By J.W. Schnarr
“Be still my dog of war. I understand your pain. We’ve all lost someone we love. But we do it my way!”
These words were spoken by the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah himself, The Humungus, to his right-hand henchman Wez following the death of his lover, The Golden Youth. The Golden Youth had just had his coconut cracked open by the Feral Kid and his metal boomerang.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about by this point, you’ve missed out on one of the greatest pieces of Australian cinema to ever skip across the pond and grace North American theatres.
I’m talking about the Road Warrior, a film that you can pick up on Blu-Ray for about eight bucks on any discount rack, the place where you usually find all the best films.
The Road Warrior was originally titled “Mad Max 2,” but since hardly anyone in America saw the also-brilliant Mad Max, it was originally thought nobody would go see the sequel of a film they hadn’t seen in the first place.
Thus the renaming of the film to The Road Warrior, and that weird back story intro which describes the fall of man due to oil shortages, and the subsequent wars that followed.
Five years after the first film, Max Rockatansky is now a permanent fixture of the Australian wastelands, where he travels the roads of the old world as a scavenger, scraping out an existence with his dog and always hunting for gasoline to carry him a little further down the road.
Max is mad because previously bikers had killed his wife and child, and his partner Jim Goose – this film came out before the ‘Top Gun’ partner Goose, and Max’s Goose died a much more horrible death when he was burned alive, giving a horrific image to the folksy term, “your goose is cooked.”
The world has completely fallen apart by this point, and Max entered the wastelands originally to distance himself from the sick and desperate society he’d once protected.
You could easily think of The Road Warrior as a western movie set in a post-apocalyptic setting, and you wouldn’t be far off.
Max is that quintessential damaged, reluctant hero, the one who wants to be left alone to his pain until fate (and bad guys) force his hand into action. Movie-goers love this character and we can watch him over and over again.
“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry,” David Bruce Banner once told T.V. viewers before morphing into the green hulking Lou Ferrigno.
We always want the bad guys to make him angry though, don’t we? Just as we want those marauders to push Max just a bit further, so he goes snapshow on everyone and burns the set to the ground – something Mel Gibson would one day become immensely famous for.
The Road Warrior is ultimately about Max and his journey back to humanity. In the process he kills a heap of homo-erotic punk rockers (the ultimate conservative bogey-men back in the early 1980s) and subjects the audience to one massive, crazy highway chase after another.
I’ve read that the film was actually inspired by car crash victims writer and director George Miller (at one time a medical student) saw while doing his residency, and I can believe it. The film is road carnage, incarnate.
The climax of the film occurs after Max has been badly defeated by the marauders, his car smashed, his dog killed, and himself a broken mess of a man.
He volunteers for what can only be deemed a suicide mission: to help the nice white people – seriously, they are mostly blond and wear white clothes to show what good people they are … and possibly how racist Australians can be – carry their tanker of gasoline away from the refinery fort where they have been locked in a bloody war with Humungus over oil rights.
What follows is one of the most truly awesome road battles ever filmed, as the marauders try again and again to take down Max and his big truck and he continues to grind them under his wheels.
Mad Max is a trilogy of movies, and for my money there are few films out there which better capture the spirit of true apocalyptic fiction.
And now the great news? They are making a fourth Mad Max film. It’s set for release next year, and stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, because they are both awesome. I’ve seen trailers for this film and I am going to be one of the first in line to grab a ticket when it hits theatres.
Until then, I’ll be circling the theatre parking lot, my red Mohawk flying in the dust and the wind (round and round, attack, attack, like angry ants, mad with the smell of gasoline), burning my nostrils and my eyes, screaming for the gate to be opened so I may take my place in the comfy theatre seating.