“I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land. But most of all, I remember The Road Warrior. The man we called Max.”
After having enjoyed Mad Max, I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with its sequel, but The Road Warrior actually blew me away and I found it to be a much better film than its predecessor. I had thought that Mad Max had already established the post-apocalyptic world in the Australian wastelands, but in Mad Max 2 the world has become much more chaotic and there is no room for civilization whatsoever. It’s still a low budget film, but director George Miller had more room to work with here and establish his vision of this crazy world. There is also more character development and despite not being entirely convinced by Mel Gibson’s performance in the first film, I found him much more charismatic here and I can now understand why he became such a bankable actor during the following decades. There is actually a better story in The Road Warrior which plays out like a Western. Mel Gibson plays the loner Max who doesn’t say much and seems to only care for himself. He arrives at an encampment where the few surviving members are trying their best to keep things civilized despite being surrounded by a group of violent bikers led by Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) who are in need of their fuel refinery. Max makes a deal with the leader of the camp, Pappagallo (Michael Preston) to bring a truck back to the camp that will allow them to haul the tanker in exchange for all the gas he can take with him. Max is their only hope and he exits the compound while trying to escape Humungus and his men. That is how in a way the film follows the basic Western genre conventions with this mysterious man showing up as the only hope for the somewhat defenseless campers against a threatening enemy. However, Miller changes the horses for fast paced vehicles and guns for crossbows and sharp boomerangs. There aren’t any cowboys or indians here, but rather all sort of wacky and crazy characters using whatever objects they’ve found in the wasteland as their wardrobe in this post-apocalyptic world.
Mel Gibson has very few lines in this film and he appears to be interested in himself, but his charm easily wins us over. He is in a way an anti-hero, but since he shares the same enemy in common with the campers he ends up finding people he can relate to. Max has suffered a lot and lost many loved ones so he prefers to be a loner and not make new friends. In this sequel he faces a much more menacing enemy with Humungus and his gang. One particular stand out in the villain role is Wez (Vernon Wells) who is probably the craziest character in the film. Max finds two misfit allies in the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), who at first tried to steal from him and then became Max’s prisoner, and in a young brave boy known as the Feral Kid (Emil Minty) whose weapon of choice is a star boomerang. The performances in this film are all solid and the action scenes are incredibly exciting and intense. The final twenty minutes of the film had me at the edge of my seat and the car chases were extremely well shot. The score of the film does feel a bit heavy handed and manipulative, but considering this was filmed in 1981 I have to give it a lot of credit. I had an incredible time with this film and am even more excited for the upcoming Mad Max sequel. It will be hard to top this, but I won’t complain if it’s at least half as good as Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.
This is one of those rare sequels that builds and improves on their predecesor. The vision of this post-apocalyptic world is much better realized here and despite all the crazy characters the film still takes itself seriously. It is violent and there is actually a lot at stake, which is uncommon in action films these days. It is over the top in many ways, but it works extremely well in this world and I can’t think of better chase sequences than there are here. The film has non-stop crazy action and it’s a very entertaining experience. I absolutely recommend this!