DVD/Blu-Ray Review – The Mad Max Trilogy
Films: *** , *****, ***1/2
Release Date: 12th August 2013
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Directors: George Miller, George Oglivie
1978,1982,1985 / 18 / 282 minutes / £29.95 (Blu-Ray)
Out of all the recent 1980s franchise revivals, one of the least expected has to be another Mad Max film – but, with upcoming movie Fury Road due sometime in 2014, it’s an ideal time for this Hi-Def trilogy re-release to reacquaint you with the post-apocalyptic stylings of Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson).
A punky, lo-fi explosion of cinematic energy, the original Mad Max (***) was a cheaply shot but sharply crafted action thriller that hailed from the lurid world of late 1970s Australian ‘Ozploitation’ filmmaking.
Set in a crumbling near-future world where deadly biker gangs roam the highways, it’s up to cops like Max to enforce the law, but when his family is killed, he goes on a vengeful rampage. Very much a product of its times, Mad Max is rough around the edges and doesn’t truly kick into gear until its final half-hour, but still pulls off eye-catching car chases and impressively nasty violence.
The bigger-budget Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (*****) reinvents the saga as a bleak, pedal-to-the-metal, post-apocalyptic Western. With civilisation having failed completely, Max cruises the highways as a soulless drifter until he encounters a community of survivors trying to defend a gasoline refinery from a psychotic gang of motorbike-riding barbarians.
Stripping the story down to its barest essentials, the film showcases crazy design, off-beat characters and bone-crunching violence, all wrapped around Gibson’s magnetic central performance. The jaw-dropping stunt-work in the epic climactic chase sequence is even more impressive in today’s world of CG-assisted blockbusters, and Mad Max 2 remains a master-class in action filmmaking.
Beyond Thunderdome (***1/2) is widely – and a little unfairly – seen as the runt of the litter, an oddball follow-up (co-starring Tina Turner) that sees Max battling in the lethal gladiatorial combat of Thunderdome before unwittingly becoming the saviour of a tribe of feral children. It’s undoubtedly a weird, deliberately mythic movie that often feels like two completely different stories clumsily welded together. However, it’s also ferociously entertaining, ambitious as hell and packed with imaginative sequences like the wonderfully bizarre Thunderdome showdown.
Only time will tell whether Miller can recapture the same energy in Fury Road, but the original films still stand up as a triple-bill of violent, energetic and madly inventive cult moviemaking.
Extras: Directors Commentary (on Mad Max 2), Introduction from Leonard Maltin, Trailers.
Mad Max: Fury Road is co-written by legendarily experimental comic-book artist Brendan McCarthy, and will also feature some designs from him.