The Mad Max Quadrology, or- “How to Make an Interesting Car Chase”

A million years ago, when Mel Gibson was an unknown, before eventually being hated, he made a low budget flick straight outta Australia (former prison continent), called Mad Max. It was a decent film but I barely remember any of it. 

Max had a wife and child who were brutally run down by a biker gang. I remember this only because I think we see both the wife and the baby each running down the highway while bikers loomed menacingly in the background.

Max was left for dead, came to, buried his family, tracked down the bikers, exacted revenge. Actually I think most of that happened but I’m not sure, because I don’t think I’ve ever rewatched it because it was either disturbing, depressing, had violence against children, was just a shitty movie, or all of the above. 

The thing IS…. whenever you wanted to watch some primo Mad Max, you’d gun it right over to Mad Max: The Road Warrior. This really was the perfect movie for the 1980’s. Lent itself very nicely to the chaotic punk era. Mel Gibson’s Max was kind of the Dirty Harry antidote to all of it. 

RW had an intro, giving us all the exposition we need about gas and water and survival and desert gangs and the set up.

But the movie is really an excuse for a bombastic, crazy ass car, cycle, tank, truck, copter, insert vehicle here, chase. With spikes and leather and Mohawks and screaming and razorangs. Chock full of Ozzie humor, which kind of amounts to the same end result of the leather, spikes, etc.

Like many film franchises, this second film was the standard bearer. The quality entry.    And like many film franchises, we see the second film and think wow, imagine how good the third will be! Ah well.

Mad Max : Beyond Thunderdome wasn’t really that bad, I don’t think. Unlike Road Warrior, it may have had more of a story but mostly dome antics, Tina Turner showing some leg and MasterBlaster, who, frankly, is a much better, more interesting, capable and well rounded character in this franchise than Boba Fett was in his. Just sayin’.

I also don’t think I’ve ever watched BT a second time either. Not all the way through, anyway. 

I think, when you come right down to it, it’s very hard to care for any of these people. Well, I guess you care a bit about the people holed up in the fort in RW, but the occasional Ozzie humor undercuts the severity of their situation. And you really don’t care about the crew in BT. I forget if they had slaves or some form of oppressed individuals in the dome and if so, how bad their plight was, mostly because of the wacky Ozzie comedy bits/black humor. The last people you really felt sorry for were Max’s wife and baby, but that was before the apocalypse. You weren’t really even that concerned about the Feral Kid, because he knew how to wield the razorang. 

But then, decades went by and we got a brilliant new Mad Max film, Mad Max: Fury Road. I say “brilliant” because it is easily one of the most visually stunning films ever. Certainly the best looking Max film by far. And virtually no Ozzie black humor!

It is not really a Mad Max film though. It is a Furiosa/Mad Max film. Furiosa is played by Charlize Theron. That’s all you need to know. 

The next time someone complains we have no strong women roles or role models out there, remind them of Charlize Theron in any number of roles like Furiosa or Atomic Blonde. Remind them of all the roles they’ve forgotten going back to Mrs. Peel 60 years ago in the Avengers. (Look it up, kids) but I digress. Bottom line, Furiosa is awesome.

Max is kind of the go between in the movie between we the viewers and the co-hero of the film, Furiosa. My hats off to the producers for making a Furiosa film but labeling it as a Mad Max film just to get it out there, get butts in the seats and basically rehashing the Road Warrior.

And it works! Yes, it’s the Road Warrior again and I would even say it’s done better. More action, more craziness, more violence, more spikes, leather, screaming, color and Guitar Guy.

Guitar Guy, the most colorful, red leather gimp in all of Oz, slammin’ on a sci fi blazing guitar, suspended on wires, plastered on the front of a speeding monster truck.

Tom Hardy plays Max and he’s more than a worthy successor to Gibson, so maybe there are more Max films coming? I have no idea. They had one good idea that’s been done twice in four movies. If George Miller tries again, he may end up taking another giant Thunderdome. 

Back to Hardy. The guy is a consummate professional. The vast majority of actors go nuts if you cover up their handsome mugs in a movie for even five minutes. Hardy, meanwhile, is the guy who was facial, vocally and physically unrecognizable when playing Bane in Dark Knight Rises, yet was easily the most entertaining part of the film. Here, he spends the first half hour with no lines and his face covered in a metal cage! Crafty old blood-bag…

It’s very rare that a film franchise pulls it all together and not only nails it on the 4th try but has the audacity to be a better remake of the only other good film *in* the franchise. That’s pretty crazy. 

It’s MAD, I tell you!

Published by rickjlundeen

Storyboard and comic book illustrator/creator/publisher

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