Looking back on Mad Max

looking back on mad max

Artwork by Chloe Leeson

With the release of Mad Max: Fury Road this week, I decided to reflect on the previous three films and look at what the latest instalment has to live up to. The story begins in 1979 when the first film, simply named Mad Max hit our screens. Set in the near future – albeit in an alternative timeline, where society is falling apart and the human race is nearing its end, the first film introduced us to our quiet, brooding hero: Max Rockatansky. Clad completely in leather, he radiates doom and gloom and appears world-weary, even before his life is changed for the worse. The first film follows him as he attempts to end the hideously creepy and terrifying The Toecutter – an insane gang leader with masochistic tendencies and his band of equally as weird followers. The violence in the first film is to me the most realistic out of the three films, as it is less wild and more simplistically brutal, the scene where Max’s friend Goose is set alight whilst still alive is a stand out example of this. The first film contains all the basics that are seen in the follow-ups’; car chases, shootings and brutality. Most importantly of all though, the first film introduces audiences to the V8 interceptor. This car is in my opinion one of the most iconic movie vehicles, it’s cool, sleek and fucking fast – which when combined with Max’s style equals a dangerous and awe-inspiring duo. Mad Max ends in a heart-breaking way, with the audience learning how he gets the ‘mad’ added to his name, I won’t divulge what happens as to not spoil it for anyone who has not yet seen it – but I can assure you, it is truly shocking.

We are reunited with Max in the 1981 follow up Mad Max 2 or Road Warrior and boy have things changed. First off, there has been a nuclear war and the remaining humans are now living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and fighting over one thing and one thing only; fuel. The battle for petrol is the central plot line of the film, with Max begrudgingly teaming up with a bunch of survivors who are under-siege due to their lorry-tanker full of petrol. The enemy – The Humungus, a masked, muscly, bondage gear wearing psychopath who has a gang of crotch less leather chap wearing minions. One thing that returns however is the V8 Interceptor – which has been souped up, has oil drums on the back and looks even cooler than before. It is in this film that the Mad Max franchise I feel got the reputation for wackiness and hair-brained violence and car-chases, as fundamentally 3/4 of it is the ‘baddies’ pursuing Max and the tanker in a variety of different spiked, fire spewing, feather covered, arrow throwing vehicles. The clothes worn by the characters in Road Warrior are also pretty iconic now – with Max’s outfit staying relatively the same as before, with the exception of a leg brace – it is Humungus and his crew’s clothes that steal the limelight. Their S&M inspired outfits that are accessorised with metal gloves and large feathers, combined with their dominant/submissive behaviour e.g. when Humungus has Wez (his henchman) wear a collar with a leash attached to it – gives off quite a homoerotic vibe, something that adds to the films greatly layered plot and interactions. The highlight of Road Warrior to me is the character known as the Gyro Captain – a completely bonkers, flying buggy inventing Rhys Ifans in the late 90s look-a-like. What is so great about him is his complete belief that him and Max are best friends, all because Max didn’t kill him. Their growing friendship as the film progresses provides not only a comedy aspect, but also some light relief from all the killing and butchering that you are bombarded with for the majority of the time. One last thing to look out for in Road Warrior, is Max’s awesome dog. It wears a bandana – need I say any more.

The third film, released in 1985, named Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is set fifteen years after the events of Road Warrior and sees Max end up in the sleazy town of Bartertown – headed by a wild haired Tina Turner. Thunderdome’s plot is based around Aunty Entity’s (Turner) fight for control of Bartertown and Max trying to save a bunch of teenage survivors from getting caught up in her brutal plans. It is this film that introduces us to the concept of the Thunderdome and the fights that occur within it. It is in essence, a post-apocalyptic Colosseum – that sees hideously violent gladiator style fights go on inside it, one of which involves Max and a giant known as Master Blaster. Thunderdome does keep the idea of humanities obsession with fuel going, through Bartertown’s farming of methane gas from pig faeces – however it is more of a sub-plot this time round, with the focus mainly being on the idea of freedom and whether or not it can be achieved now humanity is in ruins. Unlike the first two films, Thunderdome had a PG-13 certificate, rather than being R-rated, so the violence isn’t half as brutal and graphic, which for me, takes away from the Mad Max experience a bit – as they are basically violence with a plot-line, not the other way around. The third film ends with Max disappearing into the desert never to be heard of again – until now of course.

Therefore, Fury Road has a hell of a lot to live up to, but with Tom Hardy taking on the iconic role from Mel Gibson and George Miller continuing to direct I have high hopes for this new instalment, as the adverts have shown that its full of explosions, wacky cars, violence, murder and weird shit going down. It’s going to be Max alright, lets just hope it is mad.

By Megan Gibb

MEGAN GIBBMegan Gibb is a nearly 19 year old from Cambridge, based in Manchester for university and has been in love with all things film ever since she can remember. Her fave films are The Terminator, Drive, Forrest Gump and Fight Club but she also has a huge soft spot for 1980’s John Hughes films. Her main interests include shopping for vinyl, eating too much carrot cake and making wall collages of 80’s bands for her and her friends. She can be found on twitter @megang96 and blogs at popdunk.

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