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Posts Tagged ‘Max Rockatansky’

“People don’t believe in heroes anymore”

With all the coverage received by the new trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road I thought it was time to look back at the original 1979 movie.  Many people associate Mad Max with the sequels Mad Max 2 (1981), subtitled The Road Warrior in America, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) and have forgotten the original movie. 

“A few years from now” in a unspecified place the MFP are the traffic police who maintain order on the streets.  Cop, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) becomes the target of a biker gang after he is involved in the pursuit of an escaped killer calling himself The Nightrider (Vince Gil).  When he  loses everything, Max goes out to seek revenge.Mad Max

As described in the opening title card, the film is set “A few years from now”, it isn’t the apocalyptic world where the desert has reclaimed the world.  A lot of Mad Max is set in relatively lush green scrubland.  It is the beginning of the “maelstrom of decay” described in Mad Max 2.  The world isn’t going out with a bang, humanity is slowly giving up as the gangs take over and the world is tearing itself apart.  Is the film set in a dystopia on fringes of society or in a future on the brink of collapse?  This is never really made clear, but in many ways the film is all the better for it.  In a vast landscape filled with nomadic motorists the traffic cops are the only thing keeping the world in check and hanging on to civilisation, they are the heroes that Fifi (Roger Ward) refers to.Mad Max

So the film isn’t an apocalyptic nightmare, that’s the second and third films, but is it the violent revenge thriller that it is labelled?  It does have its violent moments but most of those aren’t actually shown, they are surprisingly off camera, probably for budgetary reasons.   I am not convinced if released now it would receive the 18 certificate it got on its original release.  Is it then an observations on the effects of the 70’s oil crisis’ on Australian motorists? Is it an existentialist look at what people do to cling to their humanity and the idea of society?  The film is less than ninety minutes long but still manages to devote more than ten minutes to the opening chase scene. Only the final twenty minutes makes up the revenge story that the film is known for.  Any meaning we may be looking for is most clearly observed in the scene where Max wants to quit, he admits to Fifi that he is scared, not scared of what could happen to him, but scared that he may start to enjoy it, scared that he is going to become a “terminal crazy”, this is kind of what we see.    As Max, the innocent and good man gives up on society in favour of revenge, society itself gives up and we see the results in Mad Max 2.  So does that make it a cautionary tale against lawlessness?  Am I reading too much into it, at it is merely a visceral tale loss and revenge designed just to entertain on the most base of levels?Mad Max opening chase scene

Director, George Miller claimed the films budget was around $400,000.  Made in a pre CGI time this resulted in a very inventive movie that makes the most of its money.  This is what I love so much about the film, it’s a genre film like Roger Corman and early Walter Hill, it’s a film that is improved by its limitations not constrained by them, it is a film directors like Michael Bay, McG and James Cameron should revisit, they could learn something.  The real draw for the film is Mel Gibson, at 23 he was an unknown, with one movie and a couple of TV credits behind him.  Given the baggage he now carries with him, it is easy to forget what a charismatic and likeable star Gibson was back then.  Demonstrating the lighter and comic part of the film with the same ease as the more hollow shell of a man set on a path of revenge.  He manages to bring a sense of despair and melancholy to the part.The Rover and Mad Max Posters

The legacy of Mad Max and the apocalyptic movies set in sand covered landscapes that have imitated and been inspired by it probably belongs to Mad Max 2 and not to this film.  In the 35 years since its original release there hasn’t been another film quite like Mad Max, not even its sequels.  With David Michôd’s The Rover just opening and Fury Road due out next may, now is a perfect time to remind yourself of the original Mad Max. 

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In the twenty plus years that Mad Max 4 has spent in Development Hell George Miller has never given up. Mad Max 4: Fury Road as it had become known as by that time was set to go into production two years ago in Broken Hill, New South Wales, the setting for the original movies. The location was chosen ahead of the other option, South Africa thanks to government tax breaks in Australia. Unfortunately heavy rain delayed the shoot for several months then caused the desolate desert landscape into a lush green flower filled garden making it aesthetically unsuitable. Production has since started in Namibia. Based on the locations used in Richard Stanley’s B movie masterpiece Dust Devil I think this should be a suitable alternative. Rumours suggest the film will be set a few years after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome telling the story of what happened to Max after he helped the kids escape. It appears Tom Hardy will be taking over from Mel Gibson as the eponymous antihero Max Rockatansky. There have been a couple of interesting set reports one involves the addition to the cast of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, best know as Megan Fox’s replacement in Transformers 3. The other involves hair, it appears while Hardy has been growing a bushy beard, Charlize Theron has had her head shaved for the part.

As much as I love the franchise so far and am looking forward to seeing what Miller will do with the story, I am not convinced there should be another film following Thunderdome. It was the weakest of the trilogy and there was a sense that they had run out of ideas and decided to increase scope and scale to make up for it. I would rather see something more along the lines of a reboot. There are two ways to do it; the first would be set a few years from now and not when the original film was set. This would allow the financial crisis and oil related wars of recent years to be used as a background to the collapse of society as we know it. The other would be set around the same time as the original movie, possibly even in the time between the first two movies. The twist and the way to shoehorn the movie into the continuity is that the movie would be set in a different part of Australia. It would tell the story of a different group of MFP cops and different gangs. As well as aiding the continuity it also avoids the pitfall of expecting a new actor to live up to Mel Gibson’s Max.

The direct sequel they have planned or either one of these reboot ideas would require a new story to avoid just rehashing what has gone before. It would depend greatly on which idea was taken up as to what direction the story would take; one ting that is important is to manage the scale and the scope of the idea. The reason Mad Max works so well is the intimate nature of the story, it is a revenge story about a lone man pushed over the edge, not by the crumbling society itself but by the actions of men within that society. In the original movie Max is part of a group, as he becomes a vigilante, he isolates himself from society, from the group. Throughout the next two movies becoming reintegrated with societies but always ends up alone. As such Max is a walking metaphor for the breakdown and possible renaissance of society. This is a theme that that any new movie should incorporate.

A little like a Ridley Scott movie within the Alien universe, whatever they come up with, I will always be up for a George Miller directed Mad Max movie.

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