This review contains spoilers. If you don't want the movie ruined, don't read any further.
Saw The Postman on cable. I had passed in the theatres because everyone was looking to piss on Costner after Waterworld, so it got panned pretty badly. Also, the clips looked really cheesy. They made it appear that the revitalized postal service was organized to be the new national reserves. That's not what this movie is about at all.
Early in the movie we learn that Costner's character is a drifter in a post-apocalyptic (I didn't catch the cause) America. He's a bard, travelling from village to village performing Shakespeare with his apparently-intelligent mule.
Then there's a flurry of character entries and exits that make it pretty obvious they're trying to fit a novel-length story into a movie. This is where they try to exposit some of the info about the setting. For example, apparently there's rampant bigotry and prevalent mongoloidism.
This is also where they introduce the main protagonist, a self-proclaimed general of a bully "army" that extorts food and recruits from the entire region. The protagonist part ends up too one-dimensional and melodramatic. And the entire army setting is too abbreviated and too clumsily staged. The relationship of Costner with a couple of the fellow conscripts could probably make a movie all by themselves.
In escaping from the army, Costner stumbles on a wreck of a mail jeep. He slips into the persona of a mailman first to replace the army uniform, which would yield hatred in his travels. And as a bit of a scam to panhandle for food and shelter as he passes through towns.
And here's where the movie gets interesting. As Pournelle and Niven showed in Lucifer's Hammer, the postman can be a really interesting character in a post-apocalyptic world. And the bard aspects would fit the Costner character. When Costner gets to the destination of the dead mailman he delivers the mail that was left in the jeep (16 years old.) This gives the people hope that stability and safety might really be possible. They believe his stories about the reconstituted USA.
Enter the love interest. Again, the situation seems a bit perfunctory. The plot required a gap in time for one of the townsfolk to go off and build a postal infrastructure to fit the fiction that Costner's character had built. In the book, I suspect the relationship between Costner and the girl is fleshed out quite a bit more. In the movie, about all they had time for was one piercing observation.
And it all builds to the epic encounter between the army and the postmen, between the general and Costner. And it just comes off as an anti-climax. While it might work metaphorically, I just don't think the entire situation really fit the general's character. He would have been smarter than to provide that loophole in the first place. Once the final struggle is started there's no tension because in a Hollyweird movie we know who has to win.
On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Rental. It's a decent David Brin story (haven't read it, yet) though too staged and a too-convenient ending.
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