Friday, November 18, 2011

Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) (1981)
AUSTRALIA --- science fiction

Dir: George Miller

Has humanity ever been optimistic of the future? My answer is a resounding NO. Utopian futures in all sparks of imagination has never really been explored in literature, film, or even religious beliefs. Most religions don't view this earth as a place that can be redeemed. Most revolutionaries and dictators with Utopian ideologies were bent on bringing their reigns about through devastation. Wherever a idealistic future is depicted  their is still another darker side to it. Logically speaking, for every utopia must be a dystopia for someone. In the "Mad Max" series, the only ones enjoying the desolate future are the ones of complete moral decay.

Quite possibly one of cinemas very best sequels, writer/ director George Miller's "The Road Warrior" doesn't just repeat the same old story from the original film, it extrapolates on the theme of the dystopian future that eventually deteriorates into a completely blasted wasteland. In the previous film, "Mad Max", we had a glimpse into an uncertain future that clearly wasn't very comely, and was in such disrepair our hero became something of an anti-hero just to survive. Now catching up with him after the horrific life-altering events of the last film, we find Max Rockatansky a lone drifter and a shadow of the man he was. His only companions is a loyal Shepherd dog (I believe may have been the puppy from the last film), a two-gauge sawed-off shotgun, and of course his suped-up Interceptor which is no longer the shiny black vehicle of the last film but a dusty sun-bleached vehicle that looks just as worn-out as its owner. He isn't alone for too long, however, as his ever-present biker adversaries appear very early on in the film, and are just as much a threat as they were in the last film.

He has a very short confrontation with the biker gang when he scavenges some fuel from a wrecked vehicle, but the encounter ends in peace. To add to the collection of allies, the film throws in another player. When Max spots a one-man gyro copter on the side of the road, he approaches it in hopes of siphoning some fuel. A quirky drifter (played by veteran Australian character actor Bruce Spence) gets the drop on him, but Max quickly turns the tables. The gyro captain reveals that he knows where to find an entire refinery of gasoline in a fortified compound of men and women fighting of the biker gangs. Max agrees to let him live if he leads him to the compound. When they arrive on a mountaintop overlooking the makeshift fort held up with around thirty individuals, Max stakes out the area to observe an opportune time to get to the oil without alerting the gangs. He and the gyro captain witness the biker gang ruthlessly kill some of the inhabitants who tried to escape, Max heads out to save just one as his entry into the compound. They obviously distrust him and see him as a threat, until the marauders and their muscles-bound leader Humongous gives them an ultimatum. Max sees the makeshift community, which includes a resourceful burrowing feral child with a razor-sharp boomerang could use some assistance. He offers to help the group in exchange for a full tank of gas for his car and whatever he can haul with him.

He goes on a night-bound mission to get them a truck to haul an oil tanker out of the compound, and meets up with the gyro copter captain again. On a very dangerous and breakneck drive back to the compound, due to him being atacked by the marauders just miles within destination, Max makes good on his deal. He then later goes back on the road on his lonesome, and is once again attacked by Humungous' ruthless biker gang, destroying his car, and leaving him for dead in a scene which mirrors the ending of the first film complete with a biker gang member adorned in a highway police uniform. The gyro captain rescues him, and takes him back to the compound, where they come up with a last ditch effort with their gasoline, and Max comes in as a good Samaritan one last time.

In this film, Mad Max becomes more of a mythic hero than a one-dimensional vengeance seeking man above the law. The law clearly has failed him, and in this film, George Miller clearly takes his cues from American Westerns such as "Shane", "Fort Apache", and of course "Fistful of Dollars" and it's Samurai progenitor "Yojimbo". No such flavor is wasted in this film, as Miller raises the mythic level by adding inspiration from Joseph Campbell's "Hero With A Thousand Faces" (a book Miller says he read between filming Mad Max and this film). Multiple storytelling techniques are added to make the character of Max Rockatansky much more fleshed out, if by only fleshing out the characters surounding him such as the gyro captain, the feral child, and the community within the compound. George Miller continued his "Mad Max" trilogy with "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome", which concentrated specifically on what the first two films had been hinting at, the future is in the children.

Though, the entire trilogy has one giant flaw in the fact they have nary a hint of Aborignines. Oh sure, the children in the third film even look like they're painted to be Aborigine, but they are not. So, it makes you look at the films with another eye, in wondering if the film is about the fears and regrets of Anglo-Colonization rather than a fear of nuclear destruction as other films. Interestingly enough, John Carpenter's "Escape From New York" was released the same year, but "The Road Warrior" kinda had a chance to be about more than that. In one of the undercurrent themes of the film, Max represents a lone anti-hero, cynical enough to not really want to get involved in the last vestiges of what appears like the human race or a decent community. On the outside is everything that goes against community; men on motorcycles (since "The Wild One" and "Easy Rider" a symbol of rebellion), men with men as sexual partners (homosexuality, this was actually brought out in the first film but has even been alluded to more bluntly in copycat films like "Warriors of the Wasteland"), and the lack of starvation not so much of food but gasoline, (the precious juice as the narrator once put it), which fuels our crutch of machines. Miller is supposed to return to the Mad Max universe with "Mad Max: Fury Road", which we will wait and see what Max will get into this time.