Director: George Miller
Cast: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Steve Bisley, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Roger Ward, Tim Burns
Plot: In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a rogue gang of bikers terrorise small settlements, attracting the wraith of a cop known as Mad Max (Gibson).
Mad Max was not what I expecting in the slightest. My pre-conceptions of the trilogy was a universe set after the fall of civilisation where a rover, named Mad Max, got into different conflicts in this broken down society. So, when the film opened and society was still moderately intact (it is far from modern, yet there are still signs of police and courts), and Mel Gibson was playing a cop, not a rover, I was surprised and a little uncertain of what I was in store for.
Not a lot apparently. It seems that the legend of Mad Max has done a lot better than the actual original film. The apocalyptic wasteland was never really explained. I didn’t expect too much of a background history, because Mad Max was sold as a high-octane action, yet there was hardly any exposition given. If the apocalypse was a bit more extensive, I would have rolled with the idea that humanity and government is long gone. However, because we still had police and vague businesses, I was confused as to what were the rules of this universe. One moment we are being treated to a biker gang, devoid of laws, tearing up ghost towns, not unlike a Wild West setting, but then we are cutting to Mel Gibson and his wife in a beach house. In my eyes, the entire idea of an apocalyptic setting was just a way around a cheap budget. Whenever Miller wants, he can film on an abandoned road and we wouldn’t question the lack of civilisation. I am sure there is more to it than that, but it did strike me as a tad cheap. The tone is meant to come across as bizarre and apocalyptic, but it just feels a little alienating. Both the bad guys and the good guys (Gibson and Samuel notwithstanding), are so hard to connect with or understand. You end up watching this movie, without truly getting into the right frame of mind to appreciate it, which means that you are apathetic to whatever happens later on in the story.
OK, maybe the Mad Max universe was a little ropier than I imagined, but I am the kind of guy who can shove away emotions about the overall series and review a movie as a stand-alone action. Well, Mad Max isn’t much good as a story either. It is completely all over the place and lacks a fixed point. The universe might be devoid of rules, but apparently the story shares the same missing link. We are introduced to a hero cop, in a world without hero cops. Mel Gibson is instantly likeable and he is the best thing about this movie (that and his ‘marry-her-in-a-heartbeat’ wife). Then we are shown a band of bikers, driven mad by this apocalypse world (again, an explanation as to how this depiction of the future made them so crazy would have been nice). They are a bunch of total oddballs. It works for their first few scenes. They make for unique villains, nameless bikers are easily distinguished by their bizarre traits (eg: meowing like a cat), and that one scene where they randomly chase down a couple and beat them senseless is horrifyingly brutal. However, they don’t hold much cop afterwards. The crazy ramblings get tiresome and they begin to fail a lot more than they succeed. After failing to murder their target, because she was protected by an elderly lady with a gun, you begin to stop fearing that they might cause some damage. This is a shame, because at this point, the movie hangs up the action side of things and tries to become a horror thriller. It feels a little like ‘Friday the 13th’ if Jason Voorhees spent the entire movie, messing up his murder attempts.
So anyway, we have these two sides (good and bad, for those struggling to keep up), and the movie clashes them against each other. However, the story seems to just work around them, giving them excuses to fight. Wherever Gibson goes (before he starts hunting them down), the gang of bikers are. It becomes a string of scenes, where Mad Max goes about his business and the bad guys come and mess up his day. It is written very poorly and at some points, I got lost as to what was going on. This was unnecessary, as when you lay out the plot points, there isn’t too much to cover. It seemed like Miller had a vague idea of how he wanted his movie to go, but had no idea how to really go about that, so he just wrote a couple of scenes and added flimsy reasons to explain why those scenes were going on afterwards. Mad Max sometimes seems like it is on the verge of improving, but it never really does, coming across as a bit of a mess. Hopefully, the next two will be a lot better.
Final Verdict: There are classics out there, where I disagree with their status, but few I hate as much as I hated Mad Max. How it got so big remains a mystery to me!
I haven’t watched Mad Max in years, but i think you’ve nailed it; it’s really quite bad in places. I just rewatched The Road Warrior, which is equally silly, but a lot better. I can’t bring myself to watch the third one, but I am very curious about the new version.
I haven’t seen any of these films, and I almost bought the box set off of Amazon the other day to prepare myself for Fury Road. Now I’m not so sure I want to.
Kieron, we are in the same boat (except that I have watched them before, but when I was a kid). This really makes me rethink buying that set. Other things I can be spending my cash on.
Yeah, I may look for them on Netflix or something similar now. The set wasn’t much but it’s still £12 I can save for something else.
So many other box sets needing love… 😉 I know the feeling!
I ordered The Burbs re-release instead. Love that film.
I don’t think I have ever seen that. I take it that you recommend that one?
You haven’t? Yeah I would, I’ll review the blu-ray when it comes through the post and you can make your mind up after that.
🙂 Looking forward to that!
It gets better as it goes along, but for the most part, this is just an okay first entry into a rather awesome franchise. Good review.
Mad Max is a bit of a lame duck. It’s Mad Max 2 that really rocks. I saw Mad Max 2 before Mad Max and couldn’t figure out what was going on. It also didn’t help that I ended up with a version which had been overdubbed with American accents?
Good review Luke. I have not watched this in years either, but Mel Gibson was good in it, that is what I remember most. Will you watch the Tom Hardy version?
Definitely. That’s why I watched this version. I am trying to get the background on the character, before diving into the reboot.
Very cool! We’ll see how it turns out. I think Hardy will kill it!
Great work here as usual Luke! I think I will just borrow these from my brother or something to prepare for the reboot.
I agree with you. I’m not sure if I’d go one star, but I only saw it once and it was a while ago so I can’t say. What I will say is that the second one is much better and that Mad Max is one of the more overrated films of recent time. I don’t know how it got so big either.