Film Review; Mad Max
In 1979, George Miller released the dystopian action film, Mad Max, based on a screenplay he co-wrote with James McCausland. Starring Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Roger Ward, Geoff Parry, Lisa Aldenhoven, Jonathan Hardy, and Vincent Gil, the film grossed $100 million at the box office. Nominated for the AACTA Awards for Best Film, Best Direction, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, it won the awards for Best Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Sound and the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival Special Jury Award. It also held the Guinness world record for most profitable film from 1980-1999.
In the not too distant future, the scarcity of oil is beginning to cause the collapse of civilization, with law and order barely holding on. One of the members of Main Force Patrol is Max Rockatansky, held in high regard by his boss and peers. However, run-ins with the motorcycle gang led by Toecutter have caused his life to fall apart.
A great example of low-concept science fiction done on a shoestring budget, Mad Max is a great film that launched an even greater franchise. And though it feels much more like an action film than it does a science fiction film, that’s an even greater testament to how well-made a film this is as it brings about a concept that’s only seen in science fiction films and sets it in a future that’s well-known. It presents audiences a look at a world that they’re familiar with as it looks a lot like the present day that’s known and loved. However, it takes one element that society relies on and shows what could happen if oil became much scarcer than it had been in the 1970s. It was a future that people during that time could have believed. Further, the hopelessness and despair of the situation at large comes off as felt from all ends of the societal spectrum. In the beginning, when Nightrider is taking the police force for a high speed chance, he ends up crashing. But before he does so, he breaks down crying, possibly because he’s unable to deal with the collapse of society. There’s also Max’s boss, the police chief nicknamed Fifi. After gang member Johnny the Boy is set free, he tells the cops on the force to do whatever they’d like to keep the peace as long as the paperwork is clean. Max also has a breakdown himself after Toecutter’s gang attacks his family. It’s what leads to his climactic rampage.
But Fifi telling the cops that they’re free to do whatever they want isn’t the only thing that shows the desperation of the police force. They only seem to have a small number of people patrolling the highways and are implied to be grossly underfunded. Further, not only do they have to scavenge for weapons and restrain prisoners with shackles, but their headquarters are a looted ruin.
And then there’s Toecutter and his gang. They’re the type of villains that leave a lasting impression as irredeemable monsters. He and his gang will take care of anyone that crosses them in any way they see fit, be it through murder, terrorization or rape. Throughout the film, they’re seen burning a man alive inside a car, mutilating and hanging a dog, and running down a woman and her baby son. But that’s also an example of the societal breakdown from above. With society collapsing and its every man for himself, it makes sense that some would band together in order to survive. What’s more is it makes sense that the dregs and malcontents that society would rather leave behind would band together to make a crazed band of murderous thugs that have no qualms with letting go of any semblance of morality.
It also makes sense that some members of the gang actually have standards, low as they are, and are put off by the actions of other members due to the gang being made up of criminals banding together to try to survive. This is seen in how Bubba Zanetti regards Johnny the Boy. He hates him, mainly because he’s a neurotic drug addict who’s only kept around because he’s Toecutter’s lover.
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