Kevin Costner's Waterworld actually considered for adaptation

Shocking! A.V. Club shares that the SyFy channel may make a TV series out of Costner's terrible flop. "Syfy's reasoning is that Waterworld continues to be a decent performer every time they air it—and as Nielsen boxes are not currently capable of measuring ironic and/or drunk viewing, it's considered a big enough hit to think about revisiting Kevin Costner's postapocalyptic panorama of pee-drinking and jet skis on a weekly basis, despite it being one of the most legendary flops of all time."



  1. Waterworld would have been a fine film if they hadn’t tried to give it a plot.  Kevin Costner just sailing around recycling his urine was amazingly compelling.

    1. Plus, it was filmed in Hawaii and everyone loves Hawaii… even if Costner is there, swilling his urine, talking to his pet tomato and swimming around in a wig, while wearing gills.  (Yes, I DID watch the movie, more than once). 

    2. Wait a minute. “SyFy” has an audience that isn’t drunk and/or ironic?  Who are these people?  Clearly not either of us.

      1.  Gasp – I think you’re right. WHY did I think it was from Waterworld? Maybe he did say it in both films. I guess I’ll have to rewatch the film ;o)

        1. “Heinecken? Fuck that shit! Pabst! Blue! Ribbon!”

          I hope you don’t call yourself a hipster, ’cause you totally flunked your final exam if you do.

          1.  So the Hipsters are David Lynch’s fault? Seriously though, what’s up with the Pabst Blue Ribbon and the hipsters? Pabst is a beer that men who were born before world war I drink and think it’s almost too flavorful but what are they going to drink otherwise, Ballantine? KIDS, GET OFF MY LAWN!

          2. Hipsters are usually materially poor aesthetes and PBR is the highest-quality American pisswater beer.  Pretty simple.

            Lynch isn’t to blame for hipsters.  Hipsters are an emergent property of youth culture.  But Lynch’s work is inscrutable (or at least difficult-to-scrute) and therefore obscure, and hipsters gravitate towards inscrutable, obscure cultural artifacts.

  2. Most evaluations of Waterworld I’ve read add “that actually turned out to be a passable adventure flick” to “Legendary flop “.

    I’d rather watch a Waterworld series than another god-damned thing about zombies, vampires, or werewolves. Or about people pretending to hunt ghosts, or look for crap at garage sales.

      1. If you could get rid of the smokers smoking cigarettes, and just being evil smokers because they still burn petrochemicals, the whole things will be a long way towards being better.

        OTOH, we’ve all seen how SyFy added horses to Riverworld.

  3. “Flop” doesn’t mean a movie is bad – it means it’s a commercial failure.  Plenty of bad movies make bank, and plenty of good ones flop.

    1. Indeed. After all, how many times has The Rocky Horror picture show been shown since its original release? An even better argument can be made vis-a-vis the reboot of BattleStar Galactica. 

        1. Do you mean Shock Treatment?  Antinous may not agree, but I for one feel that movie’s exactly as famous as it deserves to be.

          1. Shock Treatment is beyond awful. It is shown to prospective suicide bombers to make them lose the will to live. It produces boredom so great one viewing will kill 10 French post-modern philosophers. Any device playing the movie emits gamma radiation. Any eye used to see it becomes clouded. Any mind used to understand it becomes dim. And the new actor that plays “Brad” is rather stiff.

            I have never walked out of a movie theatre. But (and this is the non-existent God’s honest truth!) I walked away from a hot tub full of naked women in order to stop watching Shock Treatment. My one and only time I’d be in a hot tub full of naked women. And my only regret is that I stayed in too long.

    2. Donny Darko, a fantastic film, had the misfortune of premiering something like three days after 9/11. So, it flopped.

      Actually, a weekly Donny Darko episode would be pretty ok.

        1. No, no you’re not. That film was rubbish. It has exactly one thing going for it, a soundtrack with one (admittedly, extremely) good song. Everything else was complete garbage. It was just weird for the sake of being weird. Incomprehensible for the sake of being incomprehensible. 

          1. You guys are missing, like, 35 dimensions of meaning, man. I mean, what could be incomprehensible about a plot involving time travel and meds-induced psychosis?

          2. Well, I think David Lynch is mostly weird for the sake of being weird, and I suspect a lot of his weirdness came from making up stuff uncritically as he went along. 
            I still liked Twin Peaks, though.

        2.  Nope. I watched it, twice, but it sucked both times. There was no extra depth. Just new levels of crapness.

          Then again I also despised Brokeback Mountain and There Will Be Blood, which are in my humble opinion tied for worst movie ever; so apparently I just don’t get good cinema.

          1. I take it you haven’t seen Monster’s Ball then.  That is a pile of shit I still want my 2 hours back from.

          2. One never knows.  I loved Brokeback Mountain, hated There Will Be Blood, enjoyed 3,000 Miles to Graceland, couldn’t find anything to enjoy in Fargo except the woodchipper, adore The Apartment and City of Lost Children, and the only movie I’ve ever actually walked out on was Shakes The Clown.

            I suspect we’re all different flavors of Philistine.

  4. That doesn’t sound right. Since when does SyFy want anything that bears a passing resemblance to Science Fiction?

  5. Actually, the ‘bomb’ label is not based on fact (worldwide gross was slightly more than it cost to make and market the film) but it has stuck nonetheless. Probably worth thinking about how humans are quick to label…

    Surely, there have been far worse films, and there’s no doubt that there have been films that have lost far more money.

  6. I don’t understand how it was a flop?  Wikipedia pegs it as making $264,218,220 in box office receipts out of a $174 Million budget.  Is Wikipedia wrong?

    1.  I think it took a long time to make that money back, and I think it made it mostly overseas.  I’ve noticed that the Hollywood media tend to label movies as flops which don’t earn their money back several times over through the domestic box office in a relatively short time period, i.e. first run of a few months.  Those stories inevitably say that the investors expect to eventually break even or earn a modest profit through overseas revenues, DVDs, etc.  It seems only a relative few big Hollywood movies truly lose money.

      Put another way, that’s not a great return on that kind of bank if it took a few years to trickle in.  They want bank and they want it this quarter, otherwise they could be buying t-bills or something.

    2. Budgets don’t include things like advertising or distribution, do they? They still may have lost money on it, especially if they were trying hard on the international markets.

      1.  Yeah, but Box Office doesn’t include things like DVD sales and television rights. So it all tends to balance out.

    3. As I understand it, a movie has to make at least 2x its budget back to be profitable to the original investors (everything else is lost in distribution, advertising, the theater’s cut, etc…).  So by that metric, the movie is still 84 million bucks in the hole. 

      So most people came out alright on the movie, but some probably lost money.

  7. ‘Waterworld’ has grossed $265 million. Some flop. Bad books make good movies. Bad movies make good tv shows. All true. I read it on the internet. People call it a flop because Costner and Hopper are just really terrible.

      1. Not really the same thing. The film version of Buffy was mainly a flop because the writer and director walked away from the project as the producers insisted on making it crappier and crappier. Thankfully he decided he wanted to salvage the show and made on of the most epic TV shows of my generation. 

        Then he continued working and everything he touched was either brilliant or Dollhouse.

          1.  Pearlman is epic in *anything he does*. That comes as no surprise. For me, he was indeed the saving grace of Resurrection.

  8. He trades a pot of dirt for a tomato plant… which is in a pot… with dirt in it… more dirt than he traded in the first place… #Postapoconomics?

  9. I just don’t understand why people revile so much Waterworld, it´s not a great movie, but is metric tons of fun and cheesy. 

  10. Not going to lie I love that movie. I love starwars. Come to think of it most scifi movies are very cheesy and yet enourmously entertaining. Dont think waterworld deserves this hate. Save the hate for honey boo boo

  11. Many attribute the much of the movie’s weakness was due to two opposing creative leaders on the project.

    Kevin Reynolds (who directed Costner before in the greatly under-appreciated “Fandango”) wanted the movie to be an action-explosion-over the top popcorn movie. Thus, Dennis Hopper as the villan.

    Costner wanted it to be an exploration about his character. His isolation as a human that wasn’t really human (water breathing mutant), inability to connect with others, his exploration of the flooded Earth.

    I guess they fought through the whole production. Personally I’m curious what the movie would have been like if Costner controlled the whole thing. I think there is some interesting science-fiction ground to explore with his character.

  12. I’ll admit. If we see the ‘on the water settlement atolls’ as opposed to ‘people trying to colonize the few specks of land that exist’ I’d be interested. Invintive setting that a lot can be done with. Also it’s a break from zombies and green night vision cameras and odd house settling noises.

  13. Waterworld as a TV series sounds really intriguing actually. But since it’s on the SyFy channel it will likely involve professional wrestlers who catch ghosts so I will likely skip it.

  14. Waterworld had a lot of good going for it that was overshadowed by a cartoony badguy and generic action stuff. If the TV show explores the basic concepts of life on that world I think it will be pretty interesting!

  15. I enjoyed Waterworld, and I don’t understand why it’s consistently held up as being terrible. I mean, I like me some terrible movies, but I tend to understand why others don’t like them. But I don’t see it for Waterworld.

    1.  There was too much of a head butting between the ‘seriousness’ and the ‘Bay-onnaise’  sides that most people didn’t take to it that well. And as others have mentioned people seem to love to rag on anything that doesn’t regenerate it’s investment in the first few weeks.

      Personally I like it.

      1. I liked the hammy villain. Hell he had charisma. He had a plan. Other than having a BAD plan the likes of badness has never seen before…. Reasonable villain.

        Pirate/religious nutcase raided an atol and found a girl that supposedly could get them to Dry Land. I like the concept.

  16. I have no problem watching Waterworld or The Postman. Seems like many elements of NBC’s Revolution are grabbed whole-cloth from Postman. If Waterworld were made today, with way less budget thanks to CGI, it would be a decent idea.

      1. What? I love Brin to pieces, but the Postman worked much better as a film.

        Do you _really_ want to see that whole scients-as-high-priests-to-a-fake-computer thing?

        Okay, okay, The Postman was an homage to a much-early form of SF writing. And it succeeds in that respect.

        1. “”Do you _really_ want to see that whole scients-as-high-priests-to-a-fake-computer thing?””

          Well not to WarHammer 40k levels, but I’d rather see science worship rather than the finance mass-cult we have now. Plus they were rather affable chaps in the end (from what I remember).

          Also we kind of have that now, like the average man couldn’t operate a satellite or a DNS server (or like my dad, a damn cellphone).

    1. My biggest beef with Waterworld and The Postman has always been that Costner spent waaaay too much money on both.  His star power alone wasn’t enough to attract enough first-run eyeballs to justify their enormous cost.  (Waterworld was made for around $175 million, at the time the most expensive movie ever until Titanic, and The Postman cost around $80 million, which was nowhere near small change.)    Waterworld failed to meet box office expectations, and The Postman lost oceans of money, and thus Kevin Costner more or less singlehandedly destroyed the Big-Budget Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction Spectacle for a generation, and I can’t forgive him for that.

      That said, both movies are pretty fun, if bloated and overlong, and would have been great little ~$20 million movies with b-list casts and a canny director.

      So I’d totally watch a remake.

  17. I bet this will ‘bomb’ the same way the movie did by going overbudget. Filming on the water seems like it’s always a disaster. And SyFy will probably use endless greenscreen with PS2 level wave graphics.

    Unless they stay mostly on land, which will probably become Terra Nova / Lost knock-off.

    1. I watched Battleship recently and that pretty much sums it up.  It’s like any of the Fast and Furious movies…from all kinds of angles they suck, but I’d watch just about any of them if they are on TV.

  18. I loved waterworld. great movie, great premise, dirt as money! genius! and with the new ocean rise predictions we’re seeing for the next 500 years it should be required watching for policy makers! ha!

  19. I think the basic premise of Waterworld could make a good to great television show, but… hey it’s SyFy doing it so there is virtually no hope of THAT happening.
    Main problems with the movie? 1. Costner can’t act his way out of a paper bag, never has, never will 2. It was overthunk and overproduced. 1/2 the budget a cleaner storyline and someone other than Costner and the thing would have popped.

    1. Kevin Costner is Kevin Costner in Kevin Costner.  After Robin Hood, I just couldn’t watch *anything* with the Surfer Dude of Sherwood Forest in it.

  20. What in god’s name is “ADAPTION”?  Isn’t it “adaptation”?  Or have I been doing it wrong all these years?  I’m having sad feel.

  21. Although it’s not a BAD word — sort of a mash of “adoption” and “adaptation,” as if Waterworld were an orphan and they’re going to both adopt and transform it.  Neologize me!

  22. The premise of Waterworld is solid eco-fantasy, and could be done well. Seeing as how it’s Syfy developing it though, it’ll be C list actors reading wooden lines against poorly done CG backdrops.

  23. Jared Wesenberg should do some more research on what is a “flop” before he applies the term again.

    Waterworld was an entertaining movie, opened at #1 at the boxoffice, and eventually turned a profit.  I would like to be involved with flops like that.

  24. I’d like more television SF if it didn’t always seem to spend so much time with awkward and improbable romance plotlines.

    Waterworld as a TV show would only work if they did it on the water, which is expensive and thus likely to be done with crappy CGI – and therefore suck.  They will balance the cost of water filming by over-emphasizing and over-writing micro-interactions between key characters, and it will become yet another story about power struggles, misunderstandings, teenage rebellion and all the rest of the crap that rules the TV.

    Outcasts on the water.

    Now, make a movie or television show out of the pirate city in ‘The Scar’ and you might just suck me in forever.

    1. Waterworld as a TV show would only work if they did it on the water, which is expensive and thus likely to be done with crappy CGI – and therefore suck.

      They could make it a reality show filmed on a floating platform 1,000 miles from anything. Contestants could face challenges, and the loser would have to be Kevin Costner’s bunkmate for the week before being shipped back to civilization.

      1. I really thought you were going to suggest losers would be exiled from the platform in a canoe and left to live or die depending on their own wits and luck. 

  25. I liked Waterworld – the ‘suckiness’ theme came out of Hollywood, not audience reaction, because they hated Costner’s independence.

     A TV show eh?!  Maybe an online game like DayZ, but a series … 

  26. People enjoy it when other people fail.  Not always, and not everyone.  But, people really do like to criticize the faults of others.  Look into yourself, and see what’s really going on, if you do that.  I’m one of those, often enough.  It’s all about my ego.

    For instance, the post we’re all responding too.  I’ve seldom seen such *enjoyment* of denigrating the efforts of others.

    The biggest reason the film was a flop was that it was extremely expensive to film on water.  It couldn’t make all that money back.  But, I’ve watched it many times; if it hadn’t been so expensive, it would’ve been considered an interesting action film.  Dennis Hopper was a little over the top as the half-crazed warlord, but do you have any idea how many post apocalyptic plots feature unreasoning warlords?

    1.  Compared to Humungous or the Toecutter Hopper’s character was a pretty reasonable guy.  And more believable than Tina Turner.

    1. Because the cast was crap and the writing sunk it?

      It didn’t have the same magic the original had (which started out on Showtime.)

      1.  Yes, it was different from SG1 – it was more gritty ala BG.  That’s why I liked it.  SG1 and SG:A were both very campy.  I liked them, but not as much.

  27. Actually the film didn’t flop at the box office. World wide earning were over 260 million dollars. The main reason the media railed against it at the time was because of its bloated budget and troubled production.

  28. I would definitely watch it, it is one of my all time favourite movies ever. Its a classic in my opinion, the pinnacle of 90’s post apocalyptic cinema….featuring Kevin Costner.

    I have always thought how well it would suit a game adaptation. Sort of sandbox (waterbox even) with crafting from salvage, sailing elements, boat repair, submersible elements were you explore submerged cities looking for items to trade. Stealth elements were you lurk underwater for an indefinite amount of time( gills will help). The lore in the movie itself if you look at it closely enough is quite rich, plus it has a really unique aesthetic.

    I think marketed correctly it would be a real success, its sort of everyone’s guilty pleasure. The movie they were told they weren’t meant to like, just look at the many comments above defending it. If a tv adaptation was done correctly it could be a genuine success, the only problem I can see here is SyFy messing it up.

    1. It would run into a serious realism problem.  The thing about sailing in a big ocean is that it takes a long time.  Weeks.  So sailing in my mmorpg for 2 weeks to get to another character would be boring as hell.

      Which would require a shortcut of some sort, which would in turn kill the realism and interest of the game.

  29. Waterworld was at least as entertaining a post-apocalyptic wasteland as the Walking Dead, when I watched it I didn’t spend a lot of time wondering what happened to make our band of survivors morons. The reason that Waterworld was such a turkey was not that it was god-awful, but rather that it didn’t make anywhere near enough money to justify its cost. Hell of a criteria to judge a popcorn flick by.

    Man I can’t believe I just stood up for Waterworld,

    1. You’re not the first, nor the last.  It was entertaining enough to replace the old Miami Vice Action Spectacular on the Universal Studios Tour.

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