A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
This is the film that I heard so much about when I was growing up. It was the film that defined not only Mel Gibson’s career, but also Australian cinema in general, apparently… Not only was “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” a film that allowed George Miller to increase the scale of his vision tenfold, it was a film that fitted in to the rare category of films that surpass the original in almost every aspect.
Like any sequel should set out to do, “Mad Max 2” ups the stakes and amplifies the best qualities of its predecessor. It’s the only “Mad Max” film of the original trilogy to make it on to Empire’s “500 Greatest Films of All Time” list, but is it deserving of its spot at number 280?
We begin with ‘the hero shot’ of Max (Mel Gibson); a juggernaut of an action film protagonist. With epic style narration describing ‘The Road Warrior’ in past tense, the taste of things to come is presented from the offset. Furthermore, something that makes “Mad Max 2” particularly impressive is the confidence in introducing the villainous threat within the first minute.
Although we don’t get to witness Lord Humungus (as spelt on iMDB) until around the midpoint of the film, his right hand man, Wez (Vernon Wells – the famous uncle of my good friend Jarryd) is introduced almost instantaneously. His questionable mohawk and even more questionable bottomless leather trousers indicate some sort of threat to Max, that of which we can’t be precisely sure, but all too quickly we learn what divides and conflicts the inhabitants of this Australian barren wasteland…oil.
In what appears to be Max’s most desperate state, he scavenges for the precious commodity as it leaks from a totalled vehicle. It is obvious that from this point onwards, Max would grow and he’d be facing up against Wez and his gang of bandit anarchists.
From the first frame, “Mad Max 2” screams of a ‘bigger’ film in almost every aspect of the word. Whether it be the significantly increased budget of $2million (which is still chump change in any Hollywood executive’s language) or the encouraging success of the original 1979 hit spurring Miller on, or even a culmination of both, “The Road Warrior” appears grander overall.
Taking a darker tone in thematic routes, the film takes the next step in exploring the post-apocalyptic environment in which the characters inhabit. The unforgiving environment along with the equally unforgiving leagues of bandit gangs makes for some delectable conflicts with the narrative.
Although the film appears darker overall, there are elements of humour sprinkled throughout to provide some counter balance in tone.
These lighter moments come from The Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), the elongated and comically established sidekick (of sorts) to Max. Like Gollum to Frodo, their relationship starts out rather rocky, but after a need is met with inside knowledge, a mutual agreement is made. Soon enough, Max is being lead to the primary source of fuel and desire, much like Frodo being lead to The Black Gate of Mordor in some ways.
The addition of some comic relief works very well within the film as it could almost be seen as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek addition. When everything is crumbling into total destruction, it’s un-Australian not to have a laugh every once in a while, right?
Again, “Mad Max 2” demonstrates Miller’s intention to show and not tell. The dialogue is minimal and works perfectly to craft characters and circumstances within the narrative. The car chases don’t need cheesy one-liners to carry them along; they just rely on practical effects and solid cinematography and editing to do the work on top of subtle and believable performances.
Max is even more mysterious in “The Road Warrior”, and his journey is even more testing.
We see Max face a bigger threat and suffer even more than the original film, but he’s a hardened man above all else, so the circumstances and stakes are much more investible for an audience. Understanding him somewhat more this time around, we are drawn to him from past familiarisation, but we naturally want more the second time around.
With his crueler intentions, increased desperation and unrelenting focus, along with a kick-ass sawn-off shotgun, the writing behind Max truly delivers which is great to see.
The Humungus is a good antagonist, possessing a lot more brawn than the original villain of Toecutter. Although Toecutter was a solid character to challenge Max (and one that I actually preferred), Humungus physically challenges Max and appears to be a true, bona fide embodiment of the landscape and scenarios.
His intentions are clear, and his appearance is highly threatening, both great qualities for a big name villain. Jacked beyond belief, Humungus never skips leg day at the gym, which is both a true credit to his unwavering routine and a sign that he is determined in everything he does.
For someone who is beefy and imposing in appearance, it’s ironic that the most watchable moments came from the dialogue exchange between himself and Max… I guess looks can be deceiving.
“Mad Max 2” offered up a lot more this time around compared to the original, but it was always to be expected. With a bigger financial backing, a re-invigorated vision and the proven success of the original to help it along, George Miller managed to follow up his initial hit with a superior instalment that worked on almost everything that was right about the first.
There’s significant character development as well as some advanced technological features that weren’t there before. If you were to check one of the three pictures out for yourself, I would suggest “The Road Warrior”; it’s a lot of fun!
It probably doesn’t deserve the number 280 spot, but then again, how can you decide what definitively does?