Films of High Adventure: Mad Max 2 AKA The Road Warrior
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The Film: Mad Max 2 AKA The Road Warrior (which is how we Yank philistines will be referring to it) (1981)
Responsibility Roundup: Besides creating, co-writing, and directing all four Mad Max movies, George Miller is also the man behind both the Babe and Happy Feet film franchises. You know, for kids. Co-written by Terry Hayes (the From Hell movie, the novel I Am Pilgrim) and Brian Hannant (uh, something called The Time Guardian?). In addition to Mel “Butt-dog” Gibson, the movie stars Bruce Spence (Dark City; I, Frankenstein), Mike Preston (Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn), Virginia Hey (Farscape), Vernon Wells (Weird Science; Commando), Emil Minty (um, something called Fluteman?), and the Lord Humungus as himself (wait, no, that’s wrong—he’s played by Kjell Nilsson). Soundtrack by Brian May (Mad Max, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare) and the countless explosions.
Quote: “Greetings from The Humungus! The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!”
Alternate quote: “I’m only here for the gasoline.”
First viewing by Jesse: As an early teen, maybe?
First viewing by Molly: A couple of weeks ago.
Most recent viewing by both: A couple of weeks ago.
Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Surprisingly scant. I mean, I obviously thought it was great, and preferred it to either the far-less-absurd Mad Max or the far-more-absurd-but-not-in-a-good-way-like-you-want Beyond Thunderdome, but not even the superior middle entry left too deep an imprint on my development. I’m not sure what to attribute this to, except maybe the fact that I’d already seen so many of its post-apocalyptic imitators that while I loved the undiluted insanity and epic automobile warfare of The Road Warrior (and especially the Humungus!) it didn’t strike me as particularly unique or mind-blowing. I know, I know—kids don’t know a good thing when it’s right in front of their stupid faces.
Impact on Molly’s childhood development: None. Never saw it. My high school boyfriend made me watch Beyond Thunderdome and I fell asleep during it, and had a lovely nap if memory serves.
Then again, I saw Tank Girl and Waterworld… between those two I guess I could say The Road Warrior had a profound impact on my childhood.
Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:
Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Pretty chuffed, my dogs of war! With Fury Road roaring toward us I’ve been wanting to revisit the franchise (I’m actually way more excited for Miller’s new entry in the series than I would’ve been if Mel was attached, and not just because I want Tom Hardy to star in every movie I ever watch for the rest of my life [and also come to my house for tea on the regular]). Molly has never seen either of the first two Mad Max pictures, but since our Films of High Adventure calendar only allowed for one I figured we ought to ditch well-developed characters, emotional impact, and an actual plot in favor of balls-out leather daddy action in the Wastelands. Story of my frickin’ life, right there.
Molly’s thoughts prior to watching: Meh? Beyond Thunderdome was toots, and I hate Mel Gibson. Mostly, I expected to be bored. [Jesse says: this is neither the time nor the place to debate the merits of Thunderdome with Molly—that will come after the before time, the long, long, uh, now, when Tina Turner’s gams conquer the Outback.] [Molly says: I saw Tina doing her thing. I fell asleep post one-man-leaving the Thunderdome? Whatever.]
Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: First off, let me allow that we probably should have started with Mad Max—a few of my fondest memories from The Road Warrior turned out not to be from The Road Warrior, at all, but the first film. I think? It’s been so long since I watched any of these that I guess the whole franchise became a sweaty blur of screaming steel in my braincase. No matter; on to the movie at hand.
After the epic rancidity of last month’s entry, this film was a balm upon my sunburned eyes. It manages to have even less plot and character development than Waterworld, and is ten trillion billion million gazillion times better. At a minimum. For real, I’m trying to think of another film with comparably minimal characterization and story that still manages to be as marvelously entertaining and am drawing a total blank… perhaps because most movies this brain-dead don’t feature a tricked out semi-truck smashing apart goons in dune buggies for a full quarter of their running time. There’s something angelically pure about a film that is so true to itself—Miller wanted to make a movie where deranged fuckers go totally apeshit in the Outback, and he delivers on that promise absolutely.
This brilliant simplicity is what so many of The Road Warrior’s imitator’s lack, and part of what makes it feel so honest of a picture. Most sci-fi action movies of this model feature a hero who starts off brusque and ruthless but soon comes around to the plight of the helpless losers who need him (see Warrior of the Lost World (as popularized by MST3K), Paul W.S. Anderson’s Soldier, Waterworld, etc. etc.), whereas Mel Gibson’s Max is an unredeemed fucker to the end. He straight up abandons the people who need him most in their moment of need… but instead of having his heart grow three sizes that day and return to dramatically save the helpless victim, Max burns rubber for the horizon.
True, he returns to the colony and volunteers to drive the big rig for the final showdown, but not because he comes around to the righteous cause—he does so because his escape attempt is foiled, his car is destroyed by the baddies, his dog is killed, and he is literally powerless to resist the gyro captain who comes to his rescue and flies him back to the rebel alliance (or whatever those shmucks in white shoulder pads call themselves). When Max steps up to drive the semi truck, it’s not out of obligation to the greater good, but blatant self-interest—now that he’s been involuntarily dragged back into the besieged camp, his only choice is whether he meets the Lord Humungus’ army at the wheel of a giant truck or crammed into a school bus full of mewling bandit bait. If Max had his druthers he’d be a hundred miles away, leaving the good guys to die in a ditch, but since that’s no longer an option he makes the most out of a shit situation and demands he be given the biggest vehicle in the fleet before rolling out to face the fuckers who trashed his Interceptor and murdered his dog. Whereas Kevin Costner’s so-called anti-hero in Waterworld risks everything to save a child, Mad Max straight up orders a frightened kid to crawl out onto the hood of a speeding truck to retrieve a shotgun shell—blasting one more scumbag into a red pulp is way more important than the life of a grimy wildchild. Priorities, mate. Fuck and yes.
I could spend days waxing elegiac on the glory of the action set-pieces in the pre-CGI era, but really, you either know all that already, or you owe The Road Warrior a rewatch post haste. Come for the morally bankrupt epic, stay for the morally bankrupt epic. Let us all pray to the Lord Humungus that Tom Hardy’s take on Max is as dark as Mel’s, even as Master Hardy himself remains a pristine snowflake in contrast to Squire Gibson’s slurry of partially-frozen feces.
Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Let me say this first: The Road Warrior was way better than it had any right to be. I was skeptical at first, yes I was… a long exposition sequence at the beginning of a film is rarely a good sign. Just sayin’. But, the immediate, extreme violence following said exposition redeemed things.
Oh, and full disclosure: I’m loopy on muscle relaxers right now, due to a back injury, so if this is brief and/or incoherent, please forgive me.
Anyways, so yeah. This movie! I knew The Road Warrior had affected the look and feel of post-apocalyptic movies for decades afterward. But, I didn’t realize how much other post-apoc movies wouldn’t take from it… e.g. the BDSM gang of toughs seemingly made up of 3 kinds of people: heterosexual male rapists, floozies, and sweet, healthy, LTR-having, kink-friendly m/m couples. I don’t know what that says about the writers or production designers or the casting or really anything, I just find it fascinating.
Anyone who knows me will already know that I got SUPER into these kinky violent weirdoes, even more so after the credits rolled and I was digesting all the majesty. I was really happy that in the end, Wez’s grief over his partner’s death-by-boomerang didn’t cause him to try to sexcreep on Max or any of the homesteaders, like in every other gay-panicky 80s movie. Nope, Wez was just in there to hang with his boyfriend and burn shit down, and he ran out of boyfriend to hang with.
And then there’s the leader of these outlaws: “The Humungus,” AKA Lord Humungus, the, ahem, Ayatollah of Rock n’ Rollah, a man in what appears to be some variation of the “English Bulldog Full Body Harness” (according to the Mr. S bondage and leather gear site). Sorry Mel—I’mma let you finish? But Lord Humungus is the greatest leader of men in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Austraila of all TIIIIIME. I mean, really, instead of being a giant douche to everyone, like a certain Max I could mention, The Humungus cares. The Humungus will let you “just walk away” rather than get murdered. The Humungus knows the hearts of men; after all, when Wez is mourning his lover, The Humungus tells him “We’ve all lost someone we love.”
Who, Jesse and I mused, did The Humungus lose?
What’s the story there?
Shockingly, there does not seem to be a fanfic explaining this element of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior [Jesse says: Still waiting on that phone call, Kindle Worlds. I’m ready when you are]. But, apparently he did inspire a pro wrestling character called Lord Humongous, which, that is pretty cool.
High Points: The Humungus! Also, Wez’s grief, and assless chaps. The cars and dune buggies and motorcycles and trucks smashing and crashing and blowing up. The utterly fearless stunt people, one of whom smashed a leg in a failed jump…an accident that made its way into the final cut, because hell yes they used that footage. And the dog. But mostly The Humungus. See Exhibit A:
Low points: Uhhh hmm. The Feral Kid? Not-Hugh-Laurie Gyro Captain? [Jesse says: that last one is entirely Molly; I’m all about a gritty gross-out who trains poisonous snakes, flies a sweet gyro-copter, and risks his life for the love of a woman with a side-pony—not to get all late-game game-changer on y’all, but the Gyro Captain is obviously the actual hero of the film, and he’s got the character arc to prove it. Think about it.]
Final Verdict: Humungus!
Next Time: Let me seeeeee that Duuuuune… Dune Duh-Dune Dune Dune.