|Mad Max owes more to The Man With No Name |
than any science fiction hero....
1) At its core, this film represents the logical evolution of the western from the work of Peckinpah and Leone. Even though the film is set 'a few years from now,' and the characters ride cars and motorcycles instead of horses, this is 100% a refitted spaghetti western--a 'carghetti western,' if you will.
2) The thing that fascinates me the most is how, unlike the many, many post-apocalyptic films that followed in the Mad Max franchise' footsteps, no one explains what exactly happened that turned the world of this film into wide stretches of desolate wasteland where most people live in their cars. It's as if there wasn't a catastrophe of some sort, but just a general breakdown in society that happened so gradually no one noticed until it was already too late.
3) There's no doubt in my mind that this film would not work as well as it does without the physicality of Mel Gibson. Hell, director George Miller pretty much lets Gibson's reactions move the story...
|"I could either cut you or suck your blood...what |
do you think?"
4) ...which allows Miller to avoid actually showing much in the way in violence. We see the before, we get brief flashes of the after, but Miller has enough trust in his actors and his audience to allow us to fill in the actual carnage ourselves. And the film becomes more gruesome that it could have been if Miller relied on special effects, as the images in our head are far worse than what a make-up man could come up with.
5) I love Brian May's score, which actually has a sense of humor--whenever the film looks in on the ramshackle building that is Max's police station, I laughed out loud at the upbeat super-heroic march May assays.
6) The marvelous thing about the film's opening car chase is how, in the ten minutes before we even meet up with Max, Miller gives us a real sense of all his co-workers. By the time the whole sequence is done, we know enough about the other policemen that Miller can just bull on through with his plot.
7) Boy, I really wish there was more of Roger Ward's Fifi, who is just such an odd character, but absolutely compelling. I have to wonder, given Fifi's taste for horticulture, if he was the inspiration for Cowboy BeBop's Jet Black.
|"So...you ever hear of 'bears,' Max?"|
8) If there is a problem, it's that sequence that bridges the second and third act. And it's not because the scenes of Max and Joanne Samuel's Jessie getting all intimate with each other or horsing around are dull or slow; it's because Miller has been so effective in utilizing a sort of filmic short hand to convey character that using these longer scenes to go over characterization we've already sussed out makes this bit of the film seem redundant and unnecessary.
9) The thing that makes Hugh Keays-Bryne's Toecutter so fascinating is that the actor takes his cues not from biker flicks, or even from westerns--but apparently from horror films. The way he moves and acts, down to his hissing like a vampire when he sees Max on the field of their last confrontation makes him seem otherworldly--which contributes to the concept of this taking place in the future.
10) I think it says a whole lot about Australian culture at that time that Miller makes more out of the destruction of vehicles than of people.
Overall...while most people would point to this film's sequel, The Road Warrior, as being the essential movie in the franchise, it doesn't mean that this one isn't important. As an example of the way the western never went away, just disguised itself for a few years, it's actually pretty damn good.