The Postman (1997), or Kevin Costner’s Great White Nope

17 03 2009
So a phony and a sham comes to town and inspires people. Isnt he still a sham?

So a phony and a sham comes to town and inspires people. Isn't he still a sham?

So, who came up with the bright idea for this? 1995 was a horrible year for Kevin Costner, with his epic $175 million Waterworld being called Fishtar (HA!) and used as a prime example of Hollywood excess. It was a bloated post-apocalyptic sci-fi film with plot holes the size of the Kraken’s maw, characters with THE BROADEST motivations (why were the Smokers trying so viciously to find dry land anyway? What were they gonna do with it?), and the most ridiculous villain I had seen in quite some time (i.e. Dennis Hopper in scar make-up and a bald wig!!!). All somewhat forgivable offenses under most normal circumstances, but the one fatal flaw that really killed this movie and magnified all the problems tenfold is a cardinal sin in action/adventure movies; the main character is HIGHLY unlikable. Kevin Costner, who also wrote and produced this aquatic turkey, starred as The Mariner, a mysterious loner who drinks his own piss, yells loudly at little girls, and who has the flattest line delivery when it comes to the most important stuff (“My boat.”). Despite all the bad press (I love whoever coined the phrase Fishtar!), poor viewer reactions, and an all-around American snub, Waterworld somehow made back all its money overseas, paving Costner’s way to make more epic dream projects of his. The problem with his next project was that the studio gave him a lot of money again, which must have some sort of effect on Costner as this today’s feature must surely show. So, let me pitch this to you: we’re going to make a bloated post-apocalyptic sci-fi film, just like last time. It will have the exact same problems that made Waterworld a critical disaster, and might even destroy the director/producer/star’s career for a number of years if it fails! And, just to ensure its failure, we’re going to take out all the straight-up action and universal viewpoint and replace them with a lot of filibustering and a uniquely American viewpoint to scare away all the international viewers! We’ll call it The Postman, and it will be nearly three hours worth of hot air blown in your face! Wanna give me $80 million yet?

So, here we go. It’s 2013 (THE FUTURE!!!!). Apparently, in 1997, when I was taking a post-school nap, there was a nuclear war that enveloped the earth, causing untold chaos and devastation. Most people did not survive, but the few who did live on in a hopeless society populated by small towns with no communication to the outside world and enforced by former military ruffians. A nameless drifter walks around in Utah, trading food and supplies for… Shakespeare readings. This is going great for him, I suppose, until he runs into a large remnant army who drafts him against his will. He is spoon-fed a lot of orders and rules from these fellows, who are led by the evil General Bethlehem. He doesn’t really care for the idea of being in an army he doesn’t care about or wants anything to do with, though, so he escapes one cold night and seeks refuge in an abandoned mail truck. When he gets back to the task at hand, namely escaping, he takes a postman’s jacket to stay warm and also takes an undelivered bag of letters which strikes his fancy after he reads some of the mail. Walking for quite some time, he comes across a settlement called Pineview and tries to get in by making up a huge lie. He says that he represents a restored government run out of Minneapolis, run by President Richard Starkey (Ringo?!?)! He fills the townspeople with lies, and they let him in, believing that he is a sign of hope in these rough times. Amazingly, he finds that although he is completely full of shit, there is actually a letter for a surviving townsperson here. He delivers this one letter, and everyone gives him supplies and believes his crap. During his time here, he makes very good friends with a woman named Abby, who eventually makes him care about life for the first time in perhaps his whole life, and makes an apprentice out of a kid named (wait for it…) Ford Lincoln Mercury. Hilarious, Costner. Just hilarious. Anyway, the big fat liar leaves the settlement, and is saddled with a bunch of letters to deliver to people in other settlements. Soon after he leaves, General Bethlehem comes to Pineview to take whatever he wants, but hears whispers of the Postman, the nomad’s new name, and the restored government in Minneapolis. He finds this incredibly treasonous and decides to send out men all across the area to arrest and kill this Postman and any suspected associates of his. No matter what the drifter’s intentions were at first seem to matter little as time goes on, because the hope of a restored government and the idea of reaching people from across the wasteland inspires people, and soon wheels begin to turn that will pit the people of the American wastes against General Bethlehem under the banner of the mysterious Postman. The question is, will he accept the responsibility he has given himself as the bringer of hope for a new age in post-apocalyptic America? Or will he run away like the worthless sap he really is?

I did not enjoy this one. It is insistent upon its importance for all 170 minutes (it’s three hours long) but not for one minute is there a single lesson to be learned from atop its massive and hollow soap box. It makes me feel cheated and cheapens the moviegoing experience. I almost gave up on this one; halfway through I almost said “Fuck you!” to this site and all its fans. But I stuck it out, and here I am. After all three hours (did I mention that this hunk-a-junk is three hours long? It’s three hours long.) of this limp little parable, I cannot believe all the sympathizers that accompany this movie with any discussion about it online. One message board on IMDB asks “Most underrated film of all time????”. I laugh at the very idea. Ha-ha-ha. This is not exactly Bangkok Dangerous here in terms of extreme hostility towards the audience, but in no way is this “underrated”. If anything, me not equating it to a Nicholas Cage film is high praise indeed, from some of the reviews I’ve read on this film.

Costner’s idea of what a hero is tends to border on the dubious side. In Waterworld, the character he played was cold, unfriendly, and a devoted lone wolf. In The Postman, Costner is warmer, a bit friendlier, but he is a liar! And not the “Fluffy went to a farm to play with all the other puppies, sweetheart” kind of lies. This nameless drifter comes into this town and toys with their emotions like a cad and gets away with it because he made people feel better. And admittedly he sort of fills the boots he made for himself later in the picture, but that was more luck than anything. I found him to be a big negative for the whole film, and I constantly hoped for his demise and the rise of Ford Lincoln Mercury as the leader.

Another thing that chafed me as I sat through all this was the use of clever references to the past, as referenced by my previous paragraph’s codicil. This is yet ANOTHER of Costner’s throwbacks to Waterworld, where references to the past are everywhere, like the Smokers’ ship being the Exxon Valdez and Joseph Hazelwood being their patron saint. In this one, we have more of this groan-inducing “humor”, like Ringo Starr being the President of Minneapolis, the Postman reminiscing on the days when he and his friends used to wear their hats backwards because they thought it was cool, and one of our heroes being named after a luxury vehicle. A huge and elaborate “joke” that I couldn’t believe they went through with was the casting of Tom Petty (!!!). He plays himself (!!!!) as the mayor of a settlement. Don’t ask me what happened to the Heartbreakers; I was wondering that myself. Anyway, our man Costner sees Petty and says, “I know you. You’re famous.” To which Petty replies, “I was once… sorta.” Yeah, okay… What was that all about? Are we supposed to laugh because of this? And more importantly, why does Petty downplay his fame by saying “sorta”, like everyone in America doesn’t know who the fuck Tom Petty is? I don’t know, and obviously they didn’t either.

Either way, Costner was given a second chance in 1997 to capitalize after his misstroke (HA!) with Waterworld in 1995, and he ended up making virtually the same damn movie with 50% less budget and 100% less Dennis Hopper. No wonder the cast and crew called this movie “Dirtworld”! It ended up hurting his career for a number of years, and when they finally gave him the director’s chair again his budget has dropped to $20 million (boo-hoo, right?). But I cannot enjoy a movie where thoughtless lies become meaningful when they brighten someone’s day and heroes are erected out of blind luck and idiotic hope in anticipated valor. No, sir, I will not stand for it. I give “Dirtworld” 3 misplaced Heartbreakers out of 10…sorta.

Tomorrow we turn up the heat with a Night Out film! What will it be? Well, golly, I don’t know! But I’ll figure it out when I get to the theater!



3 responses

16 01 2013
positive approach

Hi there! This post could not be written much better!
Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
He continually kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this information to him.
Pretty sure he will have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!

4 02 2013

WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching
for small business sales

26 05 2022

Obviously the author of this article had no idea what the movie was even about…

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