Kevin Reynolds’ 1995 post-apocalyptic action-adventure movie “Waterworld” is a movie you may or may not like, but it’s not a movie you can put aside. The epic nautical story takes us to a dark future, where an unnamed wanderer – who passes by the Mariner – teams up with a woman and child to embark on a reluctant journey to find the mythical barren land.
Kevin Costner delivers a reluctant performance against Jeanne Tripplehorn in the lead roles. A lavish budget and extravagant vibe make up for the occasional glitch (a “waitress” in a world without restaurants). If you need to refresh the final moments of this retro-futuristic genre foray, let us take you into troubled waters. SPOILERS TO COME.
Synopsis of the plot of the aquatic world
Polar ice caps have melted far into the future, and humans now live as sea nomads in scattered groups. These groups mainly include slave traders or smokers, while lone sailors are called Drifters. The Mariner is such a wanderer, roaming endless oceans – after a few acrobatics, he finds a lighter that doesn’t work. Meanwhile, he meets a friendly wanderer and discovers an atoll (a floating colony) eight days to the east. According to the code, something has to be traded, but the wanderer has it all.
At this point, a group of Smokers ambush the Mariner’s ship with her sails lowered, but the Mariner tactfully escapes the situation. He reached the atoll, seeking to exchange 3.2 kilograms of pure land for 124 tokens (the currency of the new world). After making the trade, the Mariner goes to Helene’s seedy bar to grab two glasses of hydro, but a henchman wants a drink too. The sailor is not eager to receive guests, and people are discovering that he has gills for his ears and feet like fins. They take the Mariner for a monster and lock him up. Old Gregor meets him near the cage, but he doesn’t have the courage to let him escape.
The next morning, as they prepare to plunge the Mariner into a bog, the atoll faces a horde of Smokers from outside. With the help of Helen and Enola, the Mariner flees by agreeing to take them to the mythical dry land. Enola has a map drawn on his back leading to dry land, and as the word spreads, the deacon and his pack of smokers want a piece of Enola. The ichthyic sapien is skeptical at first, but he comes to show his more human side as the story progresses.
Waterworld Ending: How did the world get overwhelmed?
In the post-apocalyptic “aquatic world”, polar ice caps have melted and sea levels have risen by about 8,200 meters, submerging most of the land underwater. Humans live in the oceans, but with limbs instead of fins, they are not meant to live in water. Therefore, humans still grow trees when and where they can and dream of dry land. Fresh water (called “hydro” in the mythical universe of the film) and pure earth are the rarest raw materials. But the prodigious child Enola and her visions give us some hope since the tattoo engraved on her back is said to be a map leading directly to dry land.
The card is of immense value, and therefore the smokers and their leader, the deacon, want Enola dead or alive. The Smokers continue to hunt Enola, and when forced to, Helen is clear on the map. She thinks the tattoo on Enola’s back would take them to dry land, but the sailor knows best. He takes her on an underwater journey to the so-called “dry land”, habitable cities submerged under water.
After the visit, while Helen is still recovering from her sight, they realize that the deacon has hijacked the trimaran. The Smokers burn the boat, capture Enola, and take him to their dilapidated ship. Meanwhile, the smoke from the burning ship attracts old Gregor, and he comes to save the group. They head to another ship, sheltering the atoll survivors.
According to Old Gregor, the unknown engravings on Enola’s back are numbers – latitudes and longitudes. Enola is just a problem for the survivors, and they don’t want anything to do with her. The Mariner goes to the Smoker ship to save Enola. Meanwhile, Old Gregor solved the tattoo puzzle. The world has changed.
Initially, we think the post-apocalyptic world was created by global warming or a man-made catastrophe. However, Old Gregor’s discovery changes the equation. The poles have changed positions, which means that the south pole is now the north pole and vice versa. This disaster is also probably the reason why the world is submerged under water. The occurrence of the event would cause drastic changes in the geography of the planet, and this appears to be the incident that propelled the melting of the ice caps.
Where is the arid land? Who’s the family at Dryland Cottage?
Fast forward to the last moments, the Mariner wakes up in the plane to find a seagull sitting on the rails. The seagulls point to land, and he sees a mountain peeking through the clouds. Despite the Mariner’s unwavering skepticism, dry land still seems to exist. As they land on the island (likely Mount Everest, considering the height), Old Gregor is delighted to find a source of fresh water.
They advance in their path, and the Atoll Enforcer comes across an old hut. In the cabin, they find two skeletons, hand in hand, lying on a table. The pages on the table are painted with the same symbol and the same engravings as on the back of Enola. While the Atoll Enforcer suggests burying the skeletons in the earth, Gregor believes the dead were aware of their impending fate. Enola walks into the cabin to take a closer look, and she cryptically says, “I’m home.”
The public may wonder who the family is in the chalet, and we are forced to speculate with no concrete answer. The most plausible explanation, however, is that the dryland cottage family is the Enola family. She claims to have seen arid lands several times, and in her simple drawings we find traces of arid land objects and animals. In addition, the tattoo on his back matches the illustrations found in the hut. His true sadness after the discovery most likely indicates that the family was somehow related to Enola. From the extended cut, we learn that the skeletons did indeed belong to Enola’s parents.
Does the sailor stay with Helen and Enola?
Although the Mariner, Helen, and Enola were able to start a family of their own, natural selection apparently made it difficult for the Mariner to live in the field. With gills under his ears and Siamese fingers, he evolves as a new human for the new world. A mutant like him has no family because humans want to ostracize him at first sight from the gills. This is why the Mariner separates from the rest of the team at the penultimate moment. He finds a boat anchored to the shore and sets sail for unexplored oceans. Meanwhile, Helen and Enola stay to rehabilitate the “lost paradise”.
Read more: Where was Waterworld filmed?