RogerBW's Blog

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1985) 20 April 2023

1981 action, dir. George Miller, Mel Gibson, Vernon Wells: IMDb / allmovie. After the end of the world, you can still get petrol and spiked leather. US vt The Road Warrior.

This was the sequel that got many things right, and defined the look of post-apocalyptic filmmaking for a decade and more. It took many elements from Roger Corman's bike gang pictures, and turned up the perversion.

It was released in the US as The Road Warrior because Mad Max hadn't been widely seen there (it had been released by American International Pictures just before they were bought by Filmways), and there's no particular suggestion that it's a sequel unless you recognise the initial flashback footage as being from that film. There's no pretence of civilisation any more: it's the new Wild West, where what you own is what you can defend.

Alas, this film was made after George Lucas caught a dose of Joseph Campbell and spread it across the filmmaking world, so the story arc is now Max reluctantly moving away from being a loner out only for himself back to being a part of civilisation – except, in a scene never scripted or filmed, that at the end he turns away and goes off on his own again. Because of the deception about the tanker? We just don't know. (For that matter, the raping murdering bike gang do not strike me as the sort of people to realise that their prize has eluded them, shrug their shoulders, and ride away, not even bothering to kill the helpless man who was clearly part of why that happened.)

What this wants to be is a kinky violent film, and in places it succeeds, largely because of the relationship between henchman Wez (Vernon Wells in his first film role) and boss Lord Humungous (Kjell Nilsson). As an action film it's lovely, but we're feeling the influence of Star Wars here, so action films in general and this one in particular no longer feel the need to put in serious content for the thinkers in the audience.

What we get instead is too often stale stereotyping. The Feral Kid worships Max. The Gyro Captain worships Max. Max loves his dog. Disabled people are evil, just as in James Bond. On most of the cast, on both sides of the wire, the costumes look like costumes, more than whatever the wearers could salvage for practicality or intimidation. It's something of a drag on the lively mood of the story.

I'm impressed by Mike Preston as Pappagallo; he has the look of British leading men of the 1960s and 1970s like Terence Stamp or Peter O'Toole, though his career was mostly in TV bit-parts.

It's very noticeable on this re-watching that the bit people talk about, the big fight with the truck, is only about the last 18 minutes of this 90-minute film. That's what stuck with people and what they remembered. (And that's what Miller would come back to years later…)

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

  1. Posted by DrBob at 01:13pm on 20 April 2023

    Disabled people aren't evil in this - the mechanic's legs are non-functional and he's one of Pappagallo's good guys. His sidekick seems to have learning disability. The old soldier could be read as having dementia. I always read these people as Pappagallo's lot protecting the disabled and vulnerable.

    I love this because it had an 13 minute car chase WITH PLOT in it. Not just endless stunts.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:15pm on 20 April 2023

    Yeah, fair, I was thinking more of the suggestion that Humungous looks like that to hide major facial scarring which Made Him A Villain (in one version of the script he was going to be Max's cop buddy from the first film).

  3. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 08:01pm on 20 April 2023

    I would add I prefer Road Warrior to Fury Road, because more plot, despite Fury Road being a lot better shot, slicker effects etc.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 11:43am on 21 April 2023

    I'll come back to it in two films' time, but Fury Road stuck me as deliberately taking the bit of this that people talk about and blowing it up to be the whole film.

  5. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 11:15am on 22 April 2023

    Agreed, and in the process losing the heart of the story, its characters.

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