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Badmovies.org Forum  |  Movies  |  Good Movies  |  Mad Max - all four « previous next »
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Author Topic: Mad Max - all four  (Read 987 times)
akiratubo
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« on: June 25, 2015, 01:08:20 AM »

I marathoned all the Mad Max movies, so I thought I'd talk about them a little.

Mad Max

A few years from now, civilization seems to be grinding to a halt for some unspecified reason.  In Australia, the primary effect of this is that roving gangs of bandits have become quite common whilst the police force seems to be wholly represented by about seven people.  One of these few remaining "bronze" is Max Rockatansky.  Say, isn't the movie called "Mad Max?"  I bet the title refers to this guy!  Seeing as how his police car is marked "Interceptor" instead of "pursuit" like everyone else's, and that job means he essentially plays chicken with crooks in suped-up V8s at over 100mph, I'd say that's a safe bet.  Max seems to realize that the cops aren't the good guys anymore.  Honestly, all of his colleagues except maybe his friend Goose are just in it because they get to play with the aforementioned V8 police cars and f**k s**t up at high speeds.  When Max remarks to his captain that he wants to retire because, "Before long I won't be any better than that lot out there!", it's fairly explicit that he means the rest of the cops, not the crooks they chase on a daily basis.

Now, about playing chicken with crooks in suped-up V8s ... The first scene in the movie is Max doing exactly that.  (Notice that Max is introduced wrenching on his Police Interceptor, and that the scene is shot more like he's making love to a woman, instead.)  The chase ends in a fatality for the crook, a nutcase who calls himself The Night Rider.  The Night Rider was the member of a biker gang, and the gang's leader, Toecutter, vows revenge on Max and all the "bronze".  But first, they make time to ransack a town, chase down a young man who manages to flee, wreck his car, and rape both him and his girlfriend.  Max and Goose find the girl later on that day.  One of the gang members, a loser called Johnny the Boy, is still on the scene.  Max and Goose arrest him, of course, but when no one dares step forward at his arraignment, they're forced to let him go.  Well, that just about makes Goose snap.  If not for Max holding him back, he'd surely have beaten Johnny to death right then and there in the middle of the police station.

Johnny goes back to his gang and, when Toecutter learns that Goose is the partner of the very same cop who killed Night Rider, he indulges Johnny's pleas for vengeance.  This culminates in something very, very horrible happening to Goose.  Not many other movies have ever handed out such a harsh fate to such a likeable character.  Well, that's it for Max.  He quits and takes his family (wife and young son), to the country to, basically, just live a little while the world falls apart.  Toecutter's gang still has a bone to pick with Max, however ...

After the biker gang is done with Max's family, they're going to learn exactly why everyone calls him "Mad" Max.  Oh, and if they think those highly modified bikes they ride make them untouchable to a lowly cop car, well, they haven't met The Pursuit Special: the 600HP, supercharged monster that Max's captain had built especially for him to lure him back to the police force.

This movie is, quite simply, the s**t.  It has a compact, streamlined story that gives you everything you need to see and nothing you don't.  It paints its characters in depth with but a few, deft strokes.  The action is literally unlike anything seen before 1979 and hardly equaled since.  The stunts are so immediate and visceral, you feel like you're right freaking there, man.  The clinical, almost documentary-style direction completes the overall effect: you're not just watching a movie, you're watching something that's really happening.  You're a spectator to these events as surely as if you were a character yourself, standing just outside the camera's field of view.

Oh, and it's a small touch but pay attention to the parting shot of the movie.  What's the camera doing?  Why, it's zooming in on Max's eyes ... just like it's done to every other character who has died.  Max may get his revenge but it does him no good.  He's still an empty shell of a man.

The Road Warrior

An unknown amount of time after Mad Max, the crumbling of society has continued apace.  Who knows what it's like back in the major population centers but, out in the middle of nowhere, life is bleak indeed.  Gangs like Toecutter's have consolidated into a virtual, mechanized army and seized absolute control of "the wasteland".  Anyone caught out on the road is doomed.  Vehicles are confiscated for spare parts and gasoline, while the drivers can hope to be either raped, killed, or both.  Fortunately for Max Rockatansky, who roves the wasteland to no particular purpose, he still has his supercharged V8.  It comes in handy when, for instance, he finds himself pursued by twin-turbocharged sedans and madmen on 1000cc bullet bikes, such as he does in the opening scene of the movie.  The sedan is dispatched easily enough due to its driver's comparative lack of skill (and some careless driving by one of his partners) but the bullet bike is another matter.  Though Max manages to scare off the bike's driver, a big, crazy-looking dude with a pink mohawk, it's obvious they haven't seen the last of each other.  Max also stops to examine a broken down big rig.  He doesn't find anything of value except a music box that plays Happy Birthday to You.  (Mel Gibson deserved an award for his reaction to the music box, by the way.  Witness how his expression changes every so slightly but meaningfully as he listens to it.)

Some time later, Max meets a deranged fellow who flies an autogyro and raises snakes both for meat and to use as weapons.  Thanks to Max's dog, named "dog", the Gyro Captain is quickly defeated.  He offers to trade information for his life.  Turns out he knows where there's still a functioning oil refinery.  Perhaps Max can get some fuel there.  Unfortunately for Max, the refinery is under siege by the forces of a giant man called, aptly, "The Humungus."  The insane biker, who we find out is called "Wez", is apparently only the #2 man in Humungus's army.  They need gas to maintain their lifestyle of  motorized rape and pillaging, and they mean to get it by any means necessary.  After a fortuitous turn of events leads to Max rescuing one of the refinery's inhabitants from a strike team led by Wez, he gains entrance to the place.  Too bad for him the guy dies as soon as Max brings him back, leaving the refinery's crew uninterested in trading for gas, or anything else for that matter.  At least they're not going to kill Max or Dog, just kick them out and keep Max's car.  Oh, wait, that's basically the same as killing him.  Never mind!

But wait, Max learns that the refinery's crew has managed to fill an entire tanker full of gasoline, which they hope to use to reach the coast (where, presumably, there are no roving gangs of murderous rapists) and start a new life.  They only lack a rig that can pull it.  Well, Max saw one of those just a couple of days ago!  Looks like he might not be so down on his luck, after all.  Max indeed retrieves the rig for the refinery crew and, per their bargain, gets his car back repaired by the refinery's mechanic and loaded with all the gas he can carry.  Thus equipped, he will surely have no trouble getting past Humungus's blockade.  Or not.  After a brief chase, Max finds out that he does not, in fact, have the most powerful vehicle in the wasteland.  His dog gets killed, too.

After a timely rescue by the Gyro Captain, Max, with even less reason to go on living than he had before, volunteers to drive the fuel tanker.  You can bet that Humungus and, especially, Wez aren't going to just let all that gasoline get away ...

The Humungus is The Man.  He can survive in the searing sun of the Australian Outback wearing nothing more than a hockey mask and a couple of leather straps.  He can maintain enormous muscle mass despite having no obvious means of exercise or acquiring nutrition.  He is so commanding he can keep a horde of chaotic-evil cannibals, murderers, rapists, and who knows what else organized enough to maintain a siege.  He can effortlessly subdue a formidable berserker stuck permanently in rage mode.  He can build an enormous, 6x6 monster truck with enough power to easily overtake Max's V8.  He can recite black poetry about hell at the drop of a hat.  There has never been, nor will there ever be, another villain as good as The Humungus.

Beyond Thunderdome

A while after the events of The Road Warrior, Max is still roaming the Wasteland.  By now, he has a horse-drawn buggy instead of a car.  On his way to somewhere, Max is attacked by a plane, of all things.  The plane is piloted by a clone of the Gyro Captain, or his long-lost twin, or something.  At any rate, it's the same actor playing a very similar character, which is distracting as hell.  This guy and his little kid steal Max's buggy and almost all of his stuff.  Drat!  Having no other recourse, Max continues on to his destination on foot.  This place is Bartertown, a small settlement where people gather to, well, barter.  Evidently, any warlords and gangs like the Humungus and his crew have gotten tired of nomadic barbarism and given it up in favor of more or less peaceful commerce.

Given that he lost all his stuff to the pilot, Max doesn't have anything to trade (except, you know, all those freaking guns and weapons he's hauling around), so he is refused entry to Bartertown.  When he makes a fuss over this, he runs afoul of some short guy (even shorter than me, in fact) who is nonetheless a total badass.  This guy seems to be Bartertown's chief enforcer and his name is Ironbar, according to the credits.  Max does pretty well dealing with him and his thugs.  He does so well in fact, that the leader of Bartertown wants to meet him.

Auntie Entity (played by Tina Turner!) wants to make a deal.  See, Bartertown has electricity, which is provided by a methane plant run by a dwarf and his giant henchman.  The duo goes by the combined name "MasterBlaster".  Master (the dwarf), is in the habit of shutting off the power in bids to become known as the true ruler of Bartertown.  Seems that it's working.  Auntie doesn't want this, of course, but she can't sic her own men on MasterBlaster because that would be murder, murder is against the law, and she - as the one who wrote the law - cannot break it.  No, she'll have to get someone to lure Blaster (the giant) into the Thunderdome.  Thunderdome is where two people who have serious disputes can fight to the death to settle them, legally.  She's been waiting for someone like Max, an outsider who might be tough enough to credibly pose a threat to Blaster.  Max thinks on it for a bit, then agrees.

Getting the fight to happen is almost ridiculously easy.  MasterBlaster has apparently purchased Max's buggy from the pilot.  It's sitting around in the methane plant, at any rate.  All Max has to do is get tough and demand it back.  That's enough for Master to order Blaster to kill Max on the spot.  Ironbar and his men just so happen (windwinknudgenudge) to be there to witness it.  Hey, no murder!  If you want Blaster to kill this guy, it'll have to be settled in the Thunderdome! (winkwinknudgenudge)

The Thunderdome battle is pretty good yet also pretty absurd.  You'll just have to watch the movie.

At the end of the fight, Max manages to knock off Blaster's helmet.  This has two effects.  1) It makes Blaster suddenly become almost entirely passive.  2) It allows Max to see that Blaster suffers from Down's Syndrome.  I guess the helmet somehow allowed Master to exert control over the weak-minded Blaster.  Without it, Blaster is essentially just an immensely strong child.  What remains of Max's compassion stops him from landing the killing blow.  Ironbar finishes Blaster himself, with a few crossbow bolts.  Now, that's pretty much a blatant murder, right there, committed by Auntie's own right-hand man.  She is only able to salvage the situation by deflecting the crowd's ire onto Max.  After all, he had a contract to kill Blaster, which he broke, and contracts are important above all else in Bartertown.  As punishment, Max finds himself tied on the back of an old, sick horse which is sent out into the desert.

Then the movie goes completely to s**t.

Max is found by a tribe of wild children, who ...  I can't do it.  The rest of this movie is just too bad.  Suffice it to say, the kids want to head to Bartertown as soon as they hear of it.  Max tells them this is a bad idea.  Some of them go anyway.  Max "rescues" them from Bartertown, ends up destroying the place, and the surviving kids escape to the remains of some city or another after Max presses the airplane pilot into service as a getaway driver.  Ugh.

The first third of the movie is actually a fairly worthy follow-up to The Road Warrior.  The notion of society coming back one baby step at a time is a good one and deserved to be examined in detail.  I don't know why that all got chucked out the window for a precious story about a bunch of cute little kids.  Just witness how Ironbar goes from being a somewhat more civilized but no less dangerous version of Wez to a completely ineffective loser of a villain that Snidely Whiplash could look down his nose at.  See how Master goes from megalomaniacal genius to harmless old fuddy.  Watch how Auntie Entity goes from a statesman utterly dedicated to the preservation and growth of Bartertown at all costs to, "Oh, well.  Guess you destroying my city doesn't bother me too much."  The moral implications of the big escape apparently flew beyond anyone's notice, too.  Bartertown is a functioning society, with laws, commerce, and all that goes with it.  It's even relatively peaceful; Ironbar's goon-squad takes their job of maintaining the peace seriously.  The place just flat-out works.  And Max blows it up.  All to preserve the innocence of a couple of stupid kids and to rescue an old man who more than earned his stint in Bartertown's prison.

Ugh.

Fury Road

Max is still roaming the Wasteland.  He's even found himself another, supercharged V8 Interceptor.  It does him about as much good as his old one did against the Humungus's vehicle, however, and Max quickly (as in, like three minutes into the movie) gets captured by a squad of hellions driving surprisingly sophisticated and well-maintained vehicles.  They've even got guns and explosives!  Where the hell did they get all that stuff?  What's going on here?  Seems Max has wandered into the lands of The Immortal Joe, a deformed monstrosity of a man who controls The Citadel, which boasts a vast, underground aquifer and hydroponic gardens, Gasoline Town, a fully-functioning oil refinery, and Bullet Town, where ... they make bullets.  Joe may be a complete monster but there's no denying his success.  His gasoline, food, water, and ammunition resources have enabled him to send his men far and wide to scavenge and conquer as much as they can.  They've gathered more ecological and industrial material than even Auntie Entity could have ever hoped.  It's perfectly plausible that they in fact own everything there is left to own on the whole Australian continent.  They also capture people for their own use.  Max, for example, gets turned into a living blood bag due to his type O- blood.

It is while being used in the aforementioned capacity that he gets to escape The Citadel.  Nux, the guy he's hooked to currently, is one of The War Boys, who act as Joe's army.  While Max is "volunteering" some of his blood to transfuse Nux, Joe calls for a war party.  One of Joe's generals, a woman named Furiosa, has absconded with both Joe's most powerful War Rig (a tanker truck outfitted into a rolling fortress) and Joe's wives - one of whom is about 9 months pregnant with Joe's latest child, whom he hopes will not be deformed as most of his others were.  Naturally, Nux goes out with the war party, and brings Max along so as to stay "topped up" during the pursuit.

The chase is brought to a halt by a fierce sandstorm, which destroys some of the lighter vehicles outright and forces even the mighty War Rig to stop and wait it out.  When the storm ends, Max comes to with Nux still chained to him.  Fortunately, the War Rig is within easy walking distance.  After a scuffle and some negotiation with Furiosa and the Wives, Max is able to secure himself a spot in the truck.  With Furiosa and Max's combined combat abilities, plus the nearly unstoppable War Rig, maybe they can escape from Joe's War Boys and the other two armies he calls in from Gasoline Town and Bullet Town.  Maybe ...

In the nearly thirty years between this movie and the last, George Miller must have mulled over exactly what went wrong with the more fantastical, lighter and softer Beyond Thunderdome.  Evidently, he decided that it was the "lighter and softer" part, not the "more fantastical."  Given the results, I can't say he was wrong.  Fury Road is a work of almost pure fantasy, displaying very little of the gritty realism of the first two movies.  It does, however, bring back the harsh violence of those early films.  The good guys and the bad guys alike get heaping servings of it.  There's nothing as awful as Goose getting cooked but this movie hands out some brutal deaths to people we're supposed to like.  All this violence is well handled, on par with the fates of the truck defenders from The Road Warrior.  They die because, well, that's just what would happen in that situation.

It's worth mentioning that Max really is mad in this one.  The first thing about the movie is a voiceover where Max explains that he's haunted by both the dead and the living.  He's gone so far off the deep end it seems he barely even remembers how to speak at first.  (And he barely ever speaks more than a few words at a stretch.)  Perhaps most tellingly, his broken mind has merged his dead wife and child into one being, a weird little girl who appears to him in moments of stress.  Holy s**t.

All in all, Mad Max can boast three great movies and one, uh, not-so-great one.  That's a lot better than most series with four or more installments can do.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2015, 01:11:36 AM by akiratubo » Logged

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Jim H
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« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2015, 12:20:49 PM »

**SPOILERS FOR THESE FILSM**

Quote
Perhaps most tellingly, his broken mind has merged his dead wife and child into one being, a weird little girl who appears to him in moments of stress.

That actually makes a lot of sense, and I can't believe I didn't come to that conclusion instead of just thinking "What a weird retcon".
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zelmo73
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2015, 07:34:05 AM »

Thank you for coming to a wonderful explanation regarding the "weird little girl" in the 4th movie. That was one of the things that had initially p**sed me off about the movie. While watching it in the theater, I had said aloud "Max didn't have a daughter, he had a son! And where's Jessie's ghost at?!" It becomes a much more creepier and (ahem) MADdening effect to have Max' addled brain merge them into one entity.  Cheers
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