TWO STARS – Entertaining but shallow
In the ancient writings of many civilizations there are accounts of a flood. Like the Bible, they report that the earth was covered with water. But among these writings the Bible is unique in reporting that it was the sin of mankind which caused the flood.
Until now. Kevin Costner’s WATERWORLD imagines not a flood of antiquity, but a flood of the future in which people did something “really bad,” as child star Tina Majorino says it, to melt the polar icecaps and flood the earth.
Imagining a world with no dry land is not only a filmmaker’s nightmare, but a primal human fear.
The fear of drowning in an endless sea, figuratively or literally, seems to be a curse feared by poets of old and screenwriters of today.
Why? Is the fear of water a spiritual fear, or is it simply biological? Is there something deep within the human psyche which remembers or is the literature a result of other forces?
In a partial answer to such questions, WATERWORLD creates a primal battle between good and evil in which we find both a remarkable savior and a cultic demon.
Needing a savior who can overcome a watery world, the film creates a person who is both human and fish.
The Mariner (Costner) is a mutant. Born with gills and unusual strength, he can manage the sea like no other.
Though lacking concern for others due to his isolation because of their prejudice against a mutant, he overcomes his seclusion and becomes the savior of a special girl who has come to take them all to “dry land.”
The villain is portrayed clearly in spiritual terms as a cult leader. Taking the religious title of “Deacon” (Dennis Hopper) he fills the role of an evil, charismatic, manipulative leader of “the smokers.”
Like all cult leaders, the oratory he uses to control his followers is full of religious visions and Machiavellian deceit.
Having proclaimed that they have a destiny to fulfill, he inspires them to the compulsive busyness of rowing their huge oil tanker to “dry land,” though he doesn’t know where it is.
The obvious emptiness of the lives of the men on his ship allows us to see first hand the power of a cult leader.
Powerful, ingenious, ruthless and thoroughly self-serving, Deacon has no conscience. To him, human beings are instruments one uses and disposes at will.
Evil becomes a game, and violence a capricious act.
Throwing a match toward the explosive oil in the hull of the tanker, he seems to court death, as we’ve seen in cult leaders Jim Jones and David Koresh.
Why would anyone follow such a man? What emptiness does he fill?
Is it the need to belong? To have purpose? To have a leader?
Does evil create its own community in which fear is the life-blood just as love is the lifeblood of true community?
How do we deal with such an evil community?
The solution Mariner chooses is much the same as we’ve seen in real life.
The blazing death of Waco was not much different than the blazing death of “the smokers,” only women and children are missing from the film.
In a world that is drowning, desperation seems less out of place, but is it really the solution? Who do we become in such acts?
Finding “dry land” in a world that is flooding is not an easy task. In the final analysis it takes someone who has been there and comes for us, as shown in the film.
But then, the question becomes, are we able to live there, or will we be so used to the torrent that we will get “land sickness” as did the band of survivors?
WATERWORLD is a swirling ocean of primal fears and spiritual choices. Though the Bible promises the earth will never again be flooded with water, we are nevertheless all on a journey to find a new world and “dry land.”