This is a follow-up to our May/June “Watch With Spooool”. Listen to the podcast for more.
Nigel’s Verdict: ★★★★
Released: Original Australian release on Christmas Eve 1981. Irish release on 30 April 1982.
Awards: Various, including the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Foreign Film
Fun Fact: Promotion for the film didn’t refer to Max character at all, and didn’t mention that the film was a sequel, giving it the new title of The Road Warrior
If you were to watch Mad Max: Fury Road and then revisit the original two films in the series as we did for the latest in the “Watch With Spooool” series then the first film in the series would leave you feeling a little confused about the dystopian world that Miller created. Of course we now know that budget constraints prevented him from fully realising his ideas with the first outing, but in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior we come close to seeing just how clearly 2015’s Fury Road realised George Miller’s world – before the troubled excess of 1985’s Tina Turner-infused Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
This film begins with a fantastic introductory prologue which basically removes the need to see the first film, converting it instead into nothing but a source of archive footage for a montage. It’s great editing and is fun to see now how well it played into the studio’s plans to market the film as a stand-alone new work.
The film opens as Max is now roaming the outback looking for gas, food and drink (what more does a guy need in the not-too-distant future?). He gets himself into some trouble and crosses a massive gang led by the insane, mohawked Wez (Vernon Wells). Max ends up aligned to a group trying to defend a massive fuel compound, eventually finding himself leading them in an escape mission driving a huge truck.
The film’s leathery costumes and soft-punky hairstyles mean it has dated a little, but take that out of the equation and you’ve got a classic Western where Max Rockatansky and his cattle dog are playing their version of the bruised and battered man with no name.
The roots of Tom Hardy’s “Max 2015” lie here with a performance from Gibson of lots of physicalness and minimal dialogue, with the focus instead on the revenge and grief that he’s going through following the massacre of his family in the first film. He’s not so much mad Max as brooding, noble and mighty Max – though that would have been a little harder to fit in the poster…
Páraic will disagree with me, but I’d say if you’re to watch one film in the series, make it this one.