Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Doomsday 2012: Waterworld + The Postman

As some of you surely know, the Mayan calendar ends on December 23, 2012. Will the earth suffer plagues and tribulations that will challenge the future existence of humans? Will the planet just explode, turning us all into space dust? Or, did the Mayans just get sick of updating their calendar? We might find out the answer to that question before we reach 2013. I've always had a soft spot for apocalyptic cinema. Blame it on my Southern Baptist upbringing with large doses of the rapture, end-times and plenty of fire and brimstone to keep your mind occupied. I expect there will be a lot of screenings of end-of-the-world or apocalyptic films in 2012, so I thought I'd watch a bunch of them to get in the spirit of what might come our way. I just bought a ticket to see a Mad Max triple feature [yes, triple feature!] at the Egyptian for the end of January. Expect that to be the second post in this new series I've dubbed Doomsday 2012. But, first up is two end-of-the-world epics from Kevin Costner that I had never seen despite their infamous reputation: Waterworld and The Postman.

Kevin Costner was clearly drinking some doomsday kool-aid in the 1990s because he was chiefly responsible for two of the biggest post-apocalyptic movie flops in the history of film in a three year span. In 1995 Costner starred [and helped directed without credit] an over-budgeted aqua disaster known as Waterworld. Hated by critics and avoided by ticket buyers, Waterworld turned into a punchline of many one-liners directed at Costner's inflated ego. Evidently, Costner is a stubborn ol' cuss, because two years later in 1997, he produced and directed another apocalyptic thesis known as The Postman. Deja vu? Yes. Lambasted by critics and rejected like the plague by audiences, Costner gave up on his vision to explore post-apocalyptic American water and landscapes for good. I'm kind of sad he didn't get the opportunity to make a trilogy, but no one in their right minds was going to give him money to make another of these colossal fiascos.

Let's get right to Waterworld, a movie I'd only known by its laughable reputation when it was released. The world is completely covered by water with people living on boats or floating metal communities while scouring the ocean floor for sustenance and tools for survival. Dirt is hard to find and treated like gold in trade. Like all post-apocalyptic tales in cinema, this is a harsh existence. No food, no water, bad hair, bad clothes, no dentists. Costner plays a loner who cruises around on his tricked out catamaran. It's got massive sails, low-tech weaponry and even a nifty water purifier that allows Costner to drink his own urine. Okay. So far, so good. That doesn't sound so bad.

I guess I should mention that Costner is sort of a mutant with gills and can swim like a fish. What? Now that's just absurd. The story gets convoluted in a hurry. There's a young girl with a map of land tattooed onto her back. There's a roving band of jet-ski riding psychos, led by the shaven-headed and sunburned Dennis Hopper. The villains want this map at any cost. Unfortunately, Costner's fish-man is thrown in water jail due to his status as a mutant, but escapes to take the tattooed girl and Jeanne Triplehorn onto his boat while being pursued by the nasties.

The script and the story of Waterworld is where the film goes deeply off the rails. If you just take it for a rip-off of The Road Warrior on water and watch the action scenes, it's not so horrible. It has possibly the most jet-ski action in it in movie history. There's water skiers all over the place too. They both jump in the air off ramps while firing weapons. It's kind of bizarre to watch. We're so programmed as viewers to see action scenes with land, to see nothing but water amid the boats, jet-skis, skiers and other people on water is a bit confusing. It's best to ignore the over-serious dialogue and attempts at drama by Costner and just go with the silly fun of the water stunt work. Costner's tone is deadly serious throughout the film. There's no sense of fun from him despite the fact he's playing a character with gills. Hopper hams it up accordingly, but not Costner. Waterworld is campy, cheesy, a serious waste of money and completely deserving of its reputation. It does have some terrific jet-ski action sequences though. Trailer below in case you don't remember this one. Rating: **1/2

The Postman. I can picture him pondering what went wrong with Waterworld and coming to the decision that it was obvious what the mistake was: water! So, he chose to make a second post-apocalyptic movie, taking out the offensive water element and making The Postman. The Postman is a truly horrible movie that makes Waterworld seem like the Citizen Kane of jet-ski, water-based action-adventure films it is so plodding, misguided and just plain old awful.

What are we to do as a species if we have no possibility of mail delivery? Are postal workers the first element of a democratic society? Can the deliverers of mail become symbols of freedom and provide the inspiration for revolution? Those are just some of the questions raised by director Kevin Costner as he plays the title character known simply as "The Postman". Early on, he's got nothing to do with the mail, he's a travelling actor who barters scenes for food. His acting partner? His mule. It's not what you'd call good theatre. Conscripted into a brutal military regime led by Will Patton, "The Postman" just wants to act with his mule, not fight and take tributes by force from local townships. Escape plans are hatched and accomplished. When "The Postman" comes across a mail truck on a rainy, cold night, the shelter it provides alters not only his destiny, but the destiny of the future of the United States of America.

What a mess The Postman is. Glacially slow, absurdly patriotic, silly story, no suspense and Tom Petty [!] combine to make one of the worst films I've seen in a long time. Terrible direction [the slow motions!], terrible script [jingoistic overload], you name it, this one is terrible. Did the US postal service have money invested in this one? If not, they should have as I've never seen a movie where people delivering the mail would be given such heroic screen time. The Postman should have been given a limited edition stamp as a promotional tie-in. Did I mention that the running time for The Postman is nearly three hours? Was Costner insane trying to release a movie this dull, this ridiculous and this lifeless into theatres and then making it three hours long? If he'd cut an hour off it, the film would have still been a lackluster failure, but it would have stood a fighting chance. As is, it's a complete and utter disaster.

Had I not been writing a post for CineRobot, I wouldn't have come close to finishing The Postman. It would have been stopped and returned to Netflix in less than an hour. But, I gutted it out. I suffered for CineRobot and for you dear readers for this one. Here's the trailer below if you want to get a quick glimpse of some of the more amusing speeches about the importance of the mail. Has anyone actually sat through this in its entirety? If you have, I respect your tolerance for cinematic pain that watching the full three hours of The Postman will deliver the viewer. Rating *

***If you are reading this post via e-mail, the imbedded videos in this post might not work with your particular e-mail account. Click on the post title and you will be taken directly to CineRobot to view the videos.***


bb said...

I am surprised you didn't mention that Jeanne Triplehorn was from OK. I have only seen Waterworld once, and that was enough. After your review I am glad that I did not try and watch The Postman.

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

BB: I let that fact slip by due to all the jet ski action that was taking place, ha. If you really want to watch a bad movie that lasts three hours--The Postman is for you!

hidden staircase said...

thankfully did not waste time with either of these. it always bugged me to see the title 'the postman' b'c of the awesome italian film 'il postino' -- and people would talk about it...and be talking about stupid costner and not the awesome italian movie. tom petty?!! what the what? by the way, i do think postal carriers are sort of you and i both know -- we can mail just about anything anywhere and 99% of the time, it will make it. sounds awful. love that you pulled out the adverb/adj: 'glacially slow'...that was great!

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

Staircase--I figured you probably hadn't seen either of these, ha. Your right--I forgot how annoying it was that IL POSTINO got confused with THE POSTMAN. The Italian film came out in 1994 or 1995 and to save any confusion--this was not a remake!

Tom Petty--who I can't remember in anything else--basically plays himself. He says "man" after nearly all 15 lines he has, ha.

Oh, I'm a fan of the mail, it's just seeing it used as it is in the context of this film--kind of silly. No, more than just kind of silly. Extremely silly!

Cinerobota said...

2 amazing lines from the Postman trailer: "You are nothing but a drifter who found a bag of mail" and "You have a gift, Postman. You give out hope like it was candy from your pocket." I think that pretty much sums it up.

Rumblefish said...

I watched Waterworld again recently, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoy it. I like the jet skis, I like Dennis Hopper; I'm all in. We even have a picture of me and my brother in front of the boat from the movie at Universal Studios.

When I was a kid at the pediatrician's office, one of the nurses asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said an actress, and she told me that "little Jeannie Tripplehorn used to come here and say the same thing!"

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

I should have given WATERWORLD three stars--it is goofy fun. And there are a lot of jet skis, ha. Have you seen THE POSTMAN? No way you can think that one's good. It's a three hour bomb.

Rumblefish said...

I have no kind words for The Postman, and I'm a big Tom Petty fan.

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

I should have mentioned that Costner and WATER WORLD's much maligned director have re-teamed for a TV mini-series about the Hatfield and McCoy feud! I might have to watch that, but I've seen a still and Costner dons a terrible fake beard.

Stevan Hale said...

I own both of these movies and have seen them dozens of times! I love them! I am so ashamed and alone.