Monday, May 18, 2015

The Essentials- "Mad Max" (1979)

The Essentials- #98
Mad Max
If you missed my review on Saturday night, it is safe to say that I really lost my mind for "Mad Max: Fury Road." I won't completely re-write my review of that movie, but it is safe to say that everything clicked when watching it that afternoon. It compelled to pull out my Blu-ray of "Mad Max." This was also going to be treat since I hadn't watched it in awhile. After getting back from a friend's house, I decided to quickly write my "Fury Road" review then jump head-first into the first "Mad Max" movie ever.
This was the first time director George Miller threw us into this world. Miller did not have the biggest budget in the world, and that showed. Plus, this was the late 1970's and that clearly showed too. "Mad Max" is interesting because it was the first big role Mel Gibson ever had, funny as the character is something that has been fully engraved into Gibson's filmography and iconography at this point. In this early movie, there were no armored cars are crazy costumes, those didn't come until "The Road Warrior." I will say that I like the crazy yellow police cars that Gibson and the other cops drive around in this movie, adding to the films unique flavor. As far as "Mad Max" movies go, this first one stands out in a big way. But I think that is part of the reason why I like it so much.
The main reason I have been drawn into the world of Mad Max has to do with the idea of a dystopian future. These dystopias have been widely popular in the canon of popular culture, and that doesn't seem to be ending any time soon. I like the sub-genre because it is an exercise in human nature. If the world broke down tomorrow, how would you react. Would you become sick and twisted and let it out on the first lonely group of people you saw? Would try to rebuild the smallest remnants of society? What would you do? What would be your new role? Those questions are the most fun while watching movies like "Mad Max." I think "Mad Max" was something that forced us to look in mirror and face what our society would become if the world hypothetically ended.
This first "Mad Max" movie doesn't take place in the Wasteland. This movie begins in the very early days of societal decline and it is honestly a very fascinating beginning. While people are fighting over oil, water and food, there is a small police force trying to maintain order. One of these cops is Max Rockatansky, at the beginning of the movie, he isn't quite Mad Max yet either. "Mad Max" is a like a comic book origin story. In a world full of origin stories, that might come off like a faint praise, but it isn't. Each story has a point A through point Z, and each of the points visited is essential. Yes, underneath it all, "Mad Max" is a revenge flick. But once you see everything Max is put through in the movie, it s pretty clear that "Mad Max" stands above most other revenge movies.
I also love that Hugh Keays-Byrne, who plays the villain in "Fury Road" appears as the villain here. I also love that Mel Gibson sports an Australian accent throughout the movie. (George Miller himself hails from Australia.)
If you like revenge flicks. If you like movies with dystopian futures. If you like Mel Gibson and like watching him kick-ass. If you dig crazy visions of the future. If you are curious about "Fury Road" and how this journey all began, then you owe it to yourself to watch it from the beginning. This is a trip worth taking.

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