The Postman (1997) – Kevin Costner

It’s time to return to the Sci-Fi Chronicles book as we journey to the far distant year of 2013!!

The Postman, directed by Costner, and starring Kevin Costner, feels like another attempt to turn himself into a hero in the post apocalyptic world. Based on the novel by David Brin, the epic film, it’s three hours in length, follows Costner’s nameless character who discovers an undelivered bag of mail and a postman’s uniform. In the deserted and desiccated future that is America, and possibly the rest of the world, this one act becomes a symbol of hope, and inspires the clusters of humanity’s survivors.

Will Patton, a notoriously under-used actor in my opinion, plays the film’s villain, General Bethlehem, while Olivia Williams plays Abby, the movie’s love interest.

While not a bad film, it does feel self-indulgent in the same way Waterworld did. Costner proved himself a more than competent director with Dances with Wolves, but maybe he should have chosen to direct this one, and not star in it.

There is something else that really bothers me about this film. Admittedly it looks great, Costner and his crew have a an eye for a visual image, but for a three hour film, there really isn’t a lot in the way of character development. Most of the actors seem to be playing stock stereotypes and don’t have much in the way of emotional and character arcs.

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Everything is given a nice boost via a score by James Newton Howard as well as a fairly solid production design. It’s pretty amazing, how clean and beautiful is, despite living in an post apocalyptic world.

I will say of all the characters in the film, Abby is the strongest, Williams fleshes her out as much as she can, and she’s tough, resilient, and willing to make tough decisions. Costner’s Postman is almost a passive character, making as few decisions as he can to get by, and when he finds acclaim by delivering the mail, he allows himself to continue it.

And while he does have an action beat or two, he more often has things done to him, and reacts to them, as opposed to being proactive, and changing things himself.

There’s a missed opportunity here, to marry a couple of amazing ideas, that of the post-apocalyptic Western (something only hinted at as a possibility in the film) and the sheer power and the human connection provided by a slip of paper delivered in the mail.

In some sequences the film tries way too hard, and had characters been developed they would have had the impact that Costner wanted, instead, it feels like the film is telling you that you MUST react emotionally to this bit. You can’t, however, because you aren’t invested in it.

This, for me, was a bit of a miss.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Sean says:

    The book by David Brin is much better. In fact, everything by David Brin is awesome.

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