Mad Max Trilogy:
Mad Max (1979)/Mad Max 2 – Road
Warrior (1981)/Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome
(1985/Warner Bros Blu-ray Tin Box Set)
Picture: B-/B/B Sound: B Extras: C Films: B/B+/B-
Remember when Mel Gibson was paid to be a crazy outlaw, rather than
just being a crazy outlaw? I do. Mad
Max Trilogy is now available on Blu-ray in beautiful High Definition,
looking better than it ever has on home video.
The Trilogy has all the great
content with picture and sound ramped up to the next level.
The film takes place in a world on the brink of complete ruin as
fossil fuels have been nearly depleted and civil society and structure hangs on
by a thread. The backdrop for Mad Max is the Australian Outback where
law and order matter little and gun wielding, gas guzzling power mongers have
Films like Blade Runner, Escape
from New York and Mad Max in the
1980’s focused on this dystopian structure, in which society as we know is
obliterated due to humans living too high on the hog for too long. Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) is an officer
for Main Force Patrol; a task force who sets out to take down the criminal
element and Max is amongst the best.
Dressed in all black in a super powered Ford Falcon XB GT Max seeks out
a motorcycle gang who attacked his wife (Joanne Samuel); looking to destroy
every last one of them. Toecutter (Hugh
Keays-Byrne) is the leader of the gang, who almost nonsensically hate anything
on 4 wheels. The showdown between Max
and the gang is fantastically violent and fast paced.
It would be easy to dismiss George Miller’s Mad Max as a car obsessed, action film but it demonstrates a deeper
understanding of societal decay. Miller
creates a hybrid film that focuses on an insecure, ambiguous future, revenge,
and societies’ misuse/reliance on fossil fuels; all of this held together in an
action packed shell. We previous covered
this Blu-ray as a stand-alone release at this link:
Mad Max 2 – Road
After the breakout success of the first film, a sequel was a no
brainer. George Miller’s second go at Mad Max has Max return with a
vengeance. We see that the loss of his
family has changed him forever; once a cool, precise officer for the Main Force
Patrol is now a callous, cold warrior hunting down criminal gangs on his own
Max combs the Australian desert at first without true purpose or direction,
doing whatever it takes along the way to survive. We are introduced to a small group of
settlers who have preserved the last functional oil refinery; but are plagued
by the threat of The Humungus (a captivating Darth Vader like leader played by
Kjell Nilsson) and his marauders. Mad
Max joins the settlers in their plight North (with their gasoline) as they
battle it out with The Humungus.
The first Mad Max felt like
a Western, but Road Warrior REALLY
feels like a Western as the disenchanted/vengeful Max (again, Mel Gibson)
reluctantly helps the settlers; taking his place as ‘sheriff.’
I like Road Warrior slightly
better than the first film as Miller had time to refine his craft, making the
second go around grittier, more detailed, and well defined. An excellent action film that has stood the
test of time, not feeling overly dated.
Mad Max – Beyond
Though not insanely horrible (like many third installments are), Thunderdome lacks the charm of the
first two films, feels rushed, and is more of a ‘big Hollywood’ production than the first
two. By no means a ‘cash grab’ and has
grown to be a cult classic, Thunderdome expands
the Mad Max universe to show that
the world is not merely scavengers and outlaws.
Instead, Thunderdome introduces
us to Bartertown a society attempting to reestablish order and regain pleasures
of the past. Bartertown is headed by the
matriarch Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and Master (Angelo Rossitto) who struggle
to accept each others’ societal views.
Master has derived a manner in which to transform extract (usable) methane gas from pig feces; giving his
society a glimmer of hope. Hope seems to
be the overwhelming theme of this film as we see an older generation lust for
the past and the children gasp in awe at tales of times gone by before the
Max (still Mel Gibson) continues to hit hard times as he has been
traveling through the desert and recently robbed of all possessions. He is thrust into the arena known as the
Thunderdome and it is his chance again to be our unwitting/unwilling anti-hero.
The Mad Max Trilogy comes
housed in a nice tin case to hold the 3 disc Blu-ray collection. All three films are presented in a 2.40 X 1,
1080p AVC Encoded/MPEG-4 that look generally well done/preserved, though some
heavier wear to Mad Max than the two
sequels. Mad Max is a bit rough around the edges, not as clean,
demonstrating muted colors when compared to the two other films HD transfers. Road
Warrior and Thunderdome have
solid colors, fine detail/texture, and deep black levels. The audio on all three films are about the
same, being adequate but far from what I was expecting from such action packed,
explosive films. The DTS-HD Master Audio
5.1 mixes on all three films have its highs and lows as music and ambience
shines, but dialogue is weak and unbalanced.
I felt like all three films had wonderful atmosphere as all speakers are
utilized, but never the less unbalanced.
This is the first time Road
Warrior has been available in lossless sound versus the lossy Dolby Digital
on the old Blu-ray and lossy Dolby Digital Plus on the discontinued HD-DVD,
reviewed elsewhere on this site.
Extras are all standard definition and ported over from the previous
DVD releases. Extras include:
Mad Max: Film Phenomenon Featurette
Note that the Tina Turner Music Videos for her soundtrack songs “One Of The Living” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero” are not included.
A nice set, but I suspect an even better remastering of the films
(especially the first) is on the horizon.
- Michael P. Dougherty II