Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
May 31, 2015 5:52 PM - Subscribe

In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter agrees to help a small, gasoline rich, community escape a band of bandits. (This is the second film for the Mad Max/George Miller Film Club here in FanFare. NOTE: There will be spoilers in this thread for ALL the Mad Max movies, including Fury Road.)

Director George Miller's follow-up to his own 1979 hit Mad Max is proof that not all sequels are inferior to their originals. If anything, this brutal sci-fi action film is even more intense and exciting than its predecessor, although the state of its post-apocalyptic world has only become worse. Several years after the deaths of his wife and child, Max (Mel Gibson) has become an alienated nomad, wandering an Australian outback that has fallen into tribal warfare conducted from scattered armed camps. After a road battle with psychotic villain Wez (Vernon Wells), Max meets up with the odd Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), who takes him to the camp of a sympathetic group led by Pappagallo (Mike Preston). As Pappagallo's people are camped at a refinery, Max plans to take their oil -- more precious than gold in this world -- but eventually joins them to fight a band of marauders led by the evil Humungus (Kjell Nilsson). The stunning climax features a heart-pounding chase scene involving an oil tanker-truck and a frenzied rush for the coast, with Humungus and his forces in hot pursuit. Nilsson is a scary villain, with huge muscles and a sinister pre-Jason hockey mask, but the stunt work is the key here, and it is more flamboyantly dynamic than ever, edited at breakneck pace and staged with manic fury by Miller and stunt coordinator Max Aspin. Savage and kinetic, Mad Max 2 is a must-see for action buffs. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi
posted by ocherdraco (36 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
For those of us whose first film in the franchise was Fury Road, the original Mad Max seemed to have only vague connections with Miller's newest film. But here, in Road Warrior, there are many sparks of recognition, and it feels like it's the same world from which the Citadel and the Many Mothers will emerge, later on. Miller's visual style and great ability in creating interesting characters are on full display. But make no mistake, this is a 34 year old film, and very different from certain sensibilities of the most recent in the franchise (for example, sexual violence against a woman is used fairly early on in Road Warrior to play up the depravity of Humungus's Dogs of War).
posted by ocherdraco at 6:02 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Virginia Hey's eyebrows make me weak at the knees.
posted by misfish at 10:20 PM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


"My life fades, the vision dims . . . and it was here, in this blighted place, that he learned to live again."

Best opening evar. I enthralled classmates by reciting it.
posted by whuppy at 6:16 AM on June 1, 2015


So his car is totaled in this film. Does that mean Fury Toad takes place between original Mad Max and Road Warrior? Or does he keep making the same car?
posted by ian1977 at 6:43 AM on June 1, 2015


Miller completely does not care about continuity, and basically sees the films as iterations on themes, like the Man With No Name films.
posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on June 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


This comment in the thread about "Fury Road" is my favorite explanation for why none of these movies resemble each other quite well enough to make for an entirely convincing continuous narrative.

Mad Max as culture hero to the culture that replaced out own. It's an idea that really works.
posted by Ipsifendus at 11:33 AM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah that all makes perfect sense. And would explain why he inexplicably grew a snarl-prone shagtastic 80s mullet for no damn reason on his way to Thunderdome.
posted by ian1977 at 12:04 PM on June 1, 2015


Looking at Wikipedia, I see that this was not the first post-apocalyptic film, but from what I can tell, all the previous ones were more traditional sci-fi (mutants and ray guns), anti-war films, comedies, or some mix thereof. It seems like Road Warrior (and not the little-seen-in-America Mad Max) is 90% responsible for the post-civilization wasteland tropes that we're all so familiar with now. I love how it manages to be much more grittily realistic than what came before, while still being balls-to-the-wall over-the-top.
posted by rikschell at 12:13 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


When it came out it did seem to me like the ultimate action movie in the same way that Fury Road does now. Along with Blade Runner it defined our aesthetic of the future - anyone who wanted to represent the future from then on picked from one or the other (or, if you were the makers of Max Headroom, both at the same time).

I've not rewatched it yet (bit cheeky me commenting here, I suppose), and am in slight trepidation that it might not be quite as awesome now as it was thirty-three years ago. But I'll go off on a quest for blu rays of it and check back. I'm worried that the movie that comes out of the rewatch best might be Beyond Thunderdome.

(Although I didn't hate on that movie as much as other people have done.)

I remember feeling at the time that the way that the Virginia Hey character or the fact that Wez is gay were shown were quite straightforward. There's nothing in the movie to suggest that there's anything unusual about either of those things (or that a small child has become a trained killer using a razor-sharp boomerang). Now I wonder how Ms Hey and her male counterpart launder their white clothes, but at the time I was still living at home and laundry was a kind of magic my mother took care of.
posted by Grangousier at 3:44 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Damnation Alley and The Cursed Earth, the Judge Dredd rip off of Damnation Alley, are the two most obvious predecessors I can think of, and neither of them are that much like it and these no sign that Miller paid attention to either.
posted by Artw at 4:09 PM on June 1, 2015


This comment in the thread about "Fury Road" is my favorite explanation for why none of these movies resemble each other quite well enough to make for an entirely convincing continuous narrative.

Mad Max as culture hero to the culture that replaced out own. It's an idea that really works.


Especially since The Road Warrior is told from the perspective of the Feral Child, who is like, what, five?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:51 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


But here, in Road Warrior, there are many sparks of recognition, and it feels like it's the same world from which the Citadel and the Many Mothers will emerge, later on.

It's also interesting to see the genesis of ideas that were more fully realised in Fury Road. The proto War Rig, with the gunner's turrets fore and aft. The wacky racer cars. Even the Humongus seems like a precursor to Rictus Erectus. The Feral Child might easily have grown up to be a war boy, had he not migrated north.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:57 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember feeling at the time that the way that the Virginia Hey character or the fact that Wez is gay were shown were quite straightforward. There's nothing in the movie to suggest that there's anything unusual about either of those things (or that a small child has become a trained killer using a razor-sharp boomerang).

Also the disabled mechanic - presented as entirely matter of fact without need for backstory or explanation, even though he's swinging from a small crane. Nice to see that Miller was good on that issue even 30 years ago.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:00 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I grew up in a post-Thunderdome world, and it's amazing to think this one movie inspired so many great rip-offs and movies and games. I watched it recently and it still hold up as a pure action movie, with so many neat details.
Some great tributes include an episode of Regular Show that redoes pretty much the entire chase and the game RAGE that lets you play with the razor boomerangs.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:42 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel like I've been waiting ten years for this thread.

In my humble opinion, The Road Warrior is arguably one of the best action films of all time.

The way Miller starts with an awesome mini documentary about how the world went to shit (in the '50s?), followed by a drop right in the middle of that world is incredible.

The first minute of action is on a par with the open to Star Wars. You learn everything you need to know about both sides. Max is on the run, yet still has game but is low on gas and Wez and his posse are hot on his trail. Max can drive. Wez can drive. The leather dudes cant drive. (Wez, I hope that crossbow injury doesn't get infected, because you probably don't have any antibiotics.)

I felt a little let down by Fury Road, even though I thought Theron totally stole the movie.
posted by Sphinx at 6:48 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


on a par with the open to Star Wars

The scenes with the Gyro Pilot at the beginning were super reminiscent of Star Wars to me. Especially in the sense of "these are real people in a real, gritty world, and you are going to want to know what happens to them."
posted by ocherdraco at 9:59 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The scenes with the Gyro Pilot at the beginning were super reminiscent of Star Wars to me.

I'm possibly overthinking this, but one of the things I noticed on a recent rewatch was when the Gyro Captain finishes the leftover bits of dog food out of a can that Max's own dog was eating out of, he then takes out a piece of cloth to wipe his mouth with. It's completely unexpected and makes me think that the Captain sees himself as a civilized gentleman, even in the post-apocalypse.
posted by FJT at 2:22 PM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah, absolutely. The napkin thing plus his giant boutonniere.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:35 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The dog food sequence is just lovely. A great mini-story in the middle of the larger one.

If I were to put together a top 10 list of movies, The Road Warrior would undoubtedly be included. It's a masterpiece.
posted by brundlefly at 3:46 PM on June 2, 2015


A friend of mine made a "just walk away" joke a few months back. When I commented on it, he revealed that he had never seen the movie. He knew it as a friggin' South Park joke. Needless to say I had him over and forced him to watch it. He loved it. Blown away. A few fashion choices aside, the film has not aged.
posted by brundlefly at 3:47 PM on June 2, 2015


A few fashion choices aside, the film has not aged.

Yes, arseless leather chaps seem like poor desert apocalyse garb, especially if you're spending a lot of time on a motorcycle.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:57 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


The way Miller starts with an awesome mini documentary about how the world went to shit (in the '50s?), followed by a drop right in the middle of that world is incredible.

It's garbled and confused with WW2 because it's being narrated by the grown and aged Feral Child, who wasn't born when the world was killed and only ever heard about it second hand; oral history.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:02 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah. "Two warrior tribes went to war." The oral history thing is pretty neat.
posted by brundlefly at 11:39 PM on June 2, 2015


I haven't seen it in years, but I recall that Beyond Thunderdome also suggests that it's an oral history, told by the surviving children from the crashed plane.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:52 PM on June 2, 2015


Yes, arseless leather chaps seem like poor desert apocalyse garb, especially if you're spending a lot of time on a motorcycle.

After the apocalypse struck the only stores left standing in the local mall were a costume supplies, a sporting goods store and a sex shop. The survivors made do with what they could.
posted by Artw at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]




I'm pretty sure I saw one of the goodies wearing a cricket glove at one point.
posted by Artw at 8:44 PM on June 3, 2015


Saw this last night -- wow, what a great film. Good to see that Miller didn't suddenly become a feminist in 2013; depressing to realize how few other directors realized hey, we can set our movies in worlds with women in them!

I said of the first one that Miller was displaying "nothing but talent," but in this one, you can see his skill really start to develop -- particularly his ability to display characterization without dialogue. In the opening sequence, when Max is investigating the 18-wheeler and completely shrugs off both the emergence of that guy's arm shooting out of the wreckage accompanied by a guttural cry AND the skinned corpse falling out of the cab of the rig, that says more about how inured to pain and death he's become than any expository monologue ever could.

It also, to me, puts the lie to the notion that MM:FR isn't a real Mad Max movie because Max is just along as a helper to the real protagonist. Um, that's exactly Max's role in this movie. He shows up, allies himself with the gas people's cause, helps them out of their jam, and then disappears.

Is this refinery the same in-world location as Gastown in Fury Road?
posted by KathrynT at 8:36 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you want it to be, sure.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


He shows up, allies himself with the gas people's cause, helps them out of their jam, and then disappears.

Isn't it more like, he helps them out of their jam, they screw him over and and move on to a shiny new life, leaving him alone in the dust with a tanker full of sand and no dog?
posted by misfish at 5:28 PM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


They will remember him! He has been witnessed!
posted by Artw at 5:30 PM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's the no dog thing that gets me. HE HAS NO DOG. WHAT HELL WORLD IS THIS?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:11 PM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


The dog will ride eternal, shiny and chrome.
posted by Artw at 8:00 PM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, does EVERY Mad Max movie feature someone suspended from an elasticated harness?
posted by KathrynT at 11:46 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Isn't it more like, he helps them out of their jam, they screw him over and and move on to a shiny new life, leaving him alone in the dust with a tanker full of sand and no dog?

I'm sure he could have come along if he wanted. After all, the (equally sketchy) gyro captain takes the feral kid off of his hands and joins up with the caravan himself.
posted by brundlefly at 12:30 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


they screw him over

More like Pappagallo & the rest of the refinery group were nowhere near as naive as Max thought they were, which he acknowledges with that twitch of a smile and laugh after he discovers the tanker is full of sand.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:41 AM on June 5, 2015


« Older Samurai Champloo: Lullabies of...   |  Aquarius: Everybody's Been Bur... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments

poster