|“||Because I've sailed farther than most have dreamed, and I've never seen it.||„|
|~ The Mariner|
The Mariner is the hero of the 1995 Science Fiction/Action Adventure, Waterworld. He was played by Kevin Costner, who also played Eliot Ness in The Untouchables, and Lt. John Dunbar in Dances with Wolves.
500 years after the apocalypse, a drifter, known only as "the Mariner", arrives at an atoll seeking to trade dirt, which is a precious thing because of its usefulness as a medium for growing plants. When the Mariner is revealed to be a mutant with webbed feet and gills who is able to breathe underwater, the scared atollers vote to drown him in a brine pool they maintain for composting. As they begin lowering the Mariner into the sludge, evil, barbarian pirates known as Smokers raid the atoll. The Smokers are searching for an orphan girl named Enola, who has a map to Dryland tattooed on her back. The leader of the Smokers is the Deacon, who wants the map so he can be the first to claim and get to Dryland and build a city upon it with his crew.
Enola and her guardian, Helen, had planned to leave the atoll with Gregor, an inventor and scientist. However, during the attack Gregor accidentally launches the gas balloon they planned to escape in with only himself on board, leaving the pair stuck. As the Smokers enter the atoll, Helen rescues the Mariner from drowning in the sludge, and he agrees to help them escape on his trimaran.
Once out on the open sea, the trio encounter the Smokers again, but Helen's naïve actions result in damage to the Mariner's boat, and he angrily cuts her hair. Helen, convinced that Dryland exists and that people had not always lived on water, demands to know where the Mariner finds his dirt. The Mariner puts her in a diving bell and swims her down to the ruins of a city known as Denver where he collects dirt and scrap from the bottom of the sea. Helen realizes that former human civilization had indeed existed on land that is now under the sea.
When they surface, the Mariner and Helen are captured by the Smokers and used to flush Enola from hiding. They dive overboard, barely escaping. Since Helen cannot breathe underwater, the Mariner uses his gills to breathe for both of them. They resurface to find everyone gone and the trimaran destroyed. They are rescued by Gregor in his balloon and taken to a new atoll, where the survivors of the first atoll attack have regrouped.
Using a captured Smoker jet ski, the Mariner chases down the Deacon and his minions, finding them on the remaining hulk of the Exxon Valdez. The Deacon is celebrating with the large Smoker followers, proclaiming they have found the map to Dryland. After the crew have all gone below decks to row the ship, the Mariner walks out onto the deck, where the Deacon and his top men are examining Enola's tattoo. He threatens to drop a flare into the oil reserve tank unless the Deacon lets Enola go. Knowing the act would destroy the ship, the Deacon calls the Mariner's bluff, and is surprised when the Mariner makes good on his promise. The ship explodes below-decks and begins sinking while the Mariner escapes with Enola by climbing a rope up to Gregor's balloon.
In the final moments before the ship sinks, the Deacon manages to reach the rope himself and begins to climb it, ultimately making a grab for Enola, but Helen throws a bottle at him, causing him to fall. He pulls out his gun and shoots one of the balloon's lines, causing Enola to fall into the sea. The Deacon mounts a jet ski and signals two other jet skiing Smokers to converge on Enola. The Mariner, seeing this, ties a rope around his ankle and jumps down to grab Enola in an impromptu bungee jump. The recoil of the cord pulls them to safety just as the jet skis collide and explode, killing the Deacon and his remaining henchmen.
Gregor deciphers the Asian symbols on the map using an old China Airlines magazine. He realizes that they are coordinates and steers his balloon in that direction. They find Dryland, which is revealed to be Mount Everest. It is huge and welcoming with fresh water, forests, and wildlife. Gregor, Enola, Helen and other atoll survivors land and find the remains of Enola's parents in a hut. They prepare to settle, but the Mariner decides he must leave as the ocean, his only home, calls to him.