4K UHD AW Kautzer's Home Video Home Video/Streaming

4K UHD Review: Arrow Video’s Waterworld (Limited Edition)  

Waterworld 4K

The mad scientists at Arrow Video have done it again… they’ve upgraded their Waterworld limited edition set to a beautiful 4K UHD with all the extras.  

The Film 

NOTE: This is a discussion of the three cuts included in this release.  

I still remember everything about the lead-up to Waterworld.  The LA Times would report daily… let me say that again… DAILY about this film.  The ballooning budgets.  The egos of the Kevins (Reynolds and Costner).  The constant rewriting.  Everything.  

Even then it was wild to me that this was being reported on like it was news.  It shouldn’t have shocked me. By this point in my life, I had read two detailed accounts of massively budgeted films that went off the rails (eg Bonfire of the Vanities and Heaven’s Gate), but this one was wild by those accounts as well.  But that didn’t stop me from eagerly anticipating seeing what $185 million dollars in 1995 dollars (adjusted its about $380 million which is about the median ground for a Summer Tentpole studio film in 2023 – see budgets of Fast X and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny).  When Waterworld was unleashed in the Summer of 1995 you bet your ass I was there opening weekend center row center seat in one of the biggest theaters waiting to be wowed.  

That’s the thing.  I wanted to be wow.  I thought that the Kevins could deliver.  They had before.  Twice!  Fandango was a great Summer Coming of Age film set at the height of Vietnam.  Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, at the time, was a HUGE moment – Costner just won a boatload of Oscars for Dances with Wolves.  I wasn’t cynical enough at this point to look at Waterworld through jaded eyes.  I wanted it to be good.  I wanted it to be great.  

After all, is said and written about Waterworld rarely discussed is that it is a solid action-adventure film. More so than a solid one, Waterworld, I s dare I say good??? Yes, I have no qualms with saying Waterworld is a good film. Ultimately, the issues most people have with this film are wrapped up in their bullshit with the movie. 

Set hundreds of years in the future the polar ice caps have melted leading to the few remaining humans struggling. Also, the search for the mythic “Dryland” has continued to no avail. As the plot dictates a loner, the Mariner (Kevin Costner) sails into an atoll where a young girl (Tina Morjorino) with a due to where “Dry Land” could be. Forced to help her and her ward (Jeanne Tripplehorn) find their way to that mythic land and away from the Smokers led by the Deacon (Dennis Hopper).

Even during its initial theatrical run, this reviewer did not understand the venom laid at this film. Waterworld in its theatrical form is a fun albeit odd story. Part of the oddity comes from underdeveloped B and C storylines. Costner is in full-on Anti-hero mode here without much support in the theatrical version. He looks like an asshole most of the runtime. In the TV and Extended Versions, this problem is all but solved. These versions allow for an audience to understand The Mariner’s Point of View. He is treated much more harshly by everyone. The character also gets more of a voice in the longer cuts.

Point, in fact, the longer cuts are the way to go. Both alternate cuts of the film are 40 minutes longer but well worth the time to watch. Costner and Reynolds both suffer from Epichitis, where one cannot tell a story for anything less than 2 ½ hours. Here it is all but a parent as the theatrical out does have issues plot and character-wise where the other versions do not. Much can be said about Waterworld in its longer forms, but it cannot be criticized for being abbreviated or lacking a full narrative and well-rounded characters. It feels as though in its longer form both Star/Producer and Director are satisfied. In its theatrical form is more of an argument between its Star/Producer wanting one film and its Director wanting another.

Waterworld is mid-90s Event filmmaking at its finest. Drop your preconceived notions of what an over-bloated production it was. Rather enjoy a $185 million film the likes we will never see again. Revel in its excessive design and stunt work which are truly impressive three decades on. That is the magic of Waterworld big everything.  Included, the not mentioned, completely unhinged performance by Dennis Hopper in his full-on villain revival era (this coming on the heels of his performance in Speed a year earlier). 

If all that doesn’t work for you.  Waterworld is one of the best Mad Max rip-offs of all time besting most, if not all, the Italian’s post-apocalyptic work in the 1980s.  Yeah, I said it.  I don’t regret it.  You won’t either if you’ve never seen.  

The Transfer

The film is presented in 4K UHD with Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of the original theatrical cut.  The other two cuts are presented in HD on Blu-Ray from the best elements available.  

The Arrow Video 4K transfer (and HRD encoding) of the original negative on the Theatrical Cut of the film is a giant leap forward in image quality and all-around presentation.  The original Universal Blu-Ray was atrocious suffering from their over DNR-ing making sure every single piece of grain is all but erased. The 2019 Arrow Video Blu-ray corrects all the issues of the original Blu-ray.  The 2022 Universal UHD disc released last year is okay but Arrow’s work here is better in every way.  Cinematographer Dean Semler’s sun-soaked photography is beautifully reproduced with a healthy amount of grain.  The image running off my Sony 85-inch is as lush and filmic as I remember it opening weekend in the theater.  The work is so accomplished here you can literally see when the focus puller is having a slightly off day or off a shot.  The clarity and sharpness are that good.  The color spectrum benefits greatly from the Dolby Vision Encoding (which wasn’t present on the Universal 4K release).  The Dolby Vision is an all-around more natural and darker experience without the dreaded “crushed blacks” that can happen on the worse of transfers, especially with one that is more blistery sun-soaked as Waterworld is intended to be.  Bravo to Arrow for taking their initial work on their Blu-ray release and making it an all-around upgraded experience in 4K. 

The Extras

  • Six collector’s postcards
  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • Limited edition 60-page perfect bound book featuring new 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

They include the following; 


  • Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld – feature-length making-of documentary including extensive cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage
  • Dances With Waves – original archival featurette capturing the film’s production
  • Global Warnings – film critic Glenn Kenny explores the subgenre of ecologically themed end-of-the-world films
  • Production and promotional still gallery
  • Visual effects still gallery
  • Original trailers and TV spots

Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld (102:28) – this still stands as one of the best making-of documentaries of recent memory.  Malestorm is the kind of honest behind-the-scenes making-of you would hope fills every special edition you open.  The documentary covers everything from Rader’s first script, the development, Costner coming onto the project, the massive production, and criticism by the media… everything is covered.  It’s done with level-headed honesty that doesn’t feel like people are with grudges but just a very taxing shoot.  We will never get what really happened during this production, but this is the closest we probably will.  Featuring comments by director Kevin Reynolds, writer Peter Rader, producer Charles Gordon, cinematographer Dean Semler, script supervisor Anna Maria Quintana, production designer Dennis Gassner and many more including archival interviews with Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and the late great Dennis Hopper.  Note: Reynolds mentions his film Rapi Nui, watch this film and hope that Arrow or someone decides to do a special edition of that film as the stories about that production pale in comparison to Waterworld.

Dances with Wolves (9:13) – this archival featurette EPK with onset interviews with Tripplehorn, Costner, Hopper, Reynolds, Majorino, Gordon, Semler, and Gassner. The primary focus is the Atoll set and the massive undertaking it was.  This features some great b-roll footage from the making of the film. 

Global Warnings (22:21) – this visual essay with film critic Glenn Kenny where he discusses the various films of the Ecological End of World, of the Post-Apocalyptic sub-genre.  Using films like Things to ComeWhen World CollideThe Day the Earth Caught Fire as reference points Kenny moves through the evolution of sub-genre. The Birds and Hitchcock are discussed and how nature turns against humanity. Kenny even manages to discuss Costner’s own The Postman.  A fascinating and thorough trip through the sub-genre.  

Image Galleries 

Production Image Gallery – the production image gallery is further broken into five separate galleries below.  They do not run automatically but one must use their remote to navigate through each of the still galleries.  

  • Concept Art – the gallery consists of 64 various drawings and concepts used and not used in the film.  
  • Production Stills – the gallery consists of 74 different photos taken during the production to promote the film.  
  • Behind the scenes: Hawaii – the gallery consists of 36 different candid photos from the production’s time in various locations in Hawaii. 
  • Behind the scenes: Los Angeles – the gallery consists of 24 different candid photos from the studio-based shoot in LA.  
  • Miniatures and Visual Effects – the gallery consists of 46 behind-the-scenes photos taken during the creation and execution of the various VFX/Miniatures for the production.  

Promotional Image Gallery – this gallery contains 36 various pieces of production art, world premiere tickets, press kit (before they were EPK kits), home video art, ads, and more that make up some of the images used to promote the film.  The gallery does not run automatically but one must use their remote to navigate through the still gallery.  

Trailer Galleries 

Original Teaser (2:00) – the trailer is framed at 2:35 and one wonders if the film was shot with Super35 and they changed their mind (like they did so much with their film) to keep it open matte (1:85) then continue with the scope.  The teaser is gangbusters.  Costner and Co. knew how to put together a teaser back in the day.  See their teaser trailer for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for further proof. 

Original Trailer (2:15) 

Original TV Spots (9:06) – the 15-TV Spots are all hilarious and should not be missed.


  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the extended US TV cut, which runs over 40 minutes longer than the theatrical cut

See the review above that discusses this additional version of the film. 


  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the extended European Ulysses cut, which includes previously censored shots and dialogue

See the review above that discusses this additional version of the film. 

The Final Thought 

Arrow Video continues to do exemplary work on their 4K Upgrades.  Waterworld is a prime example of that.  Taking their 4K restoration and giving us native 4K picture while keeping all the special features of the original Blu-Ray release. Highest Possible recommendations!!!

Arrow Video’s 4K UHD Edition of Waterworld is out now 

%d bloggers like this: