Director: George Miller
Cast: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Kjell Nilsson, Vernon Wells, Emil Minty, Michael Preston, Virginia Hey
Plot: Hollowed by the loss of his family, Max (Gibson) travels through the wasteland of humanity, searching for precious gas and hiding from the lunatic tribes that rule the roads.
I really didn’t like the original Mad Max. I didn’t see the purpose of it. It was a good idea, wasted on a weak plot and almost no structure. However, as I said, the apocalyptic wasteland idea had potential, which drove me to give the sequel a chance, especially as it has been rated as the best of the original trilogy. I must admit, I have to agree.
The apocalypse is in full swing now. In the first one, Max was a part of the last remnants of the police force, but now, they are also a distant memory. The wasteland of Australia dominates all now and Max drifts from place to place, hoping to avoid getting into too much trouble with the tribes on the roads, men driven mad by the lack of society, allowed to give into their darkest desires. However, fuel is the trick to staying alive, which means that the survivors are the ones who are brave enough to scavenge enough gasoline to keep going. This search for diesel leads Max to a rumoured infinite source, a settlement of survivors who guard a fuel depot. However, the settlement attracts the attention of Lord Humungus, the head of the biggest tribe Max has seen yet. He lays siege to the group of survivors and Max realises that the only way to get the gas he needs to carry on with his journey across the wasteland is to help the group of survivors transport their precious gasoline past Humungus.
Right from the off, we have more structure than the original ever had. While I do agree that Mad Max seems to work best, when there is a certain freedom surrounding the story, the first one had no idea where it was going, simply showcasing this mildly interesting universe it had created, without a clear direction. Mad Max 2 has a group of bad guys, instantly more interesting than the ones in the first film, and a group of good guys that Max has to temporarily team up with. The rest is simple action, but it is enough. I didn’t want pages of plot devices and twist; I just wanted enough reason to invest in what I was watching. Saying that, the pacing is still a little off. Certain moments are undercooked, as though Miller now has a story to tell, but is unsure how to go about telling that story, still trying to mimic the first one rather than correcting it. There are also several supporting characters that don’t really make an impact. We are fine with the bad guys not being developed; they are much more sinister when they are depicted as a savage horde of ants, manic and random with their malicious intentions. However, the leader is merely a plot device, Virginia Hey gets the first strong female figure in the franchise, only to be given the bare minimum of lines and at points, the good guys are just as odd as the villains. Even Mel Gibson is given little to do here, the original movie acting as an origin story and deciding to not build on the character this time around. Yes, I really like Mad Max 2, but it is hard to not admit that if a few points were ironed out, then we might have the classic that the critics keep trying to convince us it is.
Then again, the action does make this a worthy film to watch. My advice: ignore the first and just start your Mad Max experience with the Road Warrior. The car chases were the one salvation of the first and Miller continues to show off with his talent at filming them. I am not going to lie, it does give off the impression that it is little more than a guilty pleasure, indulging in preposterous stunts and explosions. However, when you witness the gritty, realistic way of filming them, it is hard not to just – and pardon the pun – go along for the ride. Miller refuses to use CGI, instead just crashing these hunks of metal into each other. It makes everything feel so much more powerful. You feel the power of a tanker door being ripped from its hinges. When a man gets crushed under the wheels of a car, you wince at the pain of it all. It is just adrenaline-fuelled fun and the prolonged dash for freedom that ties up the Road Warrior, delivers the action with guaranteed excitement.
Final Verdict: Still clunky in places, but it is hard to deny that the Road Warrior feels so much more… like a Mad Max movie.
I enjoyed all three of them. You raise some valid points though about the plot and the structure of the film. I’d still watch them any day of the week despite that.
The first one WAS a little weak….
This film is bonkers and I LOVE it! The other two just don’t live up.