I’m going to do another little series of reviews for the weekend, and since I just went to see Mad Max: Fury Road, I figured what the heck? Let’s do the lot.
So, we’ll be starting with the one that kicked it all off, Mad Max.
This meme, even though it is from the second movie, and although it does break the fourth wall and ruin the Max Rockatansky character a little, is so devastatingly true and such an awesome symbol of what the future really became, that I just have to lead in with it.
This is one of those movies that has massive classic-cred, but when you sit down and re-watch it (I got the original trilogy on the cheap on blu-ray, and re-watched them) it really does show itself as … well, not bad, so much as embryonic.
There was clearly vision here, because we see it in later movies. And we can see it in this one too, in some form. But everything was so new and green and unformed. The director clearly knew what he wanted to make but it seemed as though he wasn’t quite getting it right. Still, he did the best he could with the materials at hand, and ended up with a pretty entertaining movie.
Pictured: The materials at hand. Amusingly, we will see Hugh Keays-Byrne again. And according to IMDB, he was also in Farscape. I have to watch that again sometime.
Mad Max was the story about probably-Australia but basically “the world” in the not-too-distant future – probably about the year 1995 or so, seen from the perspective of 1979 – after resources have run low and lawlessness has taken control of the countryside. There’s just the thugs, the maniacs going “terminal psychotic” in a sort of unholy merging of road rage and post-modern ennui.
Also completely inappropriate sleazy ice cream licking.
 I think we can safely say the whole series is set in Australia. There are plenty of clues. The nomads are trying to find their way to Queensland, for example. Also, characters say “strewth” and Max’s kid’s name is Sprog, which is more than enough evidence for me.
So, it is a world gone off the rails, turned feral, out of control. This is personified in a ruthless motorcycle gang who are somehow able to menace people in actual cars, while on the road, despite the fact that a single car could cream an entire army of motorcyclists. Do people even realise how fragile a motorcycle is and how little there is protecting a motorcyclist when he goes flying off that thing?
“Even running over a wife and baby attempting to escape us on foot would probably have thrown me off that bike! I’d have to spend the rest of my life wearing a face mask and a perspex breastplate to protect my ruined skin!”
Anyway, sorry for the minor spoiler there, but what this movie boils down to is a long, long build-up to the tragic loss of Max Rockatansky’s young family, which sends him crazy and ends the movie in a ten-minute blast of vengeance.
“He came here to park his car badly and commit unsanctioned homicide. And his car’s all parked.” – This should have been the actual tagline for this movie, but wasn’t.
Before the brief and entertaining stint of revenge / torture porn, though, it’s really just another cop movie. And surprisingly tame, in the fertile ’70s-’80s genre of dystopian future crime.
And with some quite hilarious dialogue. That guy was indicating! We’re supposed to be the law!
We have all the classics – the cocky cop, Goose, who doesn’t play by the rules; City Hall screwing it up with their “laws” and their “justice” and letting the criminals walk free; the cocky partner getting killed as a nearly-final straw; the good cop worried about only the badge separating him from the hoodlums; the grizzled chief telling him to take some time off and … well, okay, the chief was funny.
And by “funny”, I mean “Hellboy”. But actually named “Fifi”.
But, as mentioned, it really just boiled down to your classic ’70s-’80s version of a dystopian future. Not quite as bizarro as Zardoz, not quite as violent as Robocop, but somewhere in the general vicinity. This was where it all began, and was something of an origin story. A prequel actually made before the main story was made, which is refreshing to revisit in this day and age.
Some decent moments of tension and good, if hammy, character acting amidst the absolute dross separated this from a director’s first postgraduate attempt at making a movie with a bunch of his school friends. There was a clear effort here and an undeniable love for the story and the setting that the thirty-six intervening years have not diluted in any way.
This was a world on the edge of madness. Things hadn’t completely fallen apart, but when they did, they fell apart hard and fast.