Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, Daniel von Bargen,
1997, 170 Minutes, Directed by: Kevin Costner
Description: Futurist Western
starring Costner as a charismatic drifter-turned-hero who leads the resistance
against a military tyrant (Will Patton) by reviving the long-dormant postal
system to reunite isolated communities in their fight for freedom. —
In my original review of Waterworld,
the previous Kevin Costner foray into the sci-fi genre, I wrote that it leaves a bitter
taste in ones mouth that so much money wasnt spent on some more original
material instead of doing Mad Max on water. Well, maybe Costner
read the review (ha! ha!) because he decided to base his latest film
on The Postman, a much-loved novel by celebrated science fiction author David Brin.
Now I must admit that I havent read the novel (his first, which has a substantial
cult following) but the film that resulted seems more like Waterworld on
than anything else.
The Postman is set in an America devastated by some unnamed cataclysm. The plot
involves a Dances With Wolves-type loner who, after escaping recruitment in a
viscous army of fascist thugs, takes a postal worker uniform off a skeleton and,
clutching some undelivered mail, passes himself off as a representative of the
"Restored United States of America." In the process he inspires down-trodden
townsfolk into rising into rebellion against the said army of fascist thugs.
"There’s a good film struggling to get out from under it all . . ."
Now, while the idea of a postal worker "handing out hope like candy in his
pockets" (like one character remarks during one of the films most
clumsiest-written scenes) may seem absurd, the notion of the delivery of mail giving
post-apocalypse survivors hope is actually a clever metaphor for the type of thing one will
miss should civilization come to a fall. Think of mail as a luxury? Well, thats
exactly the type of luxury you take for granted now that you will miss . . .
But lets get straight to the point: is The
Postman as bad as everybody says it is? After all, the film was given the so-called
Raspberry Award for worst movie of 1997! To be honest, that depends on your schmaltz
tolerance level. The film abounds in slow-motion scenes set to a thousand strings
orchestra and is populated by hordes of teary-eyed children. Strangely enough, things keep
chugging along without becoming truly excruciating. The audience I saw it with seemed to
have enjoyed it and so did my companion.
To be honest, theres a good film struggling
to get out from under it all. What it needs is a "studios cut": shorten
some scenes, cut others out altogether and rewrite some of the dialogue. (The running time
is just too long . . .)
Costner plays a surprising modest reluctant type of hero,
some of the photography and sets are quite good (although not as elaborate of those of Waterworld)
and at points one does become involved with the story. Should you see it? Well, if
youre the type who fell for the lame love story in the first half of Titanic,
then by all means. If you only saw that movie to watch the ship sink in spectacular
fashion, then Ill definitely think twice. But absolutely worst movie of 1997? I
think not. That particular dubious honor should go to Batman &
Robin . . .