It is “shark week” here at the Big Cousins week (not THAT shark week). So this year Nana and Papa are screening shark-related movies each night by decade, starting with the 70’s. Last night we let a naked lady sneak onto the screen during Waterworld from the 1990’s (think Mad Max on the water, as off the big island of Hawaii). The ice caps have melted, and 500 years in the future the only dry land is on the upper slopes of Mt. Everest, now a roosting place for seagulls. People have forgotten other dry land ever existed and the remaining bit is considered a myth by most.
There are a lot of profound observations in the film which tempt me to tell you the whole plot. But the main one about ice caps is apropos. Isn’t it amazing that Waterworld premiered 26 years ago? During that time the governments of the world began to think about the doom it depicts; the corporations have just recently got on board. And the next generation began to have issues when Greta Thunberg got fed up (don’t miss that link). But people are still debating whether global warming is a hoax — and I don’t mean you, I mean the U.S. Congress! The IPCC put out an alarming report recently and about half the population got alarmed. Then the news cycle moved on to how embarrassing it is to leave Afghanistan the way the army is evacuating — the place the country spent its climate-change-combating money.
At the time it was made, Waterworld was considered the biggest waste of film money ever, since it was the most expensive movie ever made at that point. It had problems. For instance, a million dollar set had to be reconstructed because a hurricane destroyed it. The sets are amazing; there is no CGI, for the most part. Two Pirates of the Caribbean movies subsequently beat it by over 100 million dollars and three Avengers movies are not far behind. Waterworld made a return on its huge investment, but people called it a flop and Kevin Costner got a bad reputation for a while. He and I are about the same age, but he somehow is about $250 million dollars richer. I was there when his profitable “flop” came out. Even now, as I did then, I think I think it was labeled a flop because it proposed the melting ice caps were going to be a problem and vested commercial interests were not yet finished selling the spoils they had pumped out of a world captive to capitalism.
Is there a future for a warming wicked world?
My mostly-tween grandchildren had quite a bit to say about the movie. I’m the only one who mentioned the naked lady. They had a lot of speculation about what land would actually be left when the ice melted and they debated other less-than-reasonable elements of the plot (like where are you refining the gasoline for all those tricked-out jets skis?). I made the point that the people commandeering all the gasoline would be the same ones who tried to develop the mythic place called “dry land” if they ever found it and conquered it. The grandkids vaguely relate to my application of Anabaptist/Celtic/Franciscan theology colored with Kevin Costner/Southern California sensibilities (he started as a Baptist from Lakewood). But I persist.
There was supposed to be a Waterworld 2. But the production was so mired in slander it never quite got off the ground. And Costner was not that interested in doing more. At one point he said something like, “They can just re-release the first one. It makes more sense now than ever.” But people would love to make “Waterworld 2: The attack on Dry Land” (at least that is what I would name it). It is just too ironic. The ice is melting and dry land is being attacked by fires and floods; hurricanes are lining up to deck Haiti and developers are still trying to squeeze every ounce of profit out of the housing market before everything changes. It is ironic that everything already changed.
When Kevin and I were about 20, I learned a section of the Bible that is always close at hand when the rulers of the world (and the church, etc.) are not paying attention to reality, but assuming they can make their own:
All you wild animals,
All you animals in the forest,
Come to eat.
His watchmen are blind,
All of them know nothing.
All of them are mute dogs unable to bark,
Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber;
And the dogs are greedy, they are never satisfied.
And they are shepherds who have no understanding;
They have all turned to their own way,
Each one to his unjust gain, without exception.
“Come,” they say, “let’s get wine, and let’s drink heavily of intoxicating drink;
And tomorrow will be like today, only more so.” (Isaiah 56:9-12 NASB)
Waterworld and Isaiah are on the same prophetic page and the same people are not listening.
I woke up this morning and had a couple more conversations with the kids. We were still marveling over the spectacle of imagination Waterworld represents. Those sets! That weird plot! John Dutton was once a mutant? Great stuff. In your face Dennis Hopper!
People are creative. This is kind of a strange aside here at the end of this piece. But I just discovered that farmers in Kansas are being taken over by a weed from the Southwest which has developed a tolerance for Roundup and other even-riskier weed killers. They may have to cultivate the weed as a food source, since they can’t keep ramping up the chemical bombs they use to kill it. That method is over. They are getting inventive. Organic farmers do not have the same issues with the weed. Maybe the corporate farmers will get more organic! They may finally get creative with the Creator rather than exploitative with the Invisible Hand.
It is pathetic to spend 20 something years on a failed war in Afghanistan, on a doomed method of farming and on debating whether the climate is changing due to human wickedness. All those are much more a waste of human ingenuity than a bloated bit of movie prophecy. But it is still true that when people put their mind and treasure to it, they come up with something wildly creative, like Waterworld, like the church which reinvents itself every generation, and like you, listening to the prophets wherever you find them and probably being one yourself. We might yet make it to dry land — or develop gills!