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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Waterworld is a 1995 American post-apocalyptic science fiction action film directed by Kevin Reynolds and co-written by Peter Rader and David Twohy. It was based on Rader's original 1986 screenplay and stars Kevin Costner, who also produced it with Charles Gordon and John Davis. It was distributed by Universal Pictures.

The setting of the film is in the distant future. Although no exact date was given in the film itself, it has been suggested that it takes place in 2500. The polar ice caps have completely melted, and the sea level has risen over 25,000 feet, covering nearly all the land. The film illustrates this with an unusual variation on the Universal logo, which begins with the usual image of Earth, but shows the planet's water levels gradually rising and the polar ice caps melting until nearly all the land is submerged. The plot of the film centers on an otherwise nameless antihero, "The Mariner", a drifter who sails the Earth in his trimaran.

The most expensive film ever made at the time, Waterworld was released to mixed reviews, praising the futuristic landscape and premise but criticizing the characterization and acting performances. The film also was unable to recoup its massive budget at the box office; however, the production did later break even due to video and other post-cinema sales. The film's release was accompanied by a tie-in novel, video game, and three themed attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Singapore, and Universal Studios Japan called Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular, which are all still running as of 2015.


At the beginning of the 21st century, the polar ice caps melted and the sea level rose to cover every continent on Earth. Surviving humans were scattered across the ocean on ramshackle floating communities known as atolls, mostly built from scrap metal and decrepit sea vessels. Over time, the survivors eventually forget that they ever lived on firm ground, adapting a mythological place named "Dryland" somewhere in the ocean.

Five hundred years after the apocalypse, a drifter, known only as "the Mariner", arrives at an atoll seeking to trade dirt, which is a precious commodity due to its usefulness as a medium for growing plants. When the mariner is revealed to be a mutant with webbed feet and gills who is able to breathe underwater, the fearful atollers vote to drown him in a brine pool they maintain for composting. As they begin lowering the Mariner into the sludge, local pirates known as Smokers raid the atoll. The Smokers are searching for an orphan girl named Enola, who has a map to Dryland tattooed on her back. The leader of the smokers is "the Deacon" (Dennis Hopper), who wants the map so he can be the first to claim Dryland and build a city upon it with his crew.

Enola and her guardian, Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn), had planned to leave the floating city with Gregor, an inventor. However, during the attack Gregor accidentally launches the gas balloon they planned to escape in with only himself on board, leaving the pair stranded. As the Smokers gain entry to the atoll, Helen rescues the Mariner from drowning in the sludge, and he agrees to help them escape on his trimaran.

Once out on the open sea, the trio encounter the Smokers again, but Helen's naïve actions result in damage to the Mariner's boat, and he angrily cuts her hair. Helen, convinced that Dryland exists and that people had not always lived on water, demands to know where the Mariner finds his dirt. The Mariner puts her in a diving bell and swims her down to the ruins of Denver where he collects dirt and scrap from the bottom of the sea. Helen realizes that former human civilization had indeed existed on land that is now submerged.

When they surface, the Mariner and Helen are captured by the Smokers and used to flush Enola from hiding. They dive overboard, barely escaping. Since Helen cannot breathe underwater, the Mariner uses his gills to breathe for both of them. They resurface to find everyone gone and the trimaran destroyed. They are rescued by Gregor in his balloon and taken to a new makeshift atoll where the survivors of the first atoll attack have regrouped.

Using a captured Smoker jet ski, the Mariner chases down the Deacon, finding him on the remaining hulk of the Exxon Valdez. The Deacon is celebrating with the huge Smoker crew, proclaiming they have found the map to Dryland. After the crew have all gone below decks to row the ship, the Mariner walks out onto the deck, where the Deacon and his top men are examining Enola's tattoo. He threatens to drop a flare into the oil reserve tank unless the Deacon releases Enola. Knowing the act would destroy the ship, the Deacon calls the Mariner's bluff, and is aghast when the Mariner makes good on his promise. The ship explodes below-decks and begins sinking while the Mariner escapes with Enola by climbing a rope up to Gregor's balloon.

In the final moments before the ship disappears, the Deacon manages to reach the rope himself and begins to climb it, ultimately making a grab for Enola, but Helen throws a bottle at him, causing him to fall. He pulls out his pistol and shoots one of the balloon's lines, causing Enola to fall into the sea. The Deacon mounts a jet ski and signals two other jet skiing Smokers to converge on Enola. The Mariner, seeing this, ties a rope around his ankle and jumps down to grab Enola in an impromptu bungee jump. The recoil of the cord pulls them to safety just as the jet skis collide and explode, killing the Deacon.

Gregor deciphers the Asian symbols on the map using an old China Airlines magazine. He realizes that they are coordinates and steers his balloon in that direction. They find Dryland, which is revealed to be Mount Everest. It is verdant and welcoming with fresh water, forests, and wildlife. Gregor, Enola, Helen and other atoll survivors land and find the remains of Enola's parents in a hut. They prepare to settle, but the Mariner decides he must leave as the ocean, his only home, calls to him, but not before Helen dubs him with the name "Ulysses."

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Waterworld" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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