Mad Max (1979): Stupid Action with no Interesting Characters

Mad Max Poster

      After being spoiled by “Snowpiercer,” I was expecting more from the Post-Apocalyptic classics…especially the ones that spawned franchises (“Planet of the Apes” series did well at least). After this, I may watch the others in the lead up to the new “Mad Max” film coming out, but if the story and characters don’t improve I’m going to tear it apart as harshly as this one.

      The original “Mad Max” was directed by George Miller who also wrote the screenplay and story, produced by Byron Kennedy who also helped write story and James McCausland who did the screenplay with George Miller. The fact that it looks like they knew what they wanted makes how much it failed to deliver all the stronger.

     The story takes place in a world where law and order have broken in a dystopic Australia and the gangs rule the streets, with the police only functioning as a stronger group of gangs trying uphold the law that once was. Corruption is rampant and the main gang who targets the main character Max (Mel Gibson) for killing one of their boys Night Rider begins reeking havoc all around when they come for revenge. From here the story unfolds as Max is given reasons to seek revenge, and reasons to stay on the police force and stick to the status quo. This conflict eventually comes to a head and the story unfolds from here.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The World – As much as the characters in this world are one beat and uninteresting and uncompelling…the world they come from is quite rich. From vehicles being the thing everyone needs and basis of power being number of vehicles makes the energy crisis feel real, as the more vehicles and gas…the more power you have. The government is powerless against the gang and government in name only as the world lives in true anarchy. This is the slow reveal over the film and the one thing I really liked about it.

Okay: Max – He has character I guess? When is son is killed and wife is killed he goes and gets revenge on Toecutter’s gang who had also killed his partner Goose earlier and raped two innocents. You get why he’s complacent as his family represents the ideal of safety that he is trying to hold onto. Eventually everything is too much though when he loses that and he snaps like everyone else around him. This isn’t a pro since it happens only at the very end and the structure is horrible in how they do it…I also never got his attachment to his family. They weren’t really characters. He succeeds in revenge and a franchise is set up as he drives off into the sunset. Honestly, “El Mariachi” did the action and revenge thing a lot better.

The Action – There are some good motorcycle and car fight scenes but that is about all the movie has going for it.

Goose – Max’s partner has some personality at least, he’s sensitive (helps comfort a victim of Toecutter’s gang the Acolytes) and also has suave, arrogant charm. When he dies it is one of the few character moments in the film since Johnny Boy is now regretting his quest for revenge. This comes out of nowhere though as well as Goose just taking off on his motorcycle which leads to them trapping him. At least this character was a little fleshed out at least.

The Acolytes – They aren’t great antagonists as I never understood their motivation and what drove them to insanity and destroying of peoples’ lives…but they at least felt like a threat, so I’m putting them in the okay. Toecutter does feel foreboding in every scene he’s in.

May – We don’t get to know her character but she tries defending Jessie and Jessie’s son from the Acolytes with a shotgun. Her moment with the shotgun is pretty cool, but she doesn’t really feel like a character.

The Cons: No Strong Women – Every woman who fights back gets killed, there is a rape…women exist as perpetual victims in this and that isn’t fair. It’s giving the heroes the most basic of motivations and taking away the times they do stand up for themselves…for example Jessie knees Toecutter in the groin, sadly minutes later and he and his gang mow her down and she’s left in a coma. Even May with the shotgun is powerless and the only one who apparently knows how to do it is Max but all Max does is stare angrily and do things that anyone can do (burning Johnny Boy alive, getting the car with the powerful engine and running down the Acolytes). Why even have female characters if they only function as props? That really annoyed me and it brought down an already weak story.

       I would not recommend this movie. I know it’s a classic and some people love it…but I don’t care about Max or any of the characters because we mostly see them doing one of two actions – killing or running. That isn’t enough to get to know a character so they in the end only function as tropes…from the cop out for revenge (which Gibson would do better later), the damsel in distress (every female character for the most part), the mindless bullies (the Acolytes) and the corrupt leaders (the politician and police chief who do nothing but allow Johnny Boy out). “Snowpiercer” was depressing and had a larger point and gave every character their due…this had no point beyond destroying one-dimensional baddies and having the “Good” cop go “Bad.” That’s it.

Final Score: 3 / 10. Stupid action in an interesting  world is entertaining but not enough to carry this script. This is one of the worst films I’ve seen in a while.

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3 thoughts on “Mad Max (1979): Stupid Action with no Interesting Characters

  1. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the low budget. To me, that was the biggest killer. The costumes and sets looked hilariously new and fake and the roads were in surprisingly good condition for the post-apocalypse. I don’t know if you saw the Australian dub. Between the heavy accents, slang, and made up words, it was almost intelligible without subtitles. The sequels get better because they actually have a budget, but they still have their fare share of problems.

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