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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Science Fiction > Australia > Western > The Road Warrior (1979/aka Mad Max 2/HD-DVD)

The Road Warrior (1981/aka Mad Max 2/Warner HD-DVD)


Picture: B+     Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Film: B-



PLEASE NOTE: This title has been discontinued in the HD-DVD format, but has been issued on Blu-ray with the same exact picture and sound transfer, meaning it does not have a lossless audio option either.  MGM has finally issued the original Mad Max (1979) on Blu-ray and you can read more about that at this link:





Now for the original review of this first sequel…



After the first Mad Max put Mel Gibson on the international filmmaking map, he soon reteamed with co-writer/co-producer/director George Miller for the very successful sequel, The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2/1981) in which Max is out to avenge the annihilation of his family and take on more camps of predatory criminals & pirates.  And to think he was already ticked in the first film.  The search for that scarce resource gasoline is on, with more people than ever are willing to kill for it.


It may be a post-apocalyptic Science Fiction film, but like other great Sci-Fi films of the time like Peter Hyams’ Outland (the same year and studio) and James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), the Western genre looms strongly in the script structure, especially in this film more than the others.  Helping the film overcome some predictability and derivativeness is that it is from Australia.  The film continues to have a huge following, with some feeling it is the best in the trilogy, though just being the most action-oriented may not be the only reason for this.


Between Gibson’s controversy off-camera and the [continually] recent Middle East headlines, the film seems more relevant than ever and has certainly aged in interesting ways.  It is also a film that has been more often imitated and very badly, we might add.  The thing that has aged best is that this is one of the last all-out action films with no digital video, non-stop stunts and non-stop vehicle wreckage.  All that gives it a weight, along with its amazing energy and editing that holds up nicely, it is a minor classic of the Action genre and has actually appreciated in value.  That is even if some of the action is predictable and obvious, but as you watch, you realize how much you miss great stunt work by real human beings.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot by Dean Semler in real big screen anamorphic Panavision and despite some limits, the print looks good and the transfer is done with enough care and great shots to pull it above many lesser transfers of films from the time we have seen in both HD formats so far.  Even a tad better than the HD-DVD for John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982, also reviewed on this site in the discontinued HD-DVD with extras, but now available in a basic Blu-ray with the same performance but none of the extras) from a time when Hollywood still knew how to make good action films all the time, the video performance is the biggest surprise on this disc and even has a few demo moments.


The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix is likely derived from the original 70mm Dolby Magnetic 4.0 blow-up soundtrack that 35mm prints of the time (which had to settle for lesser Dolby A-type analog sound) and though more of the mix is towards the front than one might like, I do not think the lesser 35mm theatrical Dolby A was used much for this mix, though this is not the remaster I was expecting.  Music by Brian May is also a victim of too much front speaker sound placement, but if this is the way the 70mm mix sounded, than perhaps it did.  However, if Warner and Miller got their hands on May’s score and the sound stems from this film, a Dolby TrueHD/DTS-MA version of the film could be made that would top this.  That is something to consider down the line for a bigger special edition, though this will do for now.  Extras include an introduction by Leonard Maltin, the original theatrical trailer and a brand new audio commentary debuting on this HD release by Miller and Semler that will make fans happy, making for a good listen.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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