Blu-ray Review | Waterworld (Limited Edition)

Blu-ray Review | Waterworld (Limited Edition)

Can Arrow Video’s release of Waterworld finally give the film the attention it deserves?

Regular readers here at The Unheard Nerd will know of my passion for the film Waterworld. What was originally a simple article about the PC CD-ROM game that featured twenty minutes of original Waterworld footage ballooned into a massive three-part article.

I covered the original production of the film and the problems they encountered, the extended television edit and then finally the previously mentioned PC game. All of this can be read here.

But for those joining us for the first time, what is Waterworld about?

Set hundreds of years in the future, the polar ice caps have melted and Earth is literally a world covered in water with no land to speak of. The survivors in this world live on floating villages, called atolls, or sail the world in ships and boats of various sizes and descriptions.

The survivors continue to trade in what is left from the old world, broken and rusty everyday items that have somehow managed to survive the ravages of time.

One of these survivors is the Mariner (Kevin Costner), he reaches one of these atolls and takes almost all their trade items when it is revealed that he has dirt, the most precious commodity of all.

The owner of the trading post, Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) asks the Mariner to take herself and her little girl Enola (Tina Majorino) on his travels. She is aware that their way of life is dying on the atoll. Also, Enola has a strange tattoo on her back which may be the clue to finding the mythical dry land.

This is the start of an adventure for our three heroes, although, they aren’t the only ones who are searching. A group of chain-smoking, spam eating mercenaries, who call themselves ‘smokers’, who live on an old oil tanker are also on the hunt. The leader of the Smokers, the Deacon (Dennis Hopper), wants to get to dry land first and he knows he’ll have to capture Enola and decipher the tattoo on her back in order to succeed!

Waterworld is a great action adventure film that I believe has been overlooked over the years because of the negative press by the media (more on that later). The background story alone is more prevalent now than it was almost twenty-five years ago with climate change affecting our daily lives.

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Kevin Costner is a great antihero is very easy to dislike throughout the film’s story. His arch-nemesis played by Dennis Hopper gives another of his unhinged psychotic performances that’s great fun to watch.

Waterworld is a film I could love based purely on its aesthetics alone. The look of this water-based apocalyptic style adventure is amazing especially when you consider that almost everything for the film had to be created from scratch. Plus, almost the whole film is shot with practical effects and stunts as CGI was in its infancy and was very expensive to use. I think this really shows and makes it a very tangible film.

This brand new three-disc set from Arrow Video has definitely been created with love and affection and the results certainly shine through.

The film was rescanned from the original camera negatives at 4K along with extra elements for the alternate cuts and was graded and supervised by the film’s Director of Photography, Dean Semler.

Over the years, I’ve owned the official DVD release and the McFly89 fan edit of the extended cut so this jump up to high definition looks beautiful in my opinion. There is a slight layer of grain that really gives a filmic look with plenty of fine detail visible on the screen.

The complete package contains three cuts of the film. Disc one contains the theatrical cut whilst disc two has the extended ‘TV Cut’. This contains approximately forty minutes of extra footage. Unfortunately, this edit was made for the American TV market so it whilst extended it has also been censored for language and violence.

The third disc contains the ‘Ulysses Cut’ which I swear they took the name from the fan edit that I wrote about a couple of years ago (see here). A fan calling himself McFly89 took all the available television footage to create an uncensored extended cut of the film.

This is exactly what Arrow Video have done except using the highest quality film elements they could source from Universal. The final product is another beautiful HD transfer where the quality only dips slightly when extended footage is presented onscreen. 

The meat of the extras on disc one is the brand new 102-minute documentary entitled, ‘Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld’.

This feature-length talking head style documentary looks at the full story of Waterworld and includes almost everyone including the director Kevin Reynolds, the original scriptwriter Peter Radar and many others. Only noticeable by their absence is the film’s cast who are all included via the use of archival interview footage.

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The documentary covers the origins of the film, originally a cheap mad max clone. How the project ballooned to a size to be taken on by Universal Studios. The problems of shooting on water and how production was plagued by the press who had decided that Waterworld was that year’s punch bag.

Many false stories were written about the film during production which many believed affected its final box office performance. For example, the Hollywood press had reported that Waterworld‘s budget had inflated from the original $60 million to $100 million. They hadn’t even shot a single frame of footage yet!

As a film nerd, this documentary was a fascinating story about one of my favourite films and it is intercut with behind the scenes footage and production photographs, most of which I had never seen before.

The first disc also contains ‘Dances With Waves’, a ten-minute archival featurette documenting the production of the film.

‘Global Warnings’ is a twenty-minute feature presented by critic Glenn Kenny analysing apocalyptically themed films.

There is a series of image galleries documenting Concept Art, Production Stills, Behind the Scenes, Miniatures and Visual Effects and finally Promotional Image Gallery. Almost all of the images contained here I had never seen before and many looked to be from the crew’s personal collection.

The extras are rounded out with the film’s promotional trailers and television spots.

But that’s not all! A 60-page book also includes new interviews, reprints of special effects articles and the history of Waterworld merchandise.

Finally, there is a reversible poster featuring new and classic Waterworld art, six postcards and reversible Blu-ray cover art.

This is a set that for years I was hoping Universal would release. Unfortunately, the closest we got was a bungled DVD special edition in 2008. This simply contained the theatrical cut, the censored ‘TV Cut’ and the film’s theatrical trailer.

If you’re a fan of Waterworld, this set from Arrow Video is simply a must-have, there’s no excuse to not own it!

If you’re a fan of Waterworld, this set from Arrow Video is simply a must-have, there’s no excuse to not own it!


John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves film, and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990s. Whilst that website became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. He's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.

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