Tuesday, 7 August 2012

03/02/2012: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior [1981]

So I wasn’t overjoyed after watching Mad Max, but regardless I was still drawn to watch the sequel. There is something about Mad Max’s cult popularity that lead me to believe that Mad Max must be some hidden cult gem. So, after going almost 6 days without watching a movie, the first one I chose to check out was The Road Warrior.

I actually had already written about half this review, but then my computer blue screened me and I lost what I had, so here it goes for the second time. But first, I’ll give a shout-out to French Toast Sunday, who’s movie podcasts I’m listening to in the background. I’m not one for podcasts, but I’m enjoying it. Anyway, on with The Road Warrior. I must say, that this is a rare sequel that nearly blows the original out of the water. Okay, that might be a bit overdramatic. The Road Warrior is however definitely superior to the original.

What was great about Mad Max was all of the ideas and concepts it was trying to mash together. Top that off with all the road raging action, and there was a lot of potential in Mad Max. However, as I mentioned in my review of Mad Max, I felt like even with all those ideas, the movie failed to really fit all the pieces together correctly, and that is where I found it mostly lacking. But, while Mad Max may not have worked the first time, the director and writers definitely learned and heavily improved on all the great promises the original had. It took some of the great ideas and developed them, while dropping some of the other more complicated elements. 

A man, his dog, and his prisoner.
When watching Mad Max, the world is almost entirely left for you to piece together yourself through small bits of knowledge that appear throughout the movie. However, even with what is included, the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max goes largely unexplained.  Movies with post-apocalyptic settings score major points with me however, and the worlds they create are some of my favourites. In The Road Warrior, the opening scene gets filling in the very large blanks in the world right off the bat. It tells us the world was ravaged by nuclear war, leaving roving gangs of survivors to fight over the remaining gasoline supplies. I must say, the worlds collapse seems a lot more further along than in the first Mad Max. 

While The Road Warrior smartly polishes off the creation  of the world, it does drop a few of the bigger aspects. Mainly the idea of the Main Force Patrol. I mean it was an interesting concept, but barely developed or explained in Mad Max, and with everything going on it was probably best to drop it. While the Halls of Justice sounded like a perfect superhero headquarters, they will not be missed. Instead, The Road Warrior takes us far away from the modern world of cities and towns, and puts us into the desert. With only roads, sand and the sound of a car engine to keep us company.

"Well hello there pretty warrior woman."
 While there has been quite a dynamic change in the world of Mad Max, the man himself is mostly the same. Mel Gibson, who is just beginning to make a name for himself in the States, is one of the only returning cast members, the other one being insignificant in his role. After losing his family, and seeking vengeance in the first movie, Max is now a hardened man, looking out solely for himself in the harsh world. Things change however as he comes across a functioning oil well, with its band of defenders fending off the hungry hordes day and night. I found it interesting that they showed the two bands of survivors as such cut and dry black and white. While that does make it easy for us to understand, I think it would have been extremely interesting if things had been cast in more of a grey shade. You could just as easily have written a script in which ragged survivors were ruled over by tyrants who held all the fuel. 

The Road Warrior also had some interesting characters, but like the first movie, it didn’t develop them as much as it could have. While we still have trouble wrapping our heads completely around Max, we also meet an assortment of others, who’s motivation isn’t very clear. Max’s child and wife are clearly embodied in the feral child and the warrior women, and yet only the earlier was really given much of a character. The warrior women was clearly someone who might have been significant, but for some reason, all of her importance was removed from the script leaving only a skeleton of a character. There is of course The Gyro Captain, (really!? he didn't have a name IMDb? oh well,) who is almost more memorable than Max, in his quirky way. Clearly the embodiment of comic relief, he unfortunately gets the shit end of the stick until the end. The dog of course, is my favourite character. I mean, you just can’t have a post-apocalyptic tale without a dog, and Max’s mongrel is no pup, wielding a shotgun and wrangling prisoners as needed. It is a shame he disappeared after the first half. Wait... did he die??!

I feel like the S&M stores are always either the first or last to be looted after the world ends.
 Overall, I can understand Mad Max: The Road Warrior’s cult popularity after seeing this superior sequel. It takes all of the great ideas from the first attempt, polishes them off and then gives us all the characteristics to make a cult movie. While it is by no means perfect, it is the fans ability to see all of its potential, and yet still enjoy every ounce of what we were given, that makes cult fandom as strong as it is. Sure, maybe Hollywood can please a large audience, but I will take cult favourites any day, and they always have the strongest fanbase. I will undoubtedly be compelled to one day watch the third film, and the end of the trilogy, but until then, I know enough to appreciate what Mad Max was. I understand that the third film wasn’t much to like, but maybe I will find some points. But my big question is, why call it Beyond Thunderdome, if you have never mentioned Thunderdome in any of the previous movies? Oh well, I shall await a chance to see it, and then wait uncertainly as the Mad Max remake begins to take form. Are you excited for a remake, or is The Road Warrior one more cult favourite Hollywood needs to keep its bloody money grubbing hand off of?


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