Kevin Reynolds, director; Universal Home Video;
Widescreen only (1.85:1), Dual Layer; Dolby Digital 5.0
English, Spanish & French, Spanish subtitles; 136 Minutes
One of the most expensive films ever made at close to $200 million, Waterworld was expected to be a bomb, but did quite well at the box office, and seems to fit the DVD format very well, too, with its bright vivid colour, action- and stunt- filled story, and larger-than-life characters. Dennis Hopper makes the most of his role as arch-villain, while Costner is more energized than usual as an amphibious mutant. Jeanne Tripplehorn looks better than she acts, not seeming to quite get into this part the way she did as a scheming murderess in Basic Instinct (oops, I just gave the ending away!). In Waterworld everyone has the same goal, to find the last remaining land on earth after the polar ice caps have melted, this place called “Dryland”.
The transfer to DVD is one of the best I’ve seen, especially the soundtrack, which is extraordinarily atmospheric, water lapping and sails and masts creaking all around the viewer. And the notation “5.0″ is correct, the sound mixer having opted in all three languages to omit the subwoofer channel and have the bass full range all around. This will be a problem in systems which limit bass to front and rear speakers, since nothing is fed to the sub; I put my ear right up to the sub several times during the film, and there was nothing, which is yet another software quirk of the format, in that this DVD has been programmed to exclude bass from subwoofers; the laserdisc version doesn’t have this problem, but then, LDs do not have the 5th channel for bass, either. On a satellite/sub system, the sound of Waterworld will be pretty thin.
I liked the film for its visual beauty, but most viewers will find the best thing about it to be the stunts, with the evil smokers’ power boats and personal watercraft doing all kinds of neat things that you should never try at your lake. Costner’s sailboat is pretty cool, too, until it gets wrecked…and in this film everything gets wrecked eventually, and, of course, you know who ultimately gets to Dryland at the end.
Now that the Titanic has risen to the top of the box office list, Waterworld is no longer the most expensive movie ever made, but it is still a fun way to waste an afternoon or evening.