Return To Home Page
January 7, 2010
Waterworld Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
14/9/199527/10/2009UniversalKevin Reynolds
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MKevin Costner

Click To Enlarge Image
Kevin Costner in Waterworld, now on Blu-Ray.

Over the years Waterworld has been described as a complete failure on almost all levels. I don't adhere to that fact given that the movie, with it's monstrous $US175 million budget, still grossed $US263 million around the world. Sure, it wasn't enough for Universal to break even at the box office (but later DVD and Blu-Ray sales probably help the bottom line), but this is still an interesting, if somewhat flawed, release which had big ideas that the script could never live up to.

Waterworld is set on Earth in the future when the planet is covered with water and the human race struggles to survive on dilapidated boats and makeshift floating cities. Kevin Costner portrays a drifter who becomes caught up in the struggle between the evil Deacon (Dennis Hopper) and a child's secret key to a wondrous place called "Dryland."

Click To Enlarge Image
Tina Majorino is impressive in Waterworld.
While I'm not going to claim Waterworld is a great movie, it is one which I don't despise either. The three lead actors - Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino all put in fine, likable, performances and some of the cinematography from the brilliant Fuller and Dean Semler is almost worth the price of admission alone. Indeed the entire movie has a bit of a 'Mad Max' vibe to it with mankind struggling to survive in a hospitable world, a world which sees just as many, if not more, people out to harm rather then help you when required.

There are two areas where this movie falls apart; the storyline, and Dennis Hopper. In terms of the former Waterworld starts strong enough with plenty of scenes on the boat, a bit of action and finally escaping from a city with woman and child in tow. It's when the movie gets around to the dealing with the bad guys, or "smokers", that it starts to fall apart before reaching one of the most obvious, pedestrian, action packed, but thrillless, conclusions.

Finally, Dennis Hopper. There's no doubt that Dennis Hopper is talented actor given the right material and indeed has been nominated for two Academy Awards over the years (one for Best Supporting Actor in Hoosiers, the other as a writer on Easy Rider) and has acted in movies such as Apocalypse Now, True Romance, and Speed but his performance in Waterworld is one of the most hammed up, trying-to-be evil bad guys we have ever seen in our life. It's a terrible, terrible performance and the director should have know much better then to let it continue - or perhaps to direct him to act - in this way.

Click To Enlarge Image
Waterworld - the $175 million flop!
Sadly the Blu-Ray release of Waterworld is only the 135 minute Theatrical version and not the extended Directors cut which adds it an additional 40 minutes of footage. While some of you may groan at the thought of an extra 40 minutes of this movie, it apparently (I haven't seen it myself) adds it a lot more character development and fleshes out the storyline. Sadly from my research it appears that the Directors Cut has only been released on DVD and even then it was transferred from the ABC TV airing in America which removed swearwords and other scenes such as Kevin Costner urinating, and Jeanne Tripplehorn getting undressed on the boat. Hopefully one day Universal will do a full restoration and release.

Waterworld isn't the terrible movie many would have you believe. It's not Battlefield Earth or Disaster Movie, but it's certainly no Gladiator or Avatar either. Still, it's worth a watch at least once if you haven't seen it, even if only to see what $US175 million got you a decade ago!

Click To Enlarge Image
Dennis Hopper disappoints in Waterworld.
Waterworld comes to Blu-Ray at the films original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has been encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Indeed the Blu-Ray was never a picture on DVD that I was overly thrilled with and this Blu-Ray ups the ante considerably with some gorgeous "watery" scenes and a level of sharpness that can't fail to impress.

The bitrate is constantly quite high, mostly above 30Mbps, which allows the finest of detail to be retained including the very light, natural, level of film grain. For the most part this transfer is very clean with very few film artifacts present. Some of the cinematography from Scott Fuller and Australian Dean Semler truly is breathtaking and it is shown off to good effect with this High Definition transfer.

Waterworld comes to Blu-Ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (24-bit/48Khz) and it's a fairly impressive track with clear audio including dialogue. If there is one complaint it's that the audio is very front heavy with very limited use of the surround sound channels which given the amount of time spent with waves splashing around the boat is a little disappointing. Still what is there is crystal clear, but just don't expect this to be a reference quality disc!

Click To Enlarge Image
There's plenty of water in Waterworld.
There are several other audio tracks on this disc including Spanish (Latin America), French (Canada), Japanese, French, German, Italian and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks each encoded at 768kbps. From our brief samples these are all fairly impressive efforts in their own right so if you want to watch in any of these languages you shouldn't have any issues. Subtitles are provided in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Korean, and Chinese.

Sadly this disc is pretty much devoid of extras save for the trailer. The disc also includes My Scenes (which allows you to bookmark your favourite moments), D-Box motion code if you have a theatre that likes to shake!, and What's New which takes you to Universal's BD-Live Portal.

Click To Enlarge Image
Kevin Costner making his escape in Waterworld.
Trailer (2:11): The theatrical trailer for the movie presented in pretty poor video quality. It has optional subtitles in English, Spanish and French which is nice.

The only reason to buy the Waterworld Blu-Ray is for the improvements to the audio and video over the DVD release, and we have to say that there are some pretty major improvements. We still can't help feeling there will be a major re-release down the track, hopefully with the extended cut, but for now this is a solid upgrade.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Universal. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.