Mad Max

Post-Apocalyptic Perfection
March 25, 2008

Some would say that calling the Mad Max Trilogy a post-apocalyptic series of films is inaccurate. Dystopian might be a better word to describe the society presented in the movies, reminiscent of the crumbling moral fiber found in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. Personally, I feel that George Miller's interesting take on a "what-if" futuristic aftermath of a worldwide catastrophe is dead-on. Not only does the director's unique vision really come through, but the Director of Cinematography David Eggby's eye for dramatic camera shots was what really sold the whole production.

The first in the series, simply called Mad Max, is probably my personal favorite. The characters just seem more fleshed out and the performances were that kind of drama you can only get out of a relatively unknown group of actors trying for their big "break-throughs". A little known fact is that not only was Mad Max Mel Gibson's first film, but he had originally just come along with a friend to the audition and got the part due to his rough looks after being in a bar fight the night before. The protagonist and what some might call the anti-hero of the films is Main Force Patroller officer Max Rockatansky, played by Gibson. Right off the bat the movie sets the gears in motion for what's basically one insane car chase after another. I mean, even in the first scene you know this film means business with its action sequences.

Miller really set the bar high with his constant use of dangerous stunts and vehicle demolitions. Due to the restricted budget, most cars in the movie were just repainted to pass off as different vehicles. And speaking of cars, Mad Max introduced one of the most recognizable and badass cars in movie history. The Ford XB Falcon Coupe V8 Interceptor.

What an awesome thing to drive. Fuck.
Anyway, after inadvertantly initiating a war between the Main Force Patrollers and a ruthless biker gang, Max and his pal "The Goose"

are targeted by the gang's leader known as "The Toecutter" played chillingly by actor Hugh Keays-Byrne. I'd have to say he's up there with some of the best movie villains with his haunting and totally psychotic portrayal of a gang leader with a Ghengis Khan complex.

Another aspect of the movie which really struck my attention was that during the course of the film you see Max undergo a transition from a by-the-books police officer to a shell-shocked vigilante. It's not like he didn't try to avoid going "mad", but after the biker gangs kill not only his friend Goose but also his wife and child Max kind of snaps. (I wonder if director Tony Scott got the idea of naming Maverick's sidekick "Goose" in Top Gun after the character in this movie, they both are kind of the comic-relief that die off and inspire the hero to knuckle-down and get his shit together)

Fast-forward to George Miller's next installment in the series "Mad Max 2" or "The Road Warrior" as it's known in the US. We now find Max roaming the wastelands of the Outback, "A desolate shell of a man" accompanied only by his pet dog. I looked into it and it turns out that the dog's name was basically just "Dog". But who cares, George Miller had better things to do than worry about naming some dog. He had a reputation to uphold by upping the ante of action in this new adventure of Mad Max.

Apparently sometime between the first and second film the world's fuel supplies begin to run short and a nuclear holocaust is on the horizon. Marauding biker gangs terrorize what's left of the decent folk of society and gasoline is now a precious commodity worth killing for. Happy times. The first scene in the movie shows Max being pursued by a biker gang and of course he foils their plans like the total badass he is. Little does he know that one of the bikers he injures belongs to one of the most notorious gangs around.

In this film Max encounters a whole new set of colorful characters starting with an autogyro pilot played by Bruce Spence. The two of them happen upon an enormous oil refinery under siege by a large group of marauders and that's when things get complicated. Does he only worry about himself and acquiring more fuel or can a once committed savior of the innocent and defenseless find it in himself to do battle with the forces of evil? In order to do the right thing Max has to face the leader of the wasteland gangs, the Ayatollah of Rock-and-Rolla himself, The Humongous.

This guy's not fucking around. He's seriously this wacked-out, roided-up mutant with a hockey mask that refers to himself as "The Humongous". You can totally understand why this guy just automatically controls the largest gang in the post-apocalyptic outback.

His weapon of choice is this big-ass Magnum which he uses to blast Max's autogyro friend out of the sky in one of the later scenes of the film.

I'm not going to ruin the ending, but needless to say Max outsmarts The Humongous and manages to survive in order to complete the trilogy. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is our next stop.

There's tons of people out there who believe that this film is where George Miller really sold out. I can see their point on one level, especially if you sit down and watch all three movies back to back. The film is directed by George Ogilvie while Miller takes a backseat as co-director. The difference in directing styles really sets the third installment apart from the previous two and causes some sense of detatchment. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great movie, but it's almost got that all-too-familiar Hollywood touch and feel to it at times.

Having Tina Turner play Aunty Entity, the ruler of Bartertown, kind of supports this theory. It just seems kind of reaching out in that transparent MTV kind of way when you get some pop-singer to star in your movie based on popularity and projected ticket sales. Whatever the case, she's actually not that bad an actress and actually holds her own in scenes with Gibson. So without basically just regurgitating what you can find out on the back of the DVD I'll just sum-up the meaty parts of the film. Max has now lost his car and finds himself in Bartertown, a city emmerging amongst the wasteland, after having all his personal belongings stolen from him in the opening scene. What's weird is that the same guy who steals his stuff is the same guy who played the autogyro pilot in part 2. Neither seem to really acknowledge this fact for the most part and it's always kind of bugged me. In order to get his stuff back Max has to challenge Master-Blaster in a duel-to-the-death in Thunderdome, an arena designed for containing the town's violence and solving personal vendettas.

Master-Blaster gets his ass handed to him after a couple of twists and turns in the Thunderdome battle. Regardless of his victory and fulfilling his deal with Aunty Entity, Max is sent into the wastelands to his death. Of course he's saved by a society of children left over after the nuclear wars and together they go back to Bartertown and start blowing shit up.

The endings of all three movies are definitely worth watching the films for if nothing else. Trust me, the car chases are top-notch and they really stand the test of time unlike some current movies which use CG and look pretty crappy and fake at times. The Mad Max Trilogy is the real deal and left an impact on pop-culture as well as movies to come as a result of how different and badass it is. There was a Nintendo game:

And what movie franchise would be complete without a full line of action figures:

The films even left an impact in the world of wrestling in the form of The Oakland Road Warrior Legion Of Doom:

Some of the stranger influences the Mad Max movies had was the one it left on the anime scene in the form of a little heart-warming children's show called "Fist Of The North Star".

Even that hack Kevin Costner wishes he were as cool as Mad Max by trying to tackle the subject of post-apocalyptic life in not one, but two movies. The Postman and of course the blockbuster hit Waterworld.

I don't really know why these films appeal to me the way they do, maybe it's just because they all seem to approach the subject matter at face value while at the same time delivering a message of some kind. Even movies like Kill Bill and V For Vendetta deal with the same kinds of circumstances of what happens to a person after some really f-ed up crap happens to them. Revenge movies are awesome. Throw in the fact that it's the Apocalypse and then it's just brutal. Brutally awesome.

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