The Sci-Fi Chronicles book lets me check in with one of my favorite writers again, as I dive into some work by Joss Whedon, and despite the fact that he isn’t credited on the film, the script is attributed to Peter Rader and David Twohy, Whedon punched it up a bit when he was working as a script doctor in the early 90s. I imagine though, not much of his original work remains in this bloated, over-indulgent film that was one of the biggest flops of 1995.
Planned to be a bit of an aquatic Road Warrior, the film never lives up to its potential, and despite the success Reynolds had, with then friend and lead, Kevin Costner, who plays Mariner, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the film is uneven at best, with ideas and concepts that needed a bit more exploration.
The ice-caps have melted, submerging almost all land, and people scavenge and fight to survive either alone or in floating towns. Fuel is a valuable resource, as most drifters rely on wind power, and the tides, and no one has and controls more fuel than Deacon (a scene-chewing, but terribly written, Dennis Hopper). He runs the Slavers and the Smokers, while free people scrimp to survive.
He finds himself helping a woman, Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and a little girl Enola (Tina Majorino), who may have the key to finding dry land hidden within a tattoo on her back.
Expansive sets, and an interestingly enough designed world isn’t enough to save the film, and honestly, I’ve never been able to buy into Costner as an action hero, especially the tough, bad-ass variety he’s trying to portray in this film. I think as a whole,the movie needed to look a little grittier as well, it’s almost too clean-looking… perhaps a little color correction, a different lighting scheme, I’m not sure. It just seems too cleancut to be taken as a serious look at a post-apocalyptic world.
The set pieces feel like stunt performances at Sea World, and perhaps that’s another reason it can’t be taken seriously, seeing baddies performing jumps on water skis in tandem just feel too glitzy and contrived.
And as much as I love James Newton Howard as a composer, the score feels too Satuday-morning-mtinee-Crimson Pirate instead of a darker, perhaps Basil Poledouris feel that would add a little gravitas to the film.
It’s fun to see some familiar faces amongst the cast, Kim Coates, Jack Black, Leonardo Cimino, and Michael Jeter, and some of the action beats are very much in keeping with the matinée feel of it, but the film ends up being too much of a mixed bag to find a real voice or vision.
An epic film that has could have been written al over it, but egos, poor scripting, and lack of a cinematic vision sinks this one real quick.