With Mad Max: Fury Road (or rather Australia, as the patriots say) having grabbed six Oscars, I decided to return to its predecessors, none of which I had seen to date. Now, I understand why the Mad Max franchise (with the exception of Beyond Thunderdome) is so beloved amongst film buffs and revheads across the globe. With its jaw-dropping set pieces, fleshed-out characters and detailed setting, you are doing yourself a disservice if you have not seen the original Mad Max films. Having seen the original trilogy, I cannot wait for what George Miller has in store for us.
Mad Max (1979)
Like any franchise’s OG, Mad Max establishes everything that we know and love about the franchise, from its apocalyptic setting to its action sequences full of thrills and practical effects. I would argue that Mad Max is the most character driven of the four, as it focuses on Max’s interactions with the other characters, tantalisingly orchestrates his character development, and explores the personality (or rather, the psychosis) of the villains in great depth. This may be one reason why I appreciate small-budget sci-fi/action films that focus on story and character more than the mise-en-scène*. That being said, all the car chases, explosions and other stunts are gorgeous to look at, especially when you realise that it’s completely practical, adding an extra risk factor to the movie. Although I thought the lovey-dovey scenes were too monotonous and the soundtrack was overly dramatic at times, I still greatly enjoyed Mad Max, eagerly anticipating what would be coming in the next instalment.
Score - 80%
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
Following Mad Max is what I will argue is not only one of the best sequels of all time, but one of the best Australian films of all time, if not the best. Like The Empire Strikes Back, The Road Warrior retains everything great about its predecessor while improving on its flaws and making full use of its bigger budget. The cinematography, costumes and sets are more elaborate this time around, and the action spectacles are as big and exciting as Fury Road. With a story borrowing elements from Seven Samurai, and the usage of visuals rather than dialogue to tell a story, The Road Warrior is gloriously spectacular, fast paced and fun. The only flaws that prevent it from being a perfect movie are its inconsistencies in lighting and editing, and the fact that Lord Humungus is basically a bodybuilder in leather speedos.
Score - 92%
Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
If The Road Warrior is The Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy, then Beyond Thunderdome is Return of the Jedi, but worse and visibly suffering from spectacularitis. While there’s no denying that the mise-en-scène is grand and elaborate, the story is somewhat feeble and derivative of Star Wars and Peter Pan. The grittiness and car-driven set pieces (no pun intended) are toned down substantially, and there is a general feeling of exhaustion rather than energy. Although there are a few redeemable moments, Beyond Thunderdome is definitely the weakest of the franchise, and is not worth your time.
Score - 62%
*: Mise-en-scène literally means ‘placement within a scene’, and refers to elements such as costumes, sets, lighting, props, etc. that are used to create a certain mood or look for a film.