director George Miller
After watching Mad Max (1979) a couple months back and getting pretty excited about the upcoming Mad Max Fury Road (2015), I was pretty keen to revisit The Road Warrior, one of the great movies of the 1980’s. I was keen to watch it with my kids, who I thought would be well into it.
Crazy thing is it’s been so so so long since I last watched it. I know I find myself saying this all the time about any number of movies but it may well have been fact that I hadn’t watched The Road Warrior since the 1980’s despite having never less than felt that I loved it. It had been so long in fact that I had forgotten the whole opening sequence with the flashes of Mad Max alongside the images or war and history played out against a voice over that set the whole film up in its post-apocalyptic world.
The post-apocalypse of the 1980’s. That would be a fascinating study. Between The Road Warrior and Billy Idol’s Tobe Hooper “Dancing With Myself” video, I think the image was perfected and honed in ways that perhaps make the study moot. George Miller’s Australian wasteland is colored by pink and hued skies, wide-angle lenses, and sand and punk iconography that was still edgy and prescient in 1981.
But the movie is way more than style. It’s action and comedy and flash and deft characterization along comic book lines with characters who are defined by the lack of clothing on their buttocks as much as by their compelling willingness to kill randomly. With produced Bryon Kennedy and co-writers Terry Hayes and Brian Hannant, Miller depicts the definitive badlands of post-apocalyptic 1980’s cinema. And I say this not at all glibly but truly. The post-apocalypse was the definitive vision of the time, never captured more succinctly, or perfectly than here.
Of course the story is about how Max is now a wanderer, a “Man with No Name” who stumbles upon a small town of fuel pumping plebes who are beset by S&M punk bikers led by a hockey-masked pile of meat known as Humungus. It’s a kind of middle class nightmare of repressed desires embodied against a group of middling oddball losers. But Max sides with the “good guys” (including the wonderful “Feral Kid”) and helps them on a gambit to roll their fuel out in an old tanker truck beset by the racing and rampant gang of fetish weirdos.
And really it is the finale chase that is the part emblazoned in ones mind. I can’t tell you how much as a young driver I imagined being attacked by other drivers as I cruised along the streets of my hometown the way that Max has to fight off the crazy hooligans. It’s not quite as great as the truck chase scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and yet it kind of is as well.
If this movie isn’t in some ways one of the greatest movies of all time, I don’t know what.
Sadly the DVD that we had needed to be watched on full screen and the images weren’t as crisp and good as they deserve to be. I don’t know if that had any impact on my kids, but neither of them was as enthralled as I would have hoped with the movie. They were a bit on the meh side of “it was good” and that disappointed me. But to be honest I wasn’t as enthralled as I’d hoped to be. Not as enthralled as I’d been in watching Mad Max a few months earlier. But I’m going to chalk that up a bit to the bad fullscreen viewing.
I guess I’m going to have to queue up Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) to complete my cycle before the new one shows up in cinemas. I never loved Thunderdome the way I loved the other two but I hold possibly misguided hopes for the new one.
Mad Max is so awesome. Be awesome again, Max.