Wednesday, May 13, 2015

MR Mad Max 1

After too many decades of silence, there's finally a new Mad Max coming out on the big screen. And would you believe it, it's not an unnecessary prequel or yet Hollywood remake, but a bona fide new installment in the franchise, from the same director as the classic films.

Let's have a look at the original films, where it all began.

Movie: George Miller's Mad Max
Directed by George Miller
Release date 1979
Genre Dystopian/Action/Revenge film
Country Australia

Whenever I think of the Mad Max series, I think of these very unusual franchise in which each installment is a completely different type of film. The series' not bound to a single genre, huge differences in tone and style across all episodes.

When people think about these type of films the firsts that come to mind are usually the progression from the original Evil Dead to Army of Darkness. Or more recently from Pitch Black to Chronicles of Riddick to a lesser extend.

But in my eyes there are no better example of such an evolution outside George Miller's Mad Max trilogy (soon to be a tetralogy!).

The original Mad Max was a mere modest simple little film. George Miller's first full feature, his directorial debut. Based on a script he originally wrote in 1975 with James McCausland. The film was independently financed.

It also starred a bunch of unknowns at the time, amongst which was Mel Gibson in what would become his breakthrough role. Miller wanted to use lesser known actors for costs reasons, specifically for our main character here. It also stars Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns and Roger Ward.

To help the costs, most of the bikers were actual Australian outlaws who even rode their own motorcycles in the film.

When the film was picked by a major film studio for international markets, the original cast was dubbed over with American accents - including Mel Gibson. Who would have known this "little indie flick" would go on to rivalize with the biggest blockbusters out there and mark not only an entire generation but spawn an entire sub-genre of science-fiction...

The film takes place in our near future. It's not quite the post-apocalyptic setting of the later sequels, but the world is already heading for a huge dystopian path. After a quick introduction that explains how the world has suffered a big energy crisis and Australia has now become a lawless land in chaos, we are introduced to the new main Force Patrol. What is apparently left of the police.

The Outbacks have been reduced to small communities trying their best to survive to the rampant anarchists. Gangs terrorize what's left of people. The cops patrol the country trying their best to keep the remaining citizens safe.

One day the Pursuit Special officer Max Rockatansky engages this criminal named "Nightrider". Little did he know this game of chicken would result in a huge confrontation with "The Acolytes", the biggest motorcycle gang out there...

It's a really terrific and very brutal film. The film spends most of its runtime showing us Max and his (then-happy) family. Building up the tension and the atmosphere as we jump back and forth with these savages looking to get their revenge.

George Miller knew exactly what he was doing with this film. The film was sort of a test run for what he hoped to produce one day, a first prologue chapter for the full-scale post-apocalyptic epic he would make with Mad Max 2.

Miller had worked as a medical doctor in Sydney, in the emergency room. He was familiar with the brutal deaths and injuries people suffered on the road. All those car accidents he witnessed as a teenager left an impression on him (losing three friends in accidents!).

He had already experimented a couple of short films prior to Mad Max, revolving around the same subjects. Most of the ideas behind Mad Max draws inspiration from the 1973 oil crisis, which brutally effect Australia back then.

Finally the musical score was composed by Australian composer Brian May. Although a bit rough (specially compared with the other films in the series), it gave this first Mad Max a rough old west-style almost gothic tone. Really fitting the desperation felt by our protagonist.

The film would go on making millions overseas. Not bad for a small independent film that only cost about $400,000. It would spawn an entire series. And this little Australian film would even get banned in New Zealand and Sweden - due the film's honest brutality.

Overall, the original Mad Max is such a fantastic film! Sometimes under-appreciated over the later episodes, yet it still remains a classic on itself.

It's the film that started it all. Despite its apparent simplicity the film would influence dystopian imagery of the future. It might not be a clear cut post-apocalyptic world, but the story specifically revolves around a time when the first signs of the world going to hell started to break through civilization. The sequels would allow to explore so much more, thanks to the bigger budgets, George Miller finally able to show the end society as we know it. And unlike the likes of Blade Runner (another one of my favorite classics), the world of Mad Max was a lot more down to earth and a more realistic take on it this ravaged near-future.

Don't let its age fool you, it might not have been well funded but the film still looks pretty good thanks to a pretty great simple script, impressive real stunts, very strong themes and imagery.

It's a great revenge story done right, Highly Recommended for fans of the genre and newcomers alike.

The film went on winning a huge success and receiving plenty of acclaim, being nominated and winning several awards along the way. In fact it would even held a Guinness record for being one of the most profitable films for decades.

George Miller became a well established creator in the medium and would receive lots of offers from studios. But it turned all that down to explore another personal original idea. The story of a man that lost everything and is now wandering the wasteland...

And that film turned out to be Mad Max 2 in 1981. The franchise would receive a second sequel in 1985, the mixed Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Finally a further fourth entry without Mel Gibson was announced this year and should probably be out by the time you read this very line, Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Tom Hardy as Max.

The franchise had a huge lasting influence on post-apocalyptic fiction ever since, becoming the main inspiration behind huge successes like the Fallout video game series to the Borderlands games or the Japanese franchise Hokuto No Ken. One of the closest most faithful recreations probably being id Software's title Rage, highly inspired by the aesthetic and tone of the second and third films. Over the years there's also been several video game adapted from the films, the first one being the NES game and a much closer adaptation also coming out this year. 

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Films!

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