Post-Apocalyptic Movie Roundup: Mad Max Trilogy
June 2, 2015
- Mad Max (1979)
- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
- Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
- Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Starring Mel Gibson as ‘Mad’ Max Rockatansky in the first three films, and Tom Hardy in Fury Road. Directed by George Miller (although George Ogilvie took over directing much of Thunderdome).
All of the Mad Max films have received ‘cult classic’ status and the sequel The Road Warrior is truly the best, most iconic, and post-apocalyptic of original three. This article will focus mostly on Road Warrior and I covered Fury Road in a separate review.
The Apocalypse Scenario:
Global nuclear holocaust set in the Australian Outback. Cold War tensions and a global energy crisis paved the way for the dystopian and near-anarchistic setting seen in the original Mad Max, and the ensuing nuclear war creates the wasteland seen in Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome.
The first Mad Max features the Outback’s descent into chaos and anarchy as wild biker gangs take over the open road, torturing and murdering anyone they encounter. The Road Warrior, its sequel, depicts a world totally destroyed. The wasteland lacks any semblance of order or civilization and is at the mercy of insane marauders.
Unknown. While Road Warrior and Thunderdome clearly follow a nuclear war, they are purposefully vague on the details and dates of these events. It’s safe to say that the ‘Mad Max Universe’ takes place in an alternate 1970’s and following.
What They’ve Run Out Of:
-Gas. Inspired by car-wrecks and violent reactions during the 1973 oil crisis, George Miller wrote the script “on the thesis that people would do almost anything to keep vehicles moving and the assumption that nations would not consider the huge costs of providing infrastructure for alternative energy until it was too late.”
The entire plot of The Road Warrior rides on the premise that gasoline is now a rare and precious commodity. (You run out of fuel, you’re dead.) Max cruises through the wasteland in his supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special, clashing with marauders and running on fumes. Later, he happens upon some semblance of civilization, a small oil refinery besieged by the marauders. Max offers to help them escape by driving a battering ram equipped fuel tanker, hauling the precious gasoline and fighting off the pursuers. The ensuing chase is one of the most iconic action sequences in film history (and regularly tops “Top 10 Car Chase” lists).
Food, water, and ammunition are also scarce. Firearms are rare, and most resort to using bows and crossbows. Max bluffs with an empty sawed-off shotgun and eats a can of dog food for supper.
What this Film Adds to the Post-Apocalyptic Genre:
Everything. You can’t talk ‘Post-Apocalyptic’ without covering Mad Max because it defined the film genre. Everything from the Western style ‘man with no name’ hero to the beat up roadsters tearing across the wasteland have become infamous tropes. Road Warrior’s ‘comic-book, post-apocalyptic/punk style’ popularized the genre and jetted Mel Gibson to superstar status.
Mad Max is all about crazy car chases with crazier badguys. These villains are flat out insane. Their punk Mohawks, leather studded costumes, ragtag vehicles, unrelenting pursuit and psychotic battle cries make unforgettable villains.
The car chase sequences are action packed, tightly edited, fast-paced (by 80’s standards) and full of tremendous crashes. These pre-CGI films all feature an amazing amount of stunt work that leaves the viewer wondering what safety laws, if any, there are in Australia.
The Mad Max series, especially The Road Warrior, is foundational to the Post-Apocalyptic genre. With that said, these movies are far from perfect. Unpolished and slow paced (it was the 70’and 80’s, after all) can make the Mad Max films rather laborious if you’re unprepared for its style.
Mad Max (1979). 2 Zipped-Lips. A classic ‘cop gets revenge for the death of his family’ story featuring car chases across the Australian Outback. In my opinion: Doesn’t stand the test of time. It is slow paced with lots of driving filler, minimal budget, unpolished, and ultimately skippable. (The Road Warrior recaps the events of this film in its opening sequence).
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981). 4.5 Zipped-Lips. Clearly the superior film of the series. Gritty, relentless, iconic, but clearly dated by today’s standards. Max is a fantastic protagonist, sustaining realistic and permanent injury (he continues to walk with a limp and a leg brace after being shot in the first film). Road Warrior is a must-see for anyone interested in the Post-Apocalyptic genre.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). 3 Zipped-Lips. This PG-13 sequel should have been called “Max Max and the Lost Boys from Peter Pan.” The gritty action was swapped out for a cheesier approach where badguys are subdued with frying pans and vats of pig poo. This humorous, slapstick action works wonderfully in movies like Hook but feels childishly out of place in Mad Max. The Thunderdome match against Master Blaster is a highlight (“Two men enter! One man leaves!”) but everything is downhill after that. Some fans argue that the film’s lighter tone was meant to reflect Max’s return to humanity, but in the end, its just disappointing.
There you have it, fans! The Mad Max series. Don’t forget to comment below!