Waterworld may have drowned at the box office, but this shot of Kevin Costnersailing into the 1,021 ton floating city shows how breathtakingly original and stark its postapocalyptic vision was. Critics mocked Waterworld's massive $175 million budget, but the truth is, you can see every penny on screen. The makers of Waterworld didn't just show us a model or mock-up of the floating city, they actually built the thing.
The city is donut-shaped, with a ring of floating platforms and towers and massive hand-cranked gates. There's a pervasive myth that this set was destroyed by a tropical storm, but really just a smaller and relatively minor set sank, says Rodger Pardee, who worked on the production. Think of it as a proof of concept: If the world really does turn into an aquatic dystopia, we really might need to build fortified cities on the water.
The set was 365 feet in diameter and weighed about 1000 tons, writes Pardee, who teaches at Loyola Marymount University. It had to be able to rotate so you could shoot from different angles and have the ocean in the background while it was moored in harbor. And then the filmmakers towed it out to sea so they could get wide shots of it under attack. It's an engineering marvel, as long as Kevin Costner doesn't open his mouth.
Waterworld - On Location [Rodger Pardee's Webpage]