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Waterworld (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

In 1995, Waterworld was more infamous for its controversies and budget than it was for being a fantastic movie. Critics ripped the picture to shreds, and audiences were divided as well. Some people wondered where the money had gone. Others wondered why the performances weren’t the greatest. It should be said that sometimes time can be kinder to a movie on occasion. Upon revisiting Waterworld, I can confidently say this is one of those times. Check out the in-depth perspective on Waterworld on 4K Blu-ray, which hit stores on 7/9!

Film 

Waterworld came out at a time when it wasn’t at all common for the “dystopian fantasy” was a true cinema type. Mad Max had been a series that came and went, and few other series’ or standalone films had come out with that “bleak future” setup in quite a while. We’d had futuristic films such as Demolition Man showing that technology would rule the future, but not what happens when we’ve lost it all, and those doomed ice caps have melted! Set right at the time of the almost completely submerged earth, we see a bleak, and wet future for humanity.

Kevin Costner plays The Mariner, a rugged drifter who wants to sell off some dirt to earn money to buy supplies. He is a simple man, with an elaborate boat, a Trimaran, who makes his own water from his urine. He seems fearless and emulates the ultimate survivalist. When The Mariner finally reaches the atoll he wants to sell the dirt at, he meets Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) who runs the store, and Enola (Tina Majorino) a child under Helen’s care. Enola has a mysterious tattoo that is believed to be a map to Dryland, one of the only spots that isn’t submerged in water. A pirate gang called The Smokers (who take their name very literally) led by the one-eyed Deacon (a scene chewing Dennis Hopper) set out to find Enola and use her for her map. They spend a great deal of time pillaging, and the Deacon spends a lot of time trying to convince his minions they’re always one step closer to Dryland. Within the earlier part of the film you also learn that the Mariner is something of a mutant, but to say more would give away a plot point to those of us who haven’t seen the film.

Sound a little ridiculous to you? It should – This film is by and large a fantasy after all. The film embodies a lot of great fantasy elements, minus the whimsy. This movie, despite spending so much time on the water is a down and dirty film. The characters look grimy, their boats and barges and jet skis are also covered in filth. The pirates all look seedy and smelly (including Jack Black in a blink and you’ll miss it appearance) and the hero of the story is the sort of swashbuckling adventurer you’d see in some historical film about pirates and the navy. Somehow these moments work! The best parts for film fans though are easily the action set pieces. The scenes are paced in a quick manner that is not only attention grabbing but also very exciting. There are some duller moments that can slow down the film. There are also some definite moments of overacting by some of the leads. Costner is his usual cool-headed self for the most part, but it’s interesting to see him stepping out of a more traditional hero role into something of a scurvy dog. One of the best performances though is that of Tina Majorino. She was a very capable child actor and her turn as Enola is great overall. To be sure, despite some hammy moments, Dennis Hopper is still one of the better actors to ever play a villain as well!

In the end, I am still struggling to see what all the hate was about back in 1995. Did the movie look like it cost the $175 Million? No.  Did the director, Kevin Reynolds and his star, Kevin Costner clash? Yes, and I’m so curious personally on which pieces of the movie were directed by Costner himself… There are so many other odd controversies to read about too! I know all of you will be clicking over to iMDB to check it out.

In the end though, in my humble opinion, this is one of those movies that wasn’t made to reinvent the cinema wheel. This is a fun movie with an easy to follow storyline, with crazy and interesting characters. The movie is wonderfully filmed, and the music is wonderful as well. Overall, this could have been a great time at the movies circa 1995, and an excellent edition to anyone’s 4K Blu-ray collection now!

Video 

  • Encoding: HEVC/ H.265
  • Resolution: 4K
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Clarity is top notch with this transfer. There may be one or two unavoidable soft shots (especially with that 90’s CGI that hasn’t aged well at all…), but overall the image is nice and clear. The costumes have great details you can see even from some distance. Every water drop on boats, people or objects are visible.
  • Depth: This film has a noticeable pop from the standard Blu-ray image. Foregrounds and backgrounds are distinguishable, and there are lots of great wide shots on the open ocean to savor!
  • Black Levels: Blacks may be the only item that is slightly lacking on this disc. Quite a few times, you will notice moments that should carry a deeper black can veer into the grey-black realm. These moments are nothing more than momentary and seem to be from the original source and how the filming was conducted.
  • Color Reproduction: Besides a few grey-black moments other colors are outstanding. Blues are the main draw here with the ocean being quite a few different shades of blue. The majority of wardrobe and hair color seems to be brown. I think this was to offset those blues, and the browns are on great display here. When we finally do see Dryland, the greens there are lush and gorgeous to the eye.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are natural, and people’s faces carry fine details, from blemishes and scarring to some of the special effects makeup!
  • Noise/Artifacts: While there is no print damage, as with all 35mm films, this one carries some grain. The layer of grain is most of the time subtle and appealing. There are a couple of shots though that have more of a swarming grain that can be a little heavier at times. I counted maybe three tiny incidences of this heavy grain.

Audio 

  • Audio Format(s): English: DTS: X and English DTS-HD 7.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Swedish
  • Dynamics: This is a perfectly balanced track. The surrounds and height speakers prioritize gunfire, engine noise, water all around you, while the subwoofer gets worked by explosions and gunfire. The center channel is used just as it should be as well, and there is a great multidimensional sound to the audio mix. Dynamically speaking, it’s near perfect.
  • Low Frequency Extension: LFE begins immediately with the Universal logo. We are treated to a very nice, vibrating rumble. The same can be said for several moments of battle, and chases on the high seas. There are a ton of active subwoofer moments to savor in this mix.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds are used very well with the ambient noises of the open ocean. Water sounds are all around the listening area. Crowd sounds and explosions are presented beautifully in those channels as well.
  • Height: The height channels are used just right in this mix. We hear those explosions travel from the surrounds to the height channels. Large crowds, sails raising, and jet ski motors whiz above your head and pan from left to right. Music can occasionally be heard moving around the top half as well.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is presented perfectly in whatever channel it needs to be in at any particular time.

Extras 

Unfortunately, besides a slipcover, digital code and standard Blu-ray, Waterworld comes to the 4K Blu-ray format with no extras whatsoever. I guess the two cuts of the movie could be considered an extra, but I don’t really see it that way. I am certain the filmmakers, actors and more did not necessarily want to relive their Apocalypse Now experience again. The lack of extras will make the films fans want to grab a copy of the Arrow video Blu-ray that came out earlier this year, where they are likely to be fascinated with those extras.

Summary 

Re-watching Waterworld for only the second time, I was struck by how much I remembered from that first time. If a movie is terrible, you’re likely only remembering the terrible parts, but I remembered lots of great sequences. Revisiting them in this amazing format was also a great experience. With the top-notch video and audio on this disc, it’s a no brainer pick up for fans, and for those going into this for the first time, tone down those high brow expectations, and just go with it! Definitely worth a look!

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