My partner is Sabor the lioness–a curious animal who shares my sense of humor even if we’re different species with different aesthetic sensibilities. Sometimes we like to watch old genre movies and we write down her thoughts about them. The other night we finally watched Waterworld. She demanded her thoughts be published here.
Waterworld needs no introduction. I never saw it in the 90s, but there weren’t a lot of other big budget movies about the world being flooded. It was eco-woke before the rest of us. We already had a vague sense of the plot of the movie before we watched it.
The movie opens with Kevin Costner relishing and gargling his own pee. (View above). He spits it into a plant. He is living at sea on his trimaran. He has no name and is known simply as the Mariner. He is going to some kind of trading post, a port floating in the middle of the ocean. It is surrounded by wooden walls. There is a medieval aesthetic to all of it.
This all raised sociological and anthropological questions. I put them to Sabor. “How many people are there?”
She replied, “More than you would think.” She explained, “Most people cling to each other as a remnant of the Old World. It’s not far enough in the future for that to have been bred out of us.” (Wikipedia notes the setting of the film is likely 2500).
“What percentage of people are slaves?” I asked.
“Probably 80%.” She answered with little hesitation. 15 minutes in, I had drawn no conclusions about the social structure of Waterworld. By the end of the movie I still didn’t know, but I liked that there were pirates who lived on the Exxon Valdez.
To follow up with my slavery question, I asked Sabor how many people lived free at sea like the Mariner.
She explained, “It’s a unique thing that Kevin Costner is doing and that’s why they made a movie about him.”
The Mariner ends up responsible for a child and a woman. The Mariner is a bad man. He wants to throw the child overboard. He tries to sell sex with the woman and/or the child to another seafarer. One time he gets angry and actually throws the child overboard. But eventually the magic of children overcomes his heart and also he and the woman predictably hook up. It could have been any action movie from the 90s, except it was at sea (which was great).
The fight scenes in this movie are very fun. There is an underwater knife fight. The Mariner climbs scaffolding and does a lot of bad ass things. In a voice over montage of him killing people, the child explains that the Mariner has no name so that Death can’t find him. We noted that the film appeared a year before 1996’s Donkey Kong Country 2, and so Kevin Costner is likely the inspiration for Dixie Kong.
It is compelling story-telling how little one learns about the Mariner from watching the movie. At the end of the movie, the Mariner leaves the woman and the child on the world’s last surviving island and returns to the sea where he belongs. I asked Sabor if the Mariner knew where he came from. She said yes but that he didn’t like to think about it.
I would take-in more stories about him. The other day I found myself wanting to read the tie-in novel and four issue comic mini-series. Was this movie Kevin Costner’s idea? I want to believe.