Movie Trilogy Review: MAD MAX (1979-1985)
‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is a recent movie that I’m heavily interested in and will definitely be checking out in the near future. However, before I expose myself to, what looks to be a visual treat, I figured I should educate myself on the apparent film auteur that is George Miller and his apparent epic masterpiece that is supposedly the ‘Mad Max’ Trilogy. After binge watching all three films, some more than a couple of times, I must say that Miller knows his stuff and I am even more excited for ‘Fury Road’ than I previously was. So here’s my very quick Review of the ‘Mad Max’ Trilogy, with minimal Spoilers.
‘Mad Max’ (1979)
The Original ‘Mad Max’ is more of a character drama than a crazy action movie, as I initially thought based on the hype and previous knowledge of the franchise. I was a little surprised initially to find the film’s pacing to be quite slow and consisting of more blaring musical cues than much dialogue. While it’s touted as a dystopian future, I didn’t find much chaos or dystopia in this movie, except for the existence of a lawless motorcycle gang. And even that reminded me more of the lack of order that can be found in old Western films than a post-apocalyptic one.
‘Mad Max’ opens with a highway chase that almost sets up this expectation for the rest of the movie. Juxtaposed with shots of Mel Gibson’s titular character setting up his car, the chase scene ramps up slowly and surely, ending with a spectacular crash. Most of the film works in this manner of building up the action with tense scenes with very little dialogue, then culminating in intense fiery craziness. While those scenes can have an outstanding payout, they also end up being kind of boring. The more engaging sequences come in the end of the movie, when we are invested in the characters to care about them and watch in rapt attention at the long dialogue-less scenes of Gibson’s Max spiral into madness after the loss of his loved ones. It’s a great ending as it sets up the franchise and anticipation to move on to the next film, but hard to see it have the same effect as it released originally with no sequel to back it up.
‘Mad Max 2: Road Warrior’ (1981)
The 2nd film in the franchise, ‘Mad Max 2: Road Warrior’ immediately improves upon my complaints about the first film, by providing a well needed narrative exposition in the opening scenes of the film. Summarizing the history of world and of the character of Max, the movie starts with a lot more established with the story than the first film. This allows the audience to become partially invested in the story and be that much more engaged as the story progresses from that point onward.
An anti-hero that gets the motivation needed to become a hero to a group of strangers by doing the right thing is what ‘Road Warrior’ boils down to. The action and characters are crazier than the first film, but not in a creepy, WTF kind of way. The antagonist gang is more physically menacing, while the action sequences are not as jarring as the first. Definitely an improvement over the first and a highly exciting one. The ending is that much more significant as it dramatically links itself to the opening narration, providing some more mysterious dept to the character of Mad Max.
‘Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome’ (1985)
The final film in the ‘Mad Max’ franchise is quite probably the most layered and reflective of the decade it’s made in. While the previous films reflected more word-less and prominent musical cues that is normally associated with films of the 70’s, ‘Beyond Thunderdome’ executed a proper adventure/action film with all the grunge metal funk that the 80’s provided.
The film provides the most storylines and the pacing changes gears to take us on a thriller of an action ride from the first frame to the last. Spending very little time in isolation, the story brings Gibson’s Max to a bustling city growing in the apocalyptic wasteland where he makes some enemies who want him dead. After being left for dead, Max stumbles onto a group of children left behind by survivors of the apocalypse, who have been raised on the stories of life prior to. This is the first time we hear any mention of the world before the apocalypse in this franchise. It’s a cool way to show case how life was before the world is how it is now.
With more characters than the other two films, ‘Beyond Thunderdome’ provides a great antagonist too in the form of Tina Turner, as she plays the boss of the town out for Max’s blood. The group of kids also provides an opportunity to show a more protective side of Max, which is a welcome change of pace, given the ending of the film. ‘Beyond Thunderdome’ rounds out the series with a great story that ends on a similar note as ‘Road Warrior’, but fleshing out the character a lot more with even more story and a new adventure.
Before ‘Fury Road’…
Director George Miller created a great world that progressed with each story and the character of Mad Max grows along with it. Unlike other director, Miller evolves with the films as well, as plot, progressions of story and themes evident within the films grow naturally, and not out of a need to follow any formula. Miller’s choice of music is an aspect of the films that evokes the right emotions at the right times, which is most evident in ‘Beyond Thunderdome’ as a common tune repeats in the 1st half of the time, seemingly created by the banging of pipes or a similar sound.
While the visuals of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ look like on-screen madness, I am very excited to see how Miller’s evolution into this world continues after 30 years and if Tom Hardy is able to appropriately depict the somber yet rage-flu Max in this, what I’m hoping, will be a new franchise.