Today I watched George Miller’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
Where Mad Max established the series, The Road Warrior defined it. Here we finally get the iconic apocalyptic punk style that the series has become known for. The Road Warrior sacrifices some of the previous film’s grim realism but makes up for it with pure entertainment value. This movie is relentless in its action and thrills, that combined with the stylish flair makes this an endlessly entertaining film.
Mel Gibson returns to the titular role of Max, who has become a broken anti-hero. This is perhaps one of the more fascinating aspects of the series as a whole, the evolution of the Max character from devoted family man to wasteland marauder and how that parallels with the setting itself. The wasteland has changed a lot since the last film; while in the first Mad Max people were still semi-civilized, the crazies were isolated to the open roads. But now the crazies rule supreme and the sane are few and far between, we also get some more information as to how the world ended through a narration in the film’s opening.
Action is what brings this film to life; the great car chases are full of jaw dropping stunts and practical effects. While the movie has adopted a much pulpier style it does not lose the immersive qualities of the first, everything seems grounded in a world that no longer follows our rules. Editing is an aspect of film that does not get enough love, so let me give praise to it here; it amplifies the style perfectly with Pekinpah inspired fast cuts and frenetic energy.
One element of this film that might rub people the wrong way is its sense of humour and more tongue in cheek writing than the first. There is still a lot of brutality in the world but the humour helps cut the grimness and makes it a more entertainingly palatable movie. I miss the sense of doom the first film had and I feel the character development is lacking in the supporting cast, but this is still a classic action flick with tonnes to love. 4/5