“By the time of Waterworld in 1996, the press’s sonar for the thrashings of a production in trouble — in this case, a prolonged location shoot, on water, with an unfinished script and a quarrelsome star — were so fine-tuned that reporters were virtually camped on the Hawaiian docks where Kevin Costner‘s post-apocalyptic extravaganza was shooting, sharpening their knives and forks.

“Here, though, was the twist: Waterworld wound up making $264 million, thanks to foreign markets, DVD sales, pay-per-view and all the other ancillary revenues with which the studios sought to insulate themselves from risk in the mid-1990s.

“With Last Action Hero (’93) and Godzilla (’98) — two more Flops That Weren’t — Waterworld marked the birth of a new breed of ‘presold’ movie, neither a hit nor a flop, just there, circling the Earth like a blimp, sucking rental revenues from Abu Dhabi, Helsinki, Bangkok.” — from Tom Shone‘s Wall Street Journal review of Ben Taylor‘s “Apocalypse on the Set,” a review of nine “disastrous productions.”

I distinctly recall that the original “it doesn’t suck” quote about Waterworld came from an early reviewer who either caught it at a recruited research screening or (more likely) at a press junket screening.