Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981): Discovering the Reason to Fight for Humanity

mad-max-2-poster-art-by-chris-weston

      I hated the first “Mad Max” film but I got to say, after watching “The Road Warrior” I am giving this series another chance. What initially sparked it was a friend requesting I see the rest of the series months ago and after “Fury Road” being released. I plan to see the film soon so I plan on doing the reviews of the other two films of “Mad Max” that I haven’t reviewed. Those being this film here “The Road Warrior” and “Beyond Thunderdome,” both of which I’ve heard great things about and in regards to “The Road Warrior,” it deserves all the praise it has received. So much about this movie works, from the action, characters and the plot which I will get into greater detail later on.

     Here is my review of the first “Mad Max” film.: https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/mad-max-1979-stupid-action-with-no-interesting-characters/

     “The Road Warrior,” was directed by George Miller who was also one of the writers. The other writers were Terry Hayes and Brian Hannant. The film was produced by Byron Kennedy.

     The story picks up where the last film left off with the narrator recounting how the Cold War lead to the destruction of fuel leading humanity to become like animals fighting for what little remained. From here we pick up with Max (Mel Gibson) who after capturing the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) who was trying to kill him, learns about a town full of oil. He travels there and after saving a man from The Humungus’s (Kjell Nilsson) gang tries to make a deal for fuel but soon finds himself becoming their protector and having to choose between continuing to be alone or fighting for something beyond contracts.

The Pros: The Stakes – The stakes are high, oil is limited and everyone uses vehicles. The Facility that has the oil plans to escape to bring it North where there is talk of making a new civilized world but they are trapped because The Humungus has such a huge gang. These stakes force the selfish Max and Gyro Captain to think beyond themselves and to see a bigger picture again.

The Action – The action is awesome! Unlike “Mad Max” where they went on forever, the action here only goes on as long as it needs too, if someone is going to get caught or killed they won’t linger on it like in “Mad Max” which leads me to believe that Miller had grown a lot as a director by the time he made this film. The final chase where Max and a few warrior are driving the fuel truck is fantastic though as we see one truck used to devastating affect against a much larger force.

The Story – The story is told by a mysterious narrator recounting the past and in the end we learn the narrator was one of the folks Max saved which changed the character to later become the leader of his people as he was shaped by the events and how the people changed in coming together against The Humungus.

The Characters – The characters in this are all memorable, partially because they are all mad and have been changed radically by the losses they’ve experienced in their lives but also because the actors do a great job with the characters they were given.

Wez – Wez is The Humungus’s Dragon and is a gay villain who is actually threatening! So often in fiction if a villain is implied to be gay or is actually gay they are made to be weak and shamed by those around them. Not Wez, Wez rocks as a warrior and fights to the end. He wins almost every fight he gets into and survives up until he’s fighting a truck on his own. He also has a partner the Feral Kid kills which sets off his vendetta against the Facility and Max to an even greater degree. Vernon Welles does a great job.

Gyro Captain – When we first meet the Gyro Captain he is holding an arrow to Max’s head but is only stopped by Max’s dog. From there he is Max’s prisoner and servant until he proves his own in combat and makes the choice to stay with the Facility Survivors which leads to them eventually making him their leader. His arc is coming to care about more than just those who can get him something like gasoline or sex and in the end he risks it all for strangers which is a big reason he becomes their leader. Bruce Spence gives a lot of depth to this mad character.

The Warrior Woman – The Warrior Women is the main military leader in the Facility and she doesn’t trust Max until Max proves his value. After she doesn’t end up with him, which made me happy. Her arc is learning to trust but that isn’t emotionally manipulated into romance. She dies in the final battle but not before taking out a bunch of The Humungus’s men. Virginia Hey is wonderful in the role and I wish her character had got more screentime.

Pappagallo – Pappagallo is the idealistic though in some ways corrupt leader of the Facility. He wants to lead them North to a better land where they can make a world without dealing with raiders and rapists who own the wasteland. In the end he risks everything for this dream including his life when the Humungus kills him. His con is he doesn’t take no for an answer when Max turns down his dream quite a few times. He shows that he is a zealot and is at least somewhat delusional. Michael Preson brings great subtly to the role.

Max – Mel Gibson’s character actually has an arc in this film! In the beginning he is just after fuel and survival and can’t see anything beyond that. After staying in the Facility though he is willing to risk his life so that they can transport the fuel to rescue. He loses his dog in this and nearly his life to Wez but he never takes things personally. Part of me wonders how much he is able to feel at this point, since the empathy we see him present seems learned. He’s forgotten who he was and only exists as a survivor until the purpose he receives in fighting for others  though he does not stay with them, showing he is still searching for a reason to live for.

The Humungus – Kjell Nilsson is fantastic as this narcissistic madman! He’s the king of rock and roll and the Ayatollah of the Wasteland. He is articulate too (like Bane) for speaking behind a metal hockey mask. He is also dangerous too and he and his forces kill most of the Facility’s defenders in the final battle with the Truck. He himself kills Pappagallo. What an awesome villain. He preys on their fears and is evil and knows it. Also he has a great name. The Humungus is such a great villain name.

The Feral Kid – The Feral Kid is the future narrator who later leads the group. Throughout the film he doesn’t talk and only howls, growls and grunts. Eventually he learns speech in the North though recounts the story. Max was a such a major part of his life and inspired him to fight and lead and through it find his humanity again. Emil Minty does a good job in the role.

The Messages – The main messages were those who control fuel control the world, and that that drive for it makes men savages, which we see to this day. Resources drive humanity into savagery which “The Road Warrior” expresses beautifully through Humungus and his gang and Max and the Gyro Captain. The other message is that other people can give us a reason to look beyond ourselves and that no matter how horrible humanity can be, there are those worth fighting for.

Okay: Backstory – The world is so lived in this wasn’t as big of an issue for me as the characters in their mad forms were compelling already but I still wish we could have got what drove the Humungus and Pappagallo to be who they were.

The Cons: The Soundtrack – The music isn’t memorable at all, I’d call it forgettable standard fair but it left no affect on me.

  This is a really good film and solves a lot of the problems I had with the first film. Max is a compelling character this time, The Humungus is a fantastic villain, the minor characters have quirks but don’t feel like caricatures as they change and grow throughout the plot and there are actual stakes! I cared about what happened to the members of the Facility and what happened Max. This I believe is due to the acting and writing that were so great in this film. Suffice to say I can’t wait to see “Beyond Thunderdome” and “Fury Road” after this.

Final Score: 9 / 10.

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One thought on “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981): Discovering the Reason to Fight for Humanity

  1. Pingback: The “Mad Max” Films – Worst to Best | cameronmoviesandtv

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