Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Mad_max_two_the_road_warriorNow that I’ve seen Road Warrior, the film that is the hallmark of the Mad Max trilogy, I have a little better understanding of how George Miller arrived at Fury Road. It was a brilliant, exhilarating, wild ride that fully grasped what makes an immersive action film. But to get there we have to look back. In Mad Max (1979) Miller and his crew were simply feeling around, testing the waters, and getting acclimated to their apocalyptic world. It’s interesting, but not fully realized.

With Road Warrior there is still more exploring of the Mad Max character (Mel Gibson), however, more crucially, we get the type of action that propels the franchise from being another run-of-the-mill action saga. Do you think it would carry any clout in the U.S. if there was not something dynamic about it? It stems from Max, who although a main character, seems content being in the background. He’s a man of few words, who only takes on the role of hero when necessary. He’s self-assured and confident when the need is there. Otherwise, he’s fine cruising around looking for gasoline through the wasteland with his faithful canine pal. That dog is great, by the way.

However, during one such excursion, he crosses paths with a clan trying to fend off a band of marauders. Max initially begins as a prisoner only to become an ally that the locals are wary of, because, after all, he’s not trying to be their friend. But nevertheless, after helping defend their Australian Alamo, he ultimately decides to take on the task of guiding their shipment of fuel to safety. In one of the most memorable chase sequences (a predecessor to Fury Road), Mad Max guides his load with settlers guarding the tanker while the biker gang follows from behind. Their leader Humungus offered up a ceasefire only in an attempt to double-cross, and he’s not looking to leave any survivors.

In the ensuing chaotic cross-country race, machinery gets totaled, lives get lost, and Mad Max takes a brutal beating. He gets help from the wolf child, who will end up growing up to be the leader of his people. Now he helps Max in the struggle to fend off Humungus and his psychotic crony Wez. As it turns out, it was all a ploy and the settlers continue their exodus with their precious fuel. But of course, Mad Max does not go with him and in the mind of the boy, he becomes a sort of mythos. He’s not to be fully known, only talked about and spoken of like Greek heroes of old, who have long become more fiction than fact. The eponymous character of Mad Max is deliciously enigmatic, and it certainly doesn’t hurt having a few wonderful set pieces that will make most action fans lick their lips with delight. It’s sure to taste better than a tin of dog food, and dog food was fine dining for Max.

4/5 Stars

Mad Max (1979)

MadMazAusThis is where it all began and honestly, I knew so little about it. You have Mel Gibson and about everyone else is unknown to me. But that’s fun because they are a population that’s made up of clean slates. I have no expectations for them so they’re constantly engaging me and altering my expectations. Australia’s Outback is not quite apocalyptic yet, but we’re on the road there soon enough, with bleak roads and gasoline shortages. Likewise, Max Rackatansky has not quite taken his name to heart. He needs to go through hell first, and that’s where this film leads.

Max and his best bud Goose are Main Force Patrol officers who work for the highway patrol. They soon are chasing after the crazed gang member “Nightrider,” who is looking to outrun his pursuers in a stolen vehicle. But Max waits patiently for his prey and then strikes after his colleagues are knocked out. But despite the demise of “Nightrider,” his motorcycle gang lead by Toecutter continue to ravage the roads. They commit rape, partake in all kinds of destruction, and raise fear in anyone who gets in their way, because of their sheer unpredictability.

The fiery Goose becomes an easy target for their mayhem, and he’s left a sitting duck. Not even his good friend Max can save him and with his friend gone our hero seems content to get away with his family. He doesn’t want to deal with the madness so he picks up and leaves on a vacation. Max takes his beautiful wife Jesse and their little baby, but of course, the gang crosses path with him once more, and yet again there’s nothing he can do. He’s too late. Max has a choice now: either do nothing or go on a mad rampage of vengeance. He chooses the latter.

George Miller shows his audience these events without holding our hands, simply placing them in front of us and allowing us to observe as if this is in fact cold hard reality. Despite what we might think, there is nothing strange or out of the ordinary about it. This is the way society works and once you buy into the adventure, it’s easy to get enraptured in the action. Although there are jumps in narrative most definitely, it is made engaging by a dystopian world and characters who have so many odd ticks and mannerisms. Perhaps more importantly, stunts, car chases, and crashes never feel like pointless eye candy, but they are executed with precision and impact that is impressive. There’s nothing cheesy about it. This is all grit and a lot of road rage.

3.5/5 Stars