My first experience with Mad Max was Fury Road. And it was fantastic. I recently saw the original Mad Max, Mad Max: Road Warrior, and Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome on television. Let’s see how they are! There will be spoilers here.
Ok, as weird as it is to say this, Mad Max did not feel like a Mad Max film. Somehow, the post-apocalyptic, mauraders on cars, desert style has become so well-known for Mad Max that the first movie felt like something else.
It wasn’t post-apocalyptic. It was just an ordinary time in Australia, right? I’m kidding. I’m sorry. Stuff is clearly starting to break down, but not that much. Society is still standing. There are just more gangs on the road. Mad Max is a world in the middle of breaking down. Max still hasn’t become surly. He has a wife and kid and a job being a police officer.
I was kind of surprised at how slow-paced the movie was. Yes, it still has great car and bike stunts, but not as many. I knew that Max’s wife and kid would die, but I just wasn’t thinking it would take the entire movie for it to happen. Really, Max doesn’t go on his revenge until the last half hour or so.
And maybe it was just the TV edit, but for a guy named Toecutter, there were no cut toes.
Now, Road Warrior felt really Mad Max. There are no communities and neighborhoods anymore. The world has turned into huddled settlements and vehicle-riding gangs.
Road Warrior stands high up there with not just a surly Max but also interesting side characters. And the vehicle action scenes from this are much crazier than the first one. I really wonder how they manage to do these things safely.
It’s odd how well Max works as more of an ass-kicking force rather than the main character. He’s just helping people solve problems and then leaving, and rather than anyone having a problem with him directly, they just want him gone because he’s annoying.
Road Warrior has all the fun of a post-apocalyptic world made in the 1980’s. The gyro captain was a highlight for me. And most of the settlement people, even though I didn’t know there names, had just enough on screen. That seems to be a strength of Mad Max, just show things on screen and that’s enough. No need to talk about it or linger on it.
The villain of the movie was also pretty cool, though these earlier Mad Max films really took the most direct approach with dealing with the bad guys. Just run them over in a larger car. I kind of wanted some cool fight scenes, but yeah, the pragmatic way works well.
Mad Max: Road Warrior was definitely great fun. I probably like Fury Road better for the production values and more 21st century sensibilities, though. Also, nothing comes close to the flamethrowing guitar, yet.
Beyond the Thunderdome was an interesting one. It felt like two separate movies combined into one. One movie was the dirty post-apocalyspe of Barter Town, where people are trying to have a normal semblance of life through clear laws and punishments. Where the Thunderdome is the answer to disputes. And where two people are vying for control.
The other movie is a wild post-apocalypse where society has devolved into a bunch of kids with strange beliefs. A place that’s lighthearted when compared to everything else around and maybe even a bit goofy. Not that the rest of Mad Max doesn’t have it’s strange moments, but the wild children tribe just feels totally different.
The two sides of the movie doesn’t even mesh well. The tribal kids have no real reason to go to Barter Town and Barter Town has no idea they even exist. It’s just Max that brings them together. And at the end of the movie, the kids are living in a city, but that place is still nothing but ruins. Not sure how it’s better than where they were living before. Barter Town may or may not still exist depending on if they can get someone else to fix their stuff.
It’s an odd one. I think them focusing just on Barter Town and the Thunderdome would have been great. The tribal childen did not feel like a great fit for the Mad Max world. Tina Turner was pretty great, though.
So, if I was to order things in my preference of Mad Max, it would be Road Warrior, Fury Road, somewhat of a tie between Mad Max and Beyond the Thunderdome. I just can’t get over how different the first Mad Max is.