Reviews of Mad Max (1979) and related work
- Sequel: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
- Sequel: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
- Sequel: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max (1979)
Car-fondling revenge flick on paper-thin excuse for a backdrop. Not worthy of its own sequel.
‣ Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
High cult. No matter how profoundly silly its concepts, how very post-Jaws its presentation, this film’s post-apocalypse remains absolutely iconic.
‣ Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
‣ Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – previously
Seen in 2015.
I’ve seen the 3D version (full colour in its original theatrical run) and the 2D version (“Black & Chrome”, at the 2018 Draken SF film festival).
Insane with guilt, Max loses his car to a group of warlords knitted together by their respective access to food, fuel and weapons. One warlord’s wife has drawn intelligent conclusions about the academic question of “who killed the world” and persuaded one of the generals to her cause.
Substantially more mature and grandiose than its prequels. As an action thriller it is superb. The impressive storm, mid-desert swamp and ridiculously high estimate of the size of the desert flats indicate that George Miller settled on a mythological approach to the subject, far removed from the first film. It is a good choice, given the weakness of the “terminal crazies” premise that runs throughout the series, and the general ecological implausibility. As science fiction, it’s thin, but it has all the eye candy that was missing from The Book of Eli (2010), and a lot more.
The meandering journey through several warlike little cultures reminds me of The Warriors (1979) with everybody but the gangs removed from society. The “Buzzards”, for instance, use The Cars That Ate Paris (1974). The blind Doof Warrior is a fantastic idea, well executed, like a corner detail in some schlocky 1990s Games Workshop illustration brought to life. It is just one of numerous such details in the continuous chase: Ingenious novelties held together by solid work in every department. It lines up too well with the male gaze upon Joe’s wives, despite all that is done to soften that gaze. Furiosa, at least, is an even stronger female trucker character than Jill Layton of Brazil (1985).
It is gratifying that the ambitious small-scale worldbuilding and practical effects work on this movie very quickly secured a lasting place for it in popular culture. For example, on January 13th 2020, The Late Show (2015) debuted a graphic for the 2020 US presidential election, extensively quoting both scenes from and the title of this movie (as “Fury Road to the White House 2020”), with Andrew Yang as the Doof Warrior, Elizabeth Warren as Furiosa, Joe Biden as Rictus Erectus, Mike Bloomberg as a biker, Pete Buttigieg as Max(?), Bernie Sanders as Slit, and Donald Trump as Immortan Joe; the characters were updated as the campaign progressed. This replaced the “Hungry for Power Games” segment based on The Hunger Games (2012) and the previous election. The analogy got stronger when terrorists forcibly expelled Biden from Bexar county, Texas, on October 30th, and The Late Show again turned to footage from Fury Road to comment on the incident. This film was, at the time, the most iconic image of a dark and tribal future.