My mother is the type of woman who has the TV on 24/7 and the TV is usually playing crowd-pleasing favorites on cable or subscription networks like HBO. For a time in the early to mid-nineties, the TV frequently favored Kevin Costner movies, some of which were critically acclaimed and some of which were flops like Waterworld and The Postman. For me, The Postman became a pretty standard favorite over the years, but is it my worst opinion or does this movie not suck as much as people like to make out?
Let’s explore the lushly fleshed out dystopian universe and why its Rotten Tomatoes score is only 9%.
Why People Seem To Hate The Postman
First of all, while dystopian movies had a run for a while between The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead and projects like Divergent, that wasn’t really a thing in 1997 when The Postman came out. The Kevin Costner flick struggled further because it was based on a book by David Brin, and a lot of the elements in the book did not make the movie, which fans of the novel seemingly didn’t like. The movie also came out shortly after Waterworld and feels eerily similar in some ways. Given Waterworld occasionally pushes the boundaries of crowd-pleasing sci fi (remember the explanation for how to drink your own pee?), I do think there’s a faction of people who tied these two movies together, even though one is tonally more grounded than the other.
But probably the biggest hurdle for The Postman was its runtime. Directed by Kevin Costner himself, The Postman clocks in at just under three hours, and it’s three hours you really feel. Today, audiences are a little more used to long runtimes thanks to blockbusters from DC and Marvel, not to mention flicks like Avatar: The Way of Water (3 hours, 12 minutes). They are also willing to sit through extra scenes in projects like Oppenheimer (3 hours), at least when it comes to directors they trust. Movies were often a lot shorter in this period, so this is a really notable runtime, particularly for a movie that is serious and leans heavily into dystopian theming.
Upon rewatch, you certainly feel all three hours. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is largely up to taste.
Why The Postman Doesn’t Suck, According To Me And Reddit
That’s right, I’ll state it: I love The Postman. I love Will Patton’s performance in the movie; to me, he’s having way more fun even than Kevin Costner, who has the meatier role. (Costner’s playing a dude who is basically a liar but who scrapes by thanks to quick-thinking and becomes the the poster child for a whole movement, so he’s not a typical hero either.) Tom Petty cameos and it’s a pretty good performance! There are a lot of fun cultural touchstones – Ford Lincoln Mercury – that make the viewer think about how life would change if governance and control fell apart. It’s got a western vibe. I mean what is not to like here, people?
Turns out, I’m not the only person who feels this way. I actually found this shocking when I did research for this piece. The Postman isn’t exactly a movie I love to champion given a. Most people have never seen it but b. most people still manage to have negative opinions about it. Thankfully, the Internet has many niches and fandom for the 1997 Kevin Costner film is definitely one of them.
For example, a quick perusal of a forum on Reddit has some people, yes, complaining about the runtime, but many others defending the infamous Kevin Costner film.
- “It has a unique story with reasonable production value for a ’90s movie, parts of it could be better, but the acting was good, it tells a story of hope coming from places you would least expect and superior ideas ultimately triumphing over bad ones even when they are at a disadvantage. I love this movie for many reasons.”
- “I ~love~ this movie. Also TOM FREAKIN’ PETTY!!!!”
- “I just want to say I agree with you and offer my support, lol. ”
- “I’ve actually watched it a few times, and I quite enjoy it. You do have to have like 6 hours to kill though.”
- “This is one of the best underrated PostApoc movies of its time. I absolutely love this movie, if you haven’t seen it, you should look it up. If you’re a fan of the dystopian / survival genre or of Costner, you should at least see it. It’s a long movie almost 3 hours, but it’s an iconic movie… check it out.”
- “Thanks, OP. Glad to know i’m not the only one. To me, the Postman is a classic. I loved it way back then. And I still love it today. Still have no idea why it got shat on so heavily.”
Perhaps loving this movie isn’t the worst opinion in the world.
What Kevin Costner Says About The Postman
While doing press for Man of Steel, Kevin Costner spoke about his two infamous flops – The Postman and Waterworld. While he said he enjoyed making both movies very much, he legitimately feels the former is a good movie.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Costner himself joked about his complicated lead character, also noting he felt like the movie came out well. OK, maybe not Dances with Wolves well, but well. So, it seems he’s on the same page with certain factions of the Internet when it comes to the flick. He commented on this again just a short time ago when he noted “I was always kind of proud of it,” again defending The Postman.
Interestingly, Costner also said that while the flick was a flop at the box office, Waterworld actually fared better in theaters and ended up making back its budget and some thanks to home media releases. Ergo, while the two movies are often tied together, their fates, premises, legacy, and money-making potential have been very different. (Though it’s worth noting too that the 1995 flick has its own fans.) Despite the more aquatic-oriented feature bringing in more money, it’s not the one I love more than 20 years later.
If you have three hours to spare, maybe now’s the time to give The Postman a chance.