Monday, April 20, 2015

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Director: George Miller
Writers:  Terry Hayes, George Miller, Brian Hannant
Cast:       Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston

In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter agrees to help a small, gasoline rich, community escape a band of bandits. The film begins with an explanation on how the apocalypse came about, which was not done in the first Mad Max film, and how Max became 'Mad' by giving a synopsis of what happened in the first film. Funny thing is that the synopsis was all we needed instead of the shitfest that was the first film. To be fair, the success of it was what generated the sequel which is vastly better than the former. I don't think I have seen another franchise in which there is such a vast difference in terms of quality, in a good way, between the first film and the second. 

Mad Max 2 is everything that Mad Max 1 is not. It comes with vastly superior characters, coherent plot which is engagingly slow-burn, superior writing despite minimal dialog (only 16 lines for Mad Max), on-screen violence and a  jaw-dropping set-piece at the end. The much higher budget is very well used and the widescreen cinematography is exquisite. As for the title character, Max, he is not much different from the first film and maybe he is slightly more anarchic and cynical. The 'Mad' bit in his name is an oxymoron since he is totally logical in his actions considering the circumstances. The bad guys in the film is also vastly better with perfectly logical reasons for their behavior. One could even question whether they are that bad at all. They just want some gasoline whereas the people whom Max is helping are hoarding the oil at a facility that they are protecting and they want to take some of it to go 2000 miles north where it is much more inhabitable. On the way out they are planning to destroy the facility which is kind of a dick move from their part. It can of course be seen as a metaphor for the big oil companies (seven sisters) who extracts everything from places like Africa leaving the natives without anything good. 'Seven Sisters' reference is thrown in the film with it being the logo of the tanker with which final escape is made. The Feral kid who doesn't utter a single line in the film is also particularly great and he could be very much in the new Mad Max film that is coming out later this year with Tom Hardy. I am totally excited about that now. 

Film was made on a budget of A$4.5 million, ten times that of the first one, but was not as successful as the first one because of a botched up release. It still made considerable amount of money, $35 million, but that should be put into context of first film making $100 million. First one was made in 1979 but had only got a limited release in US close to the time second one got released. So they went with the title Road Warrior, dropping Mad Max from it, so as not to confuse people and underestimating its popularity in North America. So many in US didn't even realize that it was a sequel to the original Mad Max since the brief black & white shots from the first one in it is quite easy to miss. 

Overall it is a great watch and I would recommend people who are planning to get into Max Max films to skip the first film and go directly to watch this one. The third one is supposed to be not this good but I am certainly gonna watch it since it cannot be any worse than the first film. It being PG-13 is a huge turn-off though. There is a strange and uneasy eroticism to the whole thing which is also true for the first film. Mad Max 2: Road Warrior is certainly one of the best in this genre and the soundtrack reminded me of one used in Matrix Reloaded during that famous freeway chase sequence. Film is not all about Mel Gibson and rest of the cast are also good. Another great thing about Max in this is that he is not 'always right in decision-making' kind of lead and is prone to fuck-ups from his side also.

Rating: 4.5/5