The Postman is a 1997 American epic post-apocalyptic adventure film produced and directed by Kevin Costner, who plays the lead role. The screenplay was written by Eric Roth and Brian Helgeland, based on David Brin's 1985 book of the same name. The film also features Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, and Tom Petty.

The Postman
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKevin Costner
Screenplay by
Based onThe Postman
by David Brin
Produced by
CinematographyStephen F. Windon
Edited byPeter Boyle
Music byJames Newton Howard
Tig Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 25, 1997 (1997-12-25)
Running time
177 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million[2]
Box office$20.8 million[2][3]

It is set in a post-apocalyptic and neo-Western version of the disestablished United States in the then near-future year of 2013, 16-plus years after unspecified apocalyptic events, followed by plagues, left a huge impact on human civilization and erased most technology. Like the book, the film follows the story of a nomadic drifter (Costner) who stumbles across the uniform of a United States Postal Service mail carrier, and unwittingly inspires hope through an empty promise of a "Restored United States of America" and starts his path to become a national hero.

Released on Christmas 1997 by Warner Bros., The Postman was panned by critics, who criticized the performances, screenplay, direction, and long runtime. Costner's decision to cast himself in the film was criticized. The film made $20.8 million worldwide against a budget of $80 million. It was nominated for three Saturn Awards and won all five of its Golden Raspberry Award nominations, including Worst Picture.

Plot edit

In a post-apocalyptic world in 2013, an unnamed nomad wanders the scattered communities of the Utah flatlands, trading performances of long-forgotten Shakespearean plays for food and water. At one town, the nomad is forced at gunpoint into the ranks of the Holnists, a neo-feudalist militia, and is branded on his shoulder with their symbol, a figure 8. The Holnists, under their leader, General Bethlehem, are the de facto authority in the area, collecting tribute and recruits from local towns. When the nomad escapes, he takes refuge in a long-deceased postman's mail vehicle.

With the postman's uniform and mail bag, he arrives in the settlement of Pineview claiming to be from the newly-restored U.S. government. He convinces Pineview's leader, Sheriff Briscoe, to let him in by showing a letter addressed to elderly villager Irene March. The postman inspires a teenager named Ford Lincoln Mercury, who asks to be sworn in as a member of the postal service and even helps him to reactivate the long abandoned post office in the town. The postman also meets spouses Abby and Michael, fulfilling their clinical request to impregnate her. When the postman leaves for the town of Benning, he carries a pile of mail left at the post office door by the townspeople.

During a raid of Pineview, General Bethlehem learns of the postman's tales of a restored government in Minneapolis and becomes afraid of losing power if word spreads. He has the post office burned to the ground, kills Michael, abducts Abby, and raids Benning looking for the postman. The postman surrenders, but Abby saves him from execution, and the two escape into the surrounding mountains. A pregnant Abby and an injured postman ride out the winter in an abandoned cabin. When spring arrives, they leave and run into a girl, who claims to be a postal carrier. She reveals that Mercury has kept the postal service alive by recruiting other carriers and building more post offices. They have established communications with other settlements, creating a quasi-society and inadvertently spreading hope.

Bethlehem continues to hunt and capture postal carriers, all of whom are executed and displayed publicly. Feeling responsible, the postman orders the service to disband and writes a letter to the militia revealing the truth. However, Bethlehem learns to his dismay that the postman's example has spread farther than he could have anticipated when his men capture a carrier from California, and he redoubles his efforts to find the postman. The postman and Abby, closely followed by young carriers Eddie, Ponytail, and Billy, travel to Bridge City. When Bethlehem's scouts catch up, the mayor helps the postman escape on a cable car and urges him to find others willing to resist Bethlehem. Before he leaves, he and Abby reciprocate their feelings and fall in love.

In a recitation of King Henry V's speech prior to the siege of Harfleur, the postman rallies himself and his followers to war. The mounted carriers and Holnists meet across a field. Not wanting any more carnage, the postman instead challenges Bethlehem to a personal hand-to-hand duel, with their troops as witnesses, which is his privilege due to once having been a member of Bethlehem's troops. The postman wins the fight but spares Bethlehem's life to maintain morale. Bethlehem tries to shoot the postman in the back with his revolver, but is shot dead by his own second-in-command, Col. Getty. Getty then surrenders his rifle, and the rest of the Holnists follow his lead.

Thirty years later, the postman's grown daughter Hope, accompanied by other public figures and servicemen (including postal workers), speaks at a ceremony unveiling a bronze statue by territorial waters in St. Rose, Oregon, in tribute to her father, who has recently died (1973–2043). Her speech, along with the fact that all the attendees are wearing modern clothing and using technology, reveal that the postman and his mail carriers' actions have helped rebuild the United States.

Cast edit

Production edit

On his personal website, author David Brin reveals that while studios were bidding for The Postman, his wife decided during a screening of Field of Dreams that Kevin Costner should portray the title character.[4] Brin agreed that the emotions evoked by Field of Dreams matched the message he intended to deliver with his novel. A decade later, after learning Costner would be cast as the lead, Brin said he was "thrilled".[4] Costner discarded the old screenplay (in which the moral message of the novel had been reversed) and hired screenwriter Brian Helgeland; Brin says the two of them "rescued the 'soul' of the central character" and reverted the story's message to one of hope.[4] Costner supposedly passed on the lead role in Air Force One to work on The Postman.[5]

In an interview with Metro before filming began, Brin expressed his hope that The Postman would have the "pro-community feel" of Field of Dreams instead of the Mad Max feel of Costner's other post-apocalyptic film Waterworld. Brin said that, unlike typical post-apocalyptic movies that satisfy "little-boy wish fantasies about running amok in a world without rules", the intended moral of The Postman is that "if we lost our civilization, we'd all come to realize how much we missed it, and would realize what a miracle it is simply to get your mail every day."[6]

The Postman was filmed in Metaline Falls and Fidalgo Island in Washington; central Oregon; and southern Arizona around Amado and Nogales. Metaline Falls is the location for the community of Pineview in the film.

Despite the film performing disastrously at two test screenings, Costner refused Warner Bros.' appeals that he edit it from its three-hour running time.[7]

Music edit

The Postman (Music from the Motion Picture)
Film score by
ReleasedDecember 23, 1997
LabelWarner Sunset/Warner Bros.
1."Main Titles"James Newton Howard 2:13
2."Shelter in the Storm"James Newton Howard 6:23
3."The Belly of the Beast"James Newton Howard 6:49
4."General Bethlehem"James Newton Howard 6:55
5."Abby Comes Calling"James Newton Howard 10:50
6."The Restored United States"James Newton Howard 6:44
7."The Postman"James Newton Howard 9:50
8."Almost Home"Jono MansonJono Manson3:59
9."It Will Happen Naturally"Maria Machado and Jono MansonJono Manson2:18
10."The Next Big Thing"Jono Manson, Joe Flood and Jeffrey BarrJono Manson2:19
11."This Perfect World"John Coinman and Glenn BurkeJohn Coinman3:38
12."Once This Was The Promise Land"John CoinmanJohn Coinman2:06
13."I Miss My Radio"John Coinman and Blair ForwardJohn Coinman2:42
14."Come and Get Your Love"Lolly VegasJohn Coinman3:07
15."You Didn't Have to Be So Nice"John Sebastian and Steve BooneAmy Grant and Kevin Costner3:39
Total length:60:13

Reception edit

Box office edit

The film was a notable failure at the box office. The first four days after opening brought in only $5.3 million on 2,207 screens.[8][9] Produced on an estimated $80 million budget, it returned less than $21 million.[10][3]

The film was subsequently released on VHS and DVD on June 9, 1998 and on Blu-ray Disc on September 8, 2009.

Critical response edit

The Postman was panned by critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 8% based on 36 reviews, with an average rating of 4/10. The site's consensus states: "A massive miscalculation in self-mythologizing by director and star Kevin Costner, The Postman would make for a goofy good time if it weren't so fatally self-serious."[11] Metacritic gives the film a score of 29 out of 100 based on 14 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[12] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale.[13]

In The New York Times, Stephen Holden criticized the movie for its "bogus sentimentality" and "mawkish jingoism".[14] In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert described The Postman as a failed yet well-meant effort at a parable, being "goofy", "pretentious", and "way too long", yet "good-hearted". He criticized Costner's putting himself in the lead role, arguing that such roles should be cast against type and that Costner had played too many similar roles in past films.[15] On Siskel & Ebert, Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the film "two thumbs down", and Siskel sarcastically called it "Dances with Myself" (in reference to Costner's film Dances with Wolves) while referring to the bronze statue scene.[16]

Costner defended the film: "I always thought it was a really good movie! I always thought I probably started it wrong. I should have said something like 'once upon a time.' Because it was just like a modern-day fairy tale — it wraps itself up with a storybook ending with the statue. You know, I thought it was a pretty funny movie set against the idea of a Superman — somebody stepping up. But in this case, it’s a very humble guy who's nothing but a liar [laughs] — delivers mail and burns half of it just to stay alive. So, I like the movie."[17]

In 2023, Rolling Stone cited The Postman as one of the fifty worst decisions in film history.[18]

Accolades edit

Award Subject Nominee Result
Saturn Awards Best Science Fiction Film Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Will Patton Nominated
Best Actor Kevin Costner Nominated
Razzie Award Worst Actor Won
Worst Director Won
Worst Picture Kevin Costner, Steve Tisch, and Jim Wilson Won
Worst Screenplay Eric Roth and Brian Helgeland, based on the book by David Brin Won
Worst Original Song The entire song selection Won
Stinkers Award Worst Picture Nominated
Worst Director Kevin Costner Nominated

References edit

  1. ^ "THE POSTMAN (15)". Warner Bros. British Board of Film Classification. January 16, 1998. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  2. ^ a b The Postman at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ a b "The Postman (1997)". The Numbers. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Brin, David (December 1998). "The Postman: the Movie". Worlds of David Brin. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  5. ^ Reed, Michael (26 October 2011). "Looking back at Kevin Costner's The Postman". Den of Geek. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  6. ^ Stentz, Zack (June 12, 1997), "Brin on science fiction, society and Kevin Costner", Metro, retrieved August 3, 2007
  7. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (September 15, 1999). "Costner's Feeling a Little Less 'Love". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  8. ^ "'Titanic's' Voyage Is Steaming Ahead". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
  9. ^ "Top 10 movies for the weekend of December 26–28". The Times of Northwest Indiana. Munster, Indiana. January 2, 1998. p. 23. Retrieved May 14, 2021 – via
  10. ^ "The Postman (1997)". Box Office Mojo. January 23, 1998. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  11. ^ "The Postman (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  12. ^ "The Postman Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  13. ^ "POSTMAN, THE (1997) B-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  14. ^ Holden, Stephen (December 24, 1997). "Movie Review: The Postman – Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Descent to Anarchy..." The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2007.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 25, 1997). "The Postman movie review & film summary (1997) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  16. ^ "Week of December 27, 1997" (1997). Television: Siskel & Ebert. Burbank: Buena Vista Television.
  17. ^ Ryan, Mike (June 5, 2013). "Kevin Costner, 'Man of Steel' Star, Looks Back on 'Bull Durham,' 'Waterworld' and the First Time He Made a Million Dollars". HuffPost. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  18. ^ Greene, Andy (September 25, 2023). "The 50 Worst Decisions in Movie History". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 23, 2023. the budget for his post-apocalyptic epic Waterworld swelled to absurd heights until it was the most expensive movie in history. The film eventually eked out a tiny profit thanks to overseas markets, but it was still an enormous embarrassment for Costner. The smart move would have been to never make another movie like it ever again. Costner decided to double-down on post-apocalyptic snoozefests just two years later, when he directed The Postman and took on the lead role.

Further reading edit

External links edit

Preceded by Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture
18th Golden Raspberry Awards
Succeeded by