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Waterworld (Limited Edition) (4K UHD Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

In a post-apocalyptic future where the ice caps have melted and flooded the world, a mutant mariner runs from raiders and helps a woman and her daughter find dry land.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Kevin Costner starred in and co-produced Waterworld with his friend Kevin Reynolds as director. Shot entirely on the water and some artificial islands in Hawaii, the $235 million budget was the most expensive at the time, and despite its relatively good box office success was seen as a failure.

A Mad Max clone set entirely on the water, the film is set in a dystopian future after global warming has melted the ice caps and flooded the entire planet. People now live in floating colonies and dirt is now a commodity as valued as gold. The Mariner (Costner) is one of the small percentage of humans who have managed to adapt by developing gills, but this also makes him a pariah. He lives on his own traveling on his boat, growing his lime plant. When he stops off at a colony to try to sell his dirt, he ends up arrested when they find out he is a mutant with gills. When the colony is attacked by jet-ski riding Smokers headed by nefarious Deacon (Dennis Hopper) the Mariner manages to escape with shopkeeper Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and her daughter Enola (Tina Majorino). The Raiders keep in hot pursuit of the Mariner, looking for dry land to refill their jet-skis, and Enola supposedly has a map tattooed on her back that can lead to land, but can anyone decipher it?

Where to begin with this film? The plot holes are numerous, like, where did or are the raiders finding the fuel for their jet skis if they so desperately need to find where dry land is to refuel? Where are all their filtered cigarettes coming from in a deindustrialized world with little soil?

Costner’s lack of charisma and non-emotive voice is out of step with the bombastic action sequences that are admittedly spectacular and the stuff all popcorn blockbusters are made of. Reynolds (and Costner who took over direction to finish the film) provide edge-of-the-seat chase sequences on the sea, dazzling explosions, and underwater diving. The film breaks down because the dialogue is too campy (You know, I thought you were stupid, friend. But I underestimated you. You are a total freaking r****d!) and the run time too long – and this is just the theatrical cut, not the even longer Ulysses Cut.

Visually, Waterworld does look stunning on the glistening blue seas with the Mad Max costumes and junkyard colonies. As a guilty pleasure, the film works, but it is ultimately forgettable.

  • Jeanne Tripplehorn in Waterworld (1995)
  • Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino in Waterworld (1995)
  • Kevin Costner in Waterworld (1995)
  • Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino in Waterworld (1995)
  • Dennis Hopper in Waterworld (1995)
  • Kevin Costner in Waterworld (1995)
  • Kevin Costner in Waterworld (1995)
  • Waterworld (Limited Edition) 4K Ultra HD Combo (Arrow Video)
  • Waterworld (Limited Edition) 4K Ultra HD Combo (Arrow Video)
  • Waterworld (Limited Edition) 4K Ultra HD Combo (Arrow Video)

The Video

Waterworld has been “newly restored from original film elements by Arrow Films.” I have been told that this has been simply re-encoded using the 4K transfer provided by Universal. The latter information conflicts with Arrow saying they have newly restored the film from the original film elements. This looks like a new restoration to my eyes and is multiples better than the original Universal 4K release. The granularity looks finer and more consistent across the film’s run time with superb shadow details. The Dolby Vision coding presents a natural color palette that looks rich and warm, has gorgeous aqua blue waters, and flames with deep copper tones that ‘pop’ in the specular highlights. The film is presented on disc in a 1.85:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement with a MaxLL of 976 nits and MaxFALL of 180 nits.

The Audio

Arrow Video provides Waterworld with a rollicking lossless English Dolby Atmos mix. This is a showpiece audio mix that has bombastic low end, excellent use of the overhead channels in which you can hear atmospherics like the din of the Mariner’s boat or the rush of waves, the surround channels fill with atmospherics and discrete sounds. We get wide dynamic range and an energetic score balanced wonderfully into the mix.

The Supplements

Arrow Video loads this set up with a lot of collectibles, archival documentaries, and all three versions of the film.

Limited Edition Features:

  • Three cuts of the film newly restored from original film elements by Arrow Films
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Six collector’s postcards
  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • Limited edition 60-page perfect bound book featuring writing on the film by David J. Moore and Daniel Griffith, and archival articles
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper

Disc One – 4K Ultra HD Theatrical Cut:

  • Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld (1080p; 01:42:28) – A feature-length documentary including extensive cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage.
  • Dances with Waves (Upscaled 1080p; 00:09:13) – An original archival featurette capturing the film’s production.
  • Global Warnings (1080p; 00:22:21) – Film critic Glenn Kenny explores the subgenre of end-of-the-world Hollywood blockbusters.
  • Image Galleries (1080p):
    • Production Image Gallery
    • Promotional Image Gallery
  • Original Trailers:
    • Original Teaser (1080p; 00:02:00)
    • Original Trailer (1080p; 00:02:15)
    • Original TV Spots (Upscaled 1080p; 00:09:06)

Disc Two:

  • THE TV CUT (BLU-RAY) [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the extended US TV cut, which runs over 40 minutes longer than the theatrical cut
  • Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 stereo audio options

Disc Three:

  • THE ULYSSES CUT (BLU-RAY) [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the extended European Ulysses cut, which include previously censored shots and dialogue
  • Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 stereo audio options

The Final Assessment

Arrow provides this popcorn film with what is the ultimate home theater showpiece. This release is magnitudes better than Universal’s previous 4K release and it comes with a truckload of bonus features and all three cuts of the film (two on Blu-ray only). Highly recommended for fans.


Waterworld (Limited Edition) is out on 3-disc 4K Ultra HD Combo June 27, 2023, from Arrow Video.


  • Rating Certificate: PG-13 (for some intense scenes of action violence, brief nudity and language)
  • Studios & Distributors: Universal Pictures | Gordon Company | Davis Entertainment | Licht/Mueller Film Corporation | Arrow Video
  • Director: Kevin Reynolds (Portions by Kevin Costner)
  • Written By: Peter Rader | David Twohy
  • Run Time: 135 mins.
  • Street Date: 27 June 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 976 nits
    • MaxFALL: 180 nits
  • Primary Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible)
  • Secondary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
  • Subtitles: English SDH

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In a post-apocalyptic future where the ice caps have melted and flooded the world, a mutant mariner runs from raiders and helps a woman and her daughter find dry land.Waterworld (Limited Edition) (4K UHD Review)
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