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Film Review: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
In 1981, George Miller released Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, the second installment in the Mad Max series. Starring Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Vernon Wells, Emil Minty, Michael Preston, Virginia Hey, Kjell Nilsson, Max Phipps, Arkie Whiteley, Moira Claux and David Downer, the film grossed $23.7 million at box office. Nominated for the Saturn Awards for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Writing, and Best costumes, the Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Music Original Score and Best Achievement in Cinematography, and the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, the film won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Film, the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival Grand Prize, the Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Direction, Best Achievement in Sound, Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Achievement in Costume Design, and Best Achievement in Editing, and the Saturn Award for Best International Film.
A few years after the events of the first film, Max is now walking the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Australia with his dog.However, when he runs into a small group of survivors in an oil refinery, he decides to help free them from the threat of a gang of biker bandits led by Lord Humongus.
Where the first film portrayed the real world falling into chaotic disarray through the extreme shortage of oil, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior shows the eventual results of what happened after society finally broke down completely. It’s not quite as science fiction as its predecessor was, but the trappings are still there in its presentation of a futuristic post-apocalyptic world. It does it all very well, too.
What this film really amps up is the hopeless isolationism that’s present living in such a world, seen as Max wanders the wasteland with his dog, with many of his run-ins by chance. Though he was escaping a few of the biker bandits in the beginning, he only runs in to the rest plus the band of people they terrorize and the gyrocopter pilot only because that’s the way he was heading to begin with.
The lack of resources seen in the first film is also ramped up in this film, with nearly every necessary resource being incredibly hard to find. For one, there’s oil, which was already established in the first film and in the beginning of this one as running out, which ended up causing civilization’s collapse to begin with. Here, Max needs to find some for his car and the scarcity of it is seen through his use of containers to catch oil falling from a downed truck while staring down a biker so he can use it for his car. There’s also the fact that a refinery is under siege from the villains simply so they can make use of the oil for themselves. It's not just oil that’s seen to be in scant supply either. Ammunition is treated with great reverence. Early in the film, Max is seen to have been bluffing killing the gyrocopter pilot because he had no ammunition and when he does find some, it turns out to have been a dud. In a similar manner, Lord Humungus has a Magnum, but is seen using his rounds sparingly. In the middle of the film, he loads and fires one shot and during the final chase, he uses the last four. When he’s used them all, he doesn’t reload as he doesn’t have any more rounds and uses bladed knives instead.
The film also does really well in showing that its characters are actually not so different from each other and the only reason they’re like they are is because of the choices they made. There’s a big implication that like Max, Lord Humungus lost everything at one point, seen in his speech at the beginning where he tells the refinery that they've all lost someone they care about. There’s also a picture of himself and his wife kept with his gun. Similarly, the refinery’s leader, Pappagallo tells Max that everybody’s looking for something and that everyone has suffered in the end of civilization. What's different in all of them is how they’ve chosen to respond to it. Lord Humungus decided to give into his base inclinations, choosing to lead a gang of murderous thugs who rape, pillage and burn. On the other hand, Max decided to take what little dignity he had and wander the wastes, fighting with anyone who crosses him and booby-traps his car to prevent anyone from stealing what’s his. The survivors in the refinery went a different route decided to band together to recreate some semblance of civilization and humanity, working together for a common goal. It’s interesting to note that it comes from helping the refinery survivors that helps Max regain some of the humanity he lost after the bikers attacked his family in the first film.
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