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.
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 *
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