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Kevin Reynolds
Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dennis Hopper
Writing Credits:
Peter Rader, Davis Twohy

In a future where the polar ice-caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged, a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw "smokers," and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 136 min. (Theatrical)
176 min. (TV)
177 min. (Ulysses)
Price: $49.95
Release Date: 6/27/2023

• Three Cuts of the Film
• “Maelstrom” Documentary
• “Dances With Waves” Featurette
• “Global Warnings” Featurette
• Image Galleries
• Trailers & TV Spots


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Waterworld: Limited Edition [4K UHD] (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 19, 2023)

Every once in a while, a movie becomes a legendary flop, and 1995’s Waterworld stands as one of cinema’s biggest duds. It came with all sorts of budgetary and production problems and received a pretty chilly critical reception.

Audiences were a bit more forgiving, as the flick made $88 million in the US, but it still went down as a famous bomb. Which I didn’t think it deserved, as I saw Waterworld back when it ran theatrically and actually thought it entertained – at least then. All these years later, I wanted to see if it held up at all.

In a dismal future society in which the ice caps melt, water covers the earth and factions struggle for survival. Led by the Deacon (Dennis Hopper), a nasty clan of pirates called the Smokers rules the seas by force, and they attack anyone who stands in their way. All the survivors dream of finding dry land, though many believe its existence to be a myth.

A loner simply called The Mariner (Kevin Costner) seems to thrive more than others, which probably stems from the facts he’s evolved into a man with gills and webbed toes. This lands him in trouble with those who view him as a dangerous mutation, and one clan imprisons him.

Some believe a tattoo on the back of young Enola (Tina Majorino) shows the path to dry land. As Smokers attack the atoll, Enola’s caretaker Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) frees the Mariner when he agrees to take them with him. The stubbornly independent Mariner butts heads with the females as they try to stay clear of Smokers and perhaps find dry land.

Waterworld opens with a sequence in which Costner drinks his own filtered urine. Man, if that’s not a metaphor for this flick’s legacy, I don’t know what is.

It also begs the question: if this society’s scientists could figure out how to turn pee into drinkable fluid, why couldn’t they do the same with salt water?

Because then we wouldn’t get to see a major movie star imbibe his own piss, I guess. Most of Waterworld follows this same irrational path, as it prefers flash over logic.

Granted, one could hurl that accusation at many summer blockbusters, but Waterworld seems more muddled than most, largely because of its attempts at relevance. The film injects a pretty flaccid ecological message, primarily via the destructive Smokers.

They misuse natural resources as they slash and burn their way across the planet – not too subtle, is it? Little nuance appears elsewhere, so expect a slew of ham-fisted messages across the film’s 135 minutes.

Those “lessons” become one of the film’s bigger weaknesses but they’re not alone. The acting seems flat at worst and campy at best, as none of the actors do much with their roles. The different styles fail to meld well and leave with a perplexing melange of performances.

“Broad and campy” dominates, though, and that trend gets tedious. Majorino also creates one of cinema’s all-time most grating children.

Admittedly, she’s supposed to be irritating, but she goes above and beyond to the degree where we never embrace her. Even after we’re supposed to accept/like Enola, we don’t because she remains an annoyance.

Waterworld does offer interesting production design - though most of the people look like tourists just back from a trip to Jamaica – and it boasts some good action and stunts. Even there the movie can falter, though.

Clumsy editing and direction undermine the action moments to some degree. We never a real flow or sense of style to these sequences, and that robs them of some effectiveness.

When Waterworld sticks with action, it works fairly well, but it drags and bores when it attempts to explore the relationships, all of which seem predictable and tedious. The movie gets credit for an unusual concept but it mostly feels mediocre and flawed.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

Waterworld appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. I felt pleased with the satisfying Dolby Vision presentation.

Sharpness was positive. A little softness cropped up in a few wide shots, but the movie mostly showed strong delineation.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes were absent. Print flaws also failed to appear, and the moderate abundance of grain meant I didn’t suspect any issues with digital noise reduction.

Waterworld went with an earthy palette, as rusty browns and greens dominated the affair. Given these choices, the colors appeared appropriately rendered, and HDR added range and impact to the hues.

Blacks appeared dark and full, while low-light shots offered good delineation. HDR brought emphasis and oomph to both whites and contrast. Across the board, this turned into a solid image.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Waterworld proved similarly satisfying. My only mild complaint about the soundfield stemmed from the overactive surrounds.

The many action scenes created good opportunities for dynamic audio, and the track managed to flesh out the visuals well. Lots of unique sound came from all around the room, so expect the track to draw you into the action.

That said, the mix felt a little too heavy on the back channels. This didn’t turn into a radical imbalance, but I felt the surrounds offered too active a partner and dominated a bit more than should’ve been the case.

View that as a minor criticism, though, as the track didn’t feel terribly out of whack. I’d prefer something with a stronger presence in the front, but the end result still offered a lot of zing.

Audio quality was also positive. Speech appeared natural and crisp, without edginess or other distractions.

Music felt pretty solid. That side of things offered fine vivacity and impact.

Effects showed nice clarity and definition, and they also boasted fine bass response. The track didn’t work well enough to enter “A” level, but it still seemed good.

How did this 4K UHD compare to the Arrow Blu-ray from 2019? The Atmos audio took away the “speaker specific” aspect of the prior DTS-HD MA mix but then added too heavy an emphasis on the back speakers. I preferred the Atmos but both come with minor drawbacks.

As for the 4K’s Dolby Vision image, HDR gave it the most obvious upgrade, as colors and blacks showed superior reproduction. Delineation also got a boost, though the nature of the photography meant less of an improvement than might otherwise be the case. All in all, the 4K turned into a satisfying step up over the already positive Blu-ray.

Note that Universal produced a 4K UHD disc for Waterworld in 2019. I never saw that one so I can’t compare it to the Arrow 2023 version directly.

I do know the two differ in that the 2019 4K offers just HDR-10 whereas the Arrow comes with Dolby Vision. Both provide new remixes of the original 5.1, with DTS X for the 2019 Universal set and Dolby Atmos here.

This set provides three versions of the movie. In addition to the Theatrical Cut (2:15:06), we find a TV Cut (2:56:01) and the Ulysses Cut (2:57:12).

The “TV Cut” was created for an ABC broadcast, and “Ulysses” used the “TV Cut” as its basis. Compiled by fans, “Ulysses” essentially blends the added footage from the “TV Cut” with material deemed too spicy for broadcast TV.

As such, the nudity that disappears for “TV” appears in “Ulysses”. Profanity and a bit more violence comes back for “Ulysses” as well.

Because it lacks the TV censorship, “Ulysses” becomes the more satisfying of the two alternate versions. Nonetheless, both function the same in terms of how they tell the story.

Whichever extended edition you choose, Waterworld indeed undergoes a notable expansion. Of course, the basics remain the same, but the alternate cuts flesh out characters and circumstances better and fill in some plot holes.

Do any of these changes make Waterworld a great film? No – many of the theatrical cut’s flaws remain, and the fact the alternates push up against three hours means they can turn into an endurance test.

That said, “TV” and “Ulysses” do become superior versions of the story. They seem more coherent and flow better. Nothing will ever turn Waterworld into a classic, but at least the extended cuts give us a more coherent tale – albeit one with an awfully long running time.

Note that only the theatrical Waterworld comes to us via 4K UHD. The “TV” and “Ulysses” cuts appear solely on Blu-rays.

The remaining extras appear on the 4K platter, and the main attraction comes from Maelstrom: The Odyssey Of Waterworld. A one-hour, 42-minute, 28-second affair, we find comments from writer Peter Rader, film historian Justin Humphreys, producer Charles Gordon, director Kevin Reynolds, executive producer Ilona Herzberg, production designer Dennis Gassner, director of photography Dean Semler, special effects technician Eric Allard, production assistant David Bernstein, lead scene artist Michael Denering, stunt coordinator RA Rondell, second AD Robert Huberman, script supervisor Ana Maria Quintana, pyrotechnician Gary D’Amico, special effects assistant Jeff Bresin, special effects manager Gabe Videla, miniature effects supervisor Mark Stetson, and film music journalist Tim Greiving.

Actors Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Tina Majorino also appear via circa 1994 footage.

“Maelstrom” looks at the project’s origins and development, the original script and changes, story/characters, production design, costumes and stylistic choices. We also hear about cast and performances, shooting on water, photography and sets, stunts and action, various effects, music, editing, controversies, promotion, and release/legacy.

Unquestionably, the biggest flaw found in “Maelstrom” comes from the absence of the actors in new footage – especially Costner, as he obviously provides the most prominent “name”. Even without Costner, though, “Maelstrom” becomes a strong documentary.

It covers the film in a thorough, logical manner and it does so in a lively, insightful way. “Maelstrom” turns into a comprehensive and informative show.

One footnote: producer Charles Gordon claims Waterworld eventually made a profit. I’m not sure how he figures that, as it cost $175 million and ended up with $264 million total worldwide.

Given the usual calculation that a film needs a good 2.5 times its cost to go into the black, I don’t know how Gordon came to his conclusion. Waterworld made more money than its production cost but everyone knows movies need to cover other expenses like promotion to be profitable. The movie did well on home video but it’s hard to believe it did that well.

From 1995, Dances With Waves runs nine minutes, 13 seconds and includes notes from Reynolds, Costner, Tripplehorn, Majorino, Gordon, Semler, Gassner, Rondell, costume designer John Bloomfield, property master Michael Milgrom, and actor Dennis Hopper.

A promotional affair, “Waves” offers a general take on the production. Given the reason it exists, it’s better than average.

Critic Glenn Kenny looks at the film’s genre in Global Warnings. During this 22-minute, 21-second chat, Kenny covers the “apocalyptic movies” from over the years and makes this an engaging, informative chat.

In addition to two trailers and 14 TV Spots, the disc wraps with two Image Galleries. This domain splits into “Production” (258 across 5 areas) and “Promotional” (40). Plenty of good images appear, especially in the “Concept Art” section.

Does Waterworld deserve its status as an infamous flop? No, but it also shouldn’t be viewed as an unjustly maligned classic, as it offers a mix of thrills and idiocy. The 4K UHD provides very good picture and audio along with a useful mix of supplements highlighted by two alternate cuts of the film. Fans should be pleased with this fine release, even if they may feel disappointed only the theatrical version comes with a 4K presentation.

To rate this film visit the prior review of WATERWORLD