Sequel Saturday: Maddest Max of All, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
With Mad Max: Fury Road coming out in the United States in less than two months, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the classic trilogy starring Mel Gibson (The Beaver). The epic car chases, crazy biker gang costumes, and dystopian wastelands inspired films for years to come but if you go back to the original Mad Max, you’ll find a film that’s much more of a melodrama than the rest of the series.
An origin story in every sense of the word, Mad Max details Max’s life as a cop hunting down a vicious motorcycle gang. The score by Brian May turns into sappy saxophone riffs during the film’s more romantic scenes between Max and his wife, Jessie. Although the usual tropes of a police drama are present (a partner gets nearly killed, the hero’s family is in peril), the wild costumes of the gang members and the high-octane car chases add a unique flair to what otherwise could have been a rote story.
When people think of Mad Max, they are really thinking of the second film in the trilogy. Released in the United States as The Road Warrior and overseas as Mad Max 2, this is the real gem of the series. Traditional society is in tatters following a world war and Max is scavenging to survive in the desert. A massive gang is in charge of an oil refinery. Escaping any sort of stock narrative, much of The Road Warrior is visual filmmaking at its finest. The Feral Kid and the Gyro Captain make fine, even iconic companions for Max. I’d easily recommend The Road Warrior as a blind buy for people that have never seen the film.
After an excellent second installment, you get only half of a good film with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The first half is evocative and unique with its quirky setting of Bartertown and the titular Thunderdome. Aunty Entity is the villainess played to the hilt by Tina Turner (Tommy). Things get far too sappy when Max get stranded with a gaggle of children. There’s a climax that’s a toned down, cartoonier take on the climax from The Road Warrior, reminding the audiences of the much better film that preceded this one.
The trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road is undeniably exciting with the gargantuan explosions and choral music being used to great effect. I have a twinge of regret that Mel Gibson won’t be starring in the latest film, but by all accounts Tom Hardy is said to be solid in the lead. Perhaps the new film will truly be the maddest max of them all.