rentals.

All in all, it's an OK rental - you get to see some interesting action sequences, Dennis Hopper chewing the scenery, and Kevin Costner drinking his own urine2. (Well, maybe that's not so great, but it's over with quickly.) Remember it won't cost *you* $175 million US -- just a five-day rental fee and some popcorn. And maybe some lemonade or warm apple cider, for that be-there-with-Kevin moment.


  1. For more on global seas, see Panthalassa.
  2. For more on drinking urine, see several nodes about this on E2 including urine is sterile, How to drink urine to survive and the highly suspect Urine is a medicinal, cleansing, and nourishing food.

Eco notes that "One seldom mentioned flaw is that global warming would geometrically increase storm severity; and nothing in the movie looks seaworthy enough to stay afloat through a mild drizzle."

Zerotime says "I was under the impression that the bad guys were called that because they, you know, smoked."

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