Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) Movie Review
One of the greatest car chase films of all time!
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is a 1981 movie directed by George Miller and stars Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky, a former cop turned anit-hero of the Australian Wastelands.
Unlike its predecessor, Mad Max 2 is a true gem of the action-movie genre. This is the movie that launched Mel Gibson to international stardom, showed the world what George Miller can do, paved the way for a plethora of "copycat" movies to exist, and set the standard in special effects and stunts that wouldn't be beaten for years. Further, this was all tied together seamlessly with a story that viewers could relate to and in a world that we could understand existing. Most modern movies still fail at successfully pulling all this off, so having a movie like this in existence in the early 1980s is even more impressive.
In the original Mad Max movie, we knew almost nothing of why the world was so chaotic. Mad Max 2 answered all the questions we were left with in the opening sequence. Even better, it managed to tell the entire story of the first movie in just a few minutes (which only emphasizes why watching the first movie isn't necessary) so we know everything we need to know about Max's history before jumping into the plot of this movie. Sure, it used a narration style that most story writers would say is sloppy, but it triumphantly gave us everything we needed without needing to slow the pace of the movie later to tell it during dialog, which likely would have felt out of place in a movie such as this.
Essentially, Mad Max 2 is about survival in a world where civilization collapsed and gangs forcibly hoard what is left of the world's fuel, while the other men and women desperately fight for their survival. Max's role is that of an anti-hero, a man who perilously tries to do good, and isn't afraid to get his hands bloody in the process. The best way I can describe him using modern famous characters would be the Riddick of the Australian Wastelands, but with more emotion.
This story has been ripped off by many other films, but most noticeably in Water World. If you watched Water World before Mad Max 2, it is blatantly obvious how similar the stories are – only Mad Max 2 takes place in a desert where Water World is in a massive ocean. Oh, and the acting is better, the cinematography is better, the characters feel less hollow (although not by much), and the story is told in a way that actually feels believable. It also doesn't have mutations slapped on, which is a massive bonus, too. The fact that they couldn't even successfully recreate this fantastic thrill-ride by changing its local a full 14 years later should tell you how far ahead of its time this movie was.
One of the biggest reasons why The Road Warrior can stand up to movies filmed decades later is the fantastic use of practical effects. Even today, CGI can barely measure up to the realistic look real of the effects pulled off in this film. That is because this movie didn't use fake vehicles and computer generated explosions – everything in this movie was actually created, and George Miller didn't shy away from showing them off.
Throughout this movie we graced with awe-inspiring wide-angle shots that show us how massive these scenes really are. When shot from a nearby hill, you can see the details of a nearby settlement, and the people moving amongst it, plus the massive amounts of unique vehicles speeding around with real people driving them. But even that doesn't compare to the massive chase scenes where over a dozen vehicles are shown all at once doing insane driving stunts with real people climbing over them, leaping to other vehicles, and using weapons to attack. Unlike the CGI shots that would be used in modern films, these scenes look and feel real because they were actually done by real people. This loss of this style of film making is the reason why so many movies fail to capture audiences as they did in the 1980s.
Although, this movie is far from perfect. That's because this movie still suffers from the use of very inexperienced actors in the smaller roles. Mel Gibson and Bruce Spence's roles were great, but the others were very poorly acted, making some characters as lifeless as a robot. Even Virginia Hey, who has since become an actor I've come to respect due to her more recent roles, felt more lifeless than the desert they were inhabiting. (This was her first major role, so it's likely just due to her inexperience.) I can only imagine how perfect this movie could have been if it was made with more seasoned actors.
Even with the lower-than-average acting level in this movie, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is still a must-watch movie, especially if you are planning on watching the later Mad Max movies. Without this movie, the action-genre would never have evolved down a path that gave us some of the greatest films of all time, not to mention launching Mel Gibson into stardom. If you haven't watch this movie yet, do yourself a favour and do so. This is one experience you will likely never forget.