Obscure, memorable scene: Savior of Water World

In the movie “Water World,” an interesting sci-fi film with a mostly negative reception, Kevin Costner plays a mutated fish-man living on an Earth upon which there is seemingly no land, only a single vast ocean, with no laws or borders.

A little girl holds the key to finding the one remaining piece of land on the entire planet, and when she is kidnapped by pirates, Costner must venture to the Exxon Valdez (the base of the villains) to rescue her, so that she can go on to be the female lead in Napoleon Dynamite.

The culmination of this rescue finds Costner at the access hatch to the oil reserves for the tanker, which he threatens to ignite with a flare if the pirate boss does not release the girl. 

Of course, the boss calls his bluff, and Costner drops the flare. 

Starting a chain reaction, which naturally explodes the Valdez into smithereens. 

Costner thinks nothing of the number of families who could live safely on the tanker if the pirates are defeated, nor the progress which that amount of oil could represent for the people of the area, who live an essentially pre-industrial existence in a floating city nearby.

The moment in which the flame falls into the oil, however is the bit that sticks with me. 

The audience gets a view from inside the oil tank, where we see a small boat, occupied by a frail looking old man, whom we were introduced to earlier as the man whose job it is to live in the oil tank, and keep track of the level of remaining oil.

He watches as the flare drops, and when it strikes the surface, we see his face illuminated for the first time, as the flames from the initial impact dance across his wizened face, and reflect off of his cracked and weathered glasses.

“Oh, Thank God!” he has time to say before the flames consume him and his tiny boat.

In the theatre, the moment stuck me more, I think than it was intended to, and mulling it over afterword distracted me from the ensuing escape from the tanker, enough so that I didn’t realize how ludicrous the colliding jet-ski scene was until years later watching the movie again on television.