Written and Directed by- George Miller
Starring- Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Emil Minty, Kjell Nilsson
Yeah, that’s right, I called it Mad Max 2. Know why? Because that is what the rest of the world calls it. Retitled the more familiar The Road Warrior for it’s release in the states due to the first film getting little exposure here, even the blu ray copy I own actually uses the original title in the opening credits. Marketing in North America at the time of release in 1981 didn’t mention any connection to the first film at all, only after The Road Warrior had gained an audience did they start endorsing the first film, Mad Max for videotape and cable outlets as the beginning of The Road Warrior story. Australian writer and director George Miller had a down under hit on his hands with 1979’s action masterpiece Max, and decided to continue the adventures of grizzled ex cop Max Rockatansky as he wanders through a post apocalyptic Australian outback searching for fuel and purpose.
Several years after avenging his families deaths and driving off in his police interceptor, Max is riding through a desolate landscape searching for gasoline. The opening narration catches the viewer up on the setting and our main character. World War 3 has happened, and the world is now a mostly lawless wasteland. Max was once the finest highway cop in the land, until a ruthless biker gang retaliated against him and killed his wife and young son. Now accompanied by his dog, he, like everyone left, exists just to survive. The opening scene is his first interaction with who will turn out to be the antagonists in the film, an S+M, leatherclad freak show of a gang, led by the hockey masked Lord Humungus. Max crosses the gang and lives to tell, but the paths of these two forces cross again. As the film progresses, Max ends up joining with a ragtag community of survivors in a secured compound, that have produced a tanker full of the quite elusive gas. Humungus wants their fuel, and he and his cronies stop at nothing to terrorize them into giving it up. Max, the reluctant hero, teams up with the survivors and formulates a plan in moving the gas out of their base, and through Humungus’ hordes to safety. What follows is a fifteen plus minute action scene that can only be seen to be believed.
Not mentioned until now is that Max is played by a young Mel Gibson, many years before his Hollywood stardom, and his eventual self inflicted downfall. Max is a character in the same mold as many western heroes, a man of few words who in the end does the right thing, even if not his first inclination. A young, Australian accented Gibson sells it, and if you can find a main character in a film that is not mute with less lines of dialogue, be my guest. Bruce Spence, a long time Australian character actor adds a touch of humor to the role of the Gyro Captain, Max’s prisoner/sidekick. As much as Blade Runner has influenced many films with its aesthetic of a neon highlighted cityscape of the future, The Road Warrior has done the same for the post apocalyptic setting. Humungus and his minions, in their souped up vehicles and medieval style weaponry coined a look, a mashup of leather fetish gear, punk rock and police uniform. The stunts are easily some of the most amazing ever filmed, and the complexity that Miller orchestrates in the ending chase scene, with multitudes of vehicles, actors and movement happening is truly a touchstone in the history of film.
We all know that last year Miller returned to the world he created nearly forty years ago with the most successful chapter to date, Mad Max:Fury Road. A feat that no one expected, as the last film in the series, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was released in 1985, and as Tom Hardy took the role of Max on, the odds were against the public jumping on an aging franchise with a new face in the title role. Not only did the film gain a new generation of fans, it garnered an Academy Award nomination for best picture. To me, that is a fantastic bookend to the Max story, but as much as I enjoyed it,the new film doesn’t stand up to the beautiful simplicity of Mad Max 2, The Road Warrior or whatever it can be called. Hopefully the latest film has brought this classic to be seen by a new generation of fans.
5 Feral Kids of 5