This is the first in a series of posts that I am calling Film Conversations. They are not purely reviews because I will be speaking only about films that I enjoy. Also, I will try to take a deep dive into the themes and events that happen in these films. This will mean that there definitely will be SPOILERS contained within these type of posts. So, if you have never seen this film please do so before reading any further.
First off I would like to state for the record that this film is known as The Road Warrior in America and Mad Max 2 just about everywhere else. The reason for the name change in America is because the first film in the series, Mad Max, didn’t do as well in America as elsewhere so they decided to promote it as a stand-alone film.
This film helped to shape me into the person that I am today; a weirdo who is heavily into post-apocalyptic and dystopian themed films. I first saw the film on cable in the early 80’s when I was a young teenager, and almost every single time it came on I would watch it. I saw it so many times back then that to this day I still know most of dialogue by heart. What was it about this film that spoke to me?
During the 80’s the Cold War was still raging and it really felt like Reagan was going to push the button that would decimate us all. I don’t think people who weren’t alive back then can fully comprehend just how frightening the Cold War really was. There was a TV movie that came out in the early 80’s called The Day After that was all about a nuclear war happening and its aftermath. I remember watching that on TV and being so scared that my friends and I went to our school principal the next day and asked if the school had a bomb shelter. In the UK there was a TV movie called Threads that was twice as scary and very graphic. I saw it for the first time a few years ago and it really shook me.
The Road Warrior takes place after a nuclear conflict, but instead of wearing rags and having open wounds some of the characters that populate this film are dressed in really cool looking black clothes along with haircuts and accessories that make them seem dangerous, but in a splendid kind of way. They looked way more interesting than the supposed ‘good’ guys who wore light colours. The only character in the film that looks somewhat sick is Lord Humungus. He seems to have some radiation burns on his head, so he wears a metal mask to cover them. I’ve always liked villains in films way more that the heroes because they almost always have a better sense of style, and this is no exception.
In the film the survivors of a nuclear war are driving all over the wasteland, their main concern being that of finding gasoline so that they can do even more driving about. Instead of hiding out in a bunker for decades, like in the Fallout series of games, they are out there living their lives as they see fit. It’s still gloomy as hell, but there seems to still be a spark of life within these characters to drive them forward, some sense of hope that maybe things will get better if they are around to watch such events happen. This includes the character of Max, who despite the loss of his wife and son still hasn’t given up on life. There is some sort of hope in the back of his mind that maybe, just maybe, he can find happiness yet again. All he has to do is keep driving until he reaches it.
The character of Max is neither totally good or totally bad, and this makes the film less fantastical and more realistic. In my opinion this is the mark of a really good film. Max brings a dying ‘good guy’ back to the compound after the guy is attacked by the bad guys while trying to flee. He isn’t doing this for altruistic reasons, instead he is only doing it because the dying guy promised him all the gasoline he could carry if he brought him back to the compound. The guy dies right after Max is let inside rendering the deal useless.
After some other events Max ends up helping the ‘good guys’ obtain a truck and trailer so that they can escape the compound with a huge container of gasoline. Max is almost killed in the ensuing chase and comes to find out that he has been used as a distraction because the trailer contains sand and not gasoline. The ‘good guys’ drive away in a school bus filled with barrels of gasoline. I always thought that was really messed up. Max puts his life on the line to help these people and they use him for a really selfish reason, as if his life is expendable.
This film really spoke to me because even though a nuclear war decimated the human population in some ways it was a more honest society than we are living in today. Everybody is out searching for gasoline, food, water,etc…and every single person knows that is what others are also doing. There is no escaping this endless search, it is something that must be done. When it comes down to it there really is no difference between the good or bad guys. Both use lies and manipulate others to do their bidding. Max only loses in the end because he fell for the lies that the ‘good guys’ told him. Before Max met those people he knew the score, but the moment he put his common sense away he set himself up to fail.
Would I want to live in the wasteland constantly on the prowl for my next meal or tank of gas? It would be a hard life, but it at least would be an honest one. No pretensions, just striving to make your way towards a new future that might just be better than the one you left behind.
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