The Mad Max Collection

I’m not sure the best way to review this. Whether to do it movie by movie or to look at it as a whole collection, or attempt to mix the two. I think the later is probably the better way to start and then to simply see where things end up taking us.

A bit like Die Hard, Mad Max has somehow managed to always drift past. One of those sets of classic films that everybody has seen and yet somehow I haven’t. Quite why these blockbuster groups of films seem to avoid my life is quite beyond me but they do. It’s not that I don’t want to watch them, or that I have done so and then totally forgotten about it, it’s purely a case of our lives, bizarrely, taking totally different paths.

It wasn’t until my subscription to Empire magazine arrived and a quick flick to the “Review” section showed that they were releasing Mad Max onto Blu-ray as a complete collection, and that, as always, these were a series of film you needed in your life that it fell back onto my radar and even then the initial release price meant that I went “Ok add it to the list for another day when it’s cheaper” and our paths slowly drifted away again. That was until, walking through Sainsbury’s a few weeks ago and low and behold – The Max Mad Collection, on Blu-ray, on sale for £6.99. Well you can’t refuse, can you!?

And so into the trolley it went and the cult classic finally arrived in my life. At this point, alarm bells should have been slightly going off because it’s a “cult” classic. Which means that while people say it’s good, it’s good in an acquired taste kind of way. A bit like that cocktail made with 5 drinks you never heard off you mates rave about. Is it actually drinkable, or an excuse by them to have a good laugh at your expense?

Setting down to watch them, I did things logically and started at the beginning with Mad Max. And 90 minutes later was left almost speechless. To start off with, while I appreciate that it was made 35 years ago but Mel Gibson is beyond unrecognisable. Granted the image of him bearing his backside to a bunch of Englishmen is burned into my brain and so short haired youngster is always going to challenge but I wasn’t expecting to sit there actually questioning if I was going mad. Was this really Mel Gibson?

And things don’t improve for the film. I am completely lost as to when it’s exactly set, who half the characters are, whether it’s meant to be a bit of a mad, gritty, apocalyptic story or a serious story set in a harsh and violent world. I’m not even sure what time frame and era it’s set in. Seriously, I have so many questions about Mad Max I could go on and on and on and outlast even the most determined Energizer bunny. My mates are well and truly laughing right now.

But of course, this is a trilogy and so I had another two to go, hopefully things would improve and Mad Max wouldn’t simply be a chaser to a more extreme second round. Max Mad 2: The Road Warrior as it was called attempts to answer the “what happens next?” question. It doesn’t set out to explain anything that happens in the first film, but rather take it and say “you’ve seen cause here’s the reaction”.

The box also proclaimed that the Mad Max trilogy actually gets better with each film, honestly, if it got any worse I’d be in serious trouble, but I’m happy to watch anything, I’ve sat through Garfield and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and so I took my chances and let Max’s story continue.

There is no question, the second film is certainly a lot better than the first. It certain builds on the first but doesn’t suffer with half the problems. My big issue is that I cannot tell exactly when these films are set. What year it’s meant to be. This isn’t helped by the fact that the society, it’s laws and it’s way of life seem to be a complete mix and match and that’s before you throw the bondage style dress sense into the equation.

The first film failed for me because it tried to be serious and to portray a real life situation and that just became confusing. The second film always says “Ok, lets just make the world we want, and not try to connect you to it” and so it works, you stop trying to work out if it’s 1979, 2000, 2500, whatever and instead allow the movie to take you on it’s journey. Sadly, as apocalyptic waste land type films go, there are better films out there. But viewing it purely from the point of view of the trilogy, it builds on the first film brilliantly to create a second enjoyable part of the series. And the introduction of Bruce Spence to add a slight comic turn to the plot reinforces, firstly the dramatic change in direction and tone from the first film but also adds the perfect foil to the seriousness of the situation to never make the movie feel heavy.

And then, when you wish to conclude the series, end the trilogy and see the final part of Max’s story in storms Tina Turner. Filmed 6 years after the first, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome sees Mel auditioning his William Wallace look and they have decided to continue the trend and say to hell with trying to set the film in an situation you can connect or relate to. This is once again building on ideas created in the previous film but essentially ignores the first. And as the box proclaimed the trilogy does indeed get better as it progresses. Mainly because it moves further and further away from the original film and it’s ideas.

However, as a trilogy it has some major flaws. Firstly, while the three films build on ideas from the one before, they are just the ideas. Each film almost feels like a complete stand alone film. There really isn’t any connection between them. You could watch them in any order or even not bother with one or two and you wouldn’t lose anything, you wouldn’t be confused or wonder what’s going on. It’s a bit like James Bond films – everyone is unique apart from a name and a character.

The 3rd film also suffers very badly from not only taking a huge amount of it’s plot from Lord of the Flies, to the point you’d argue that there may even be a case of plagiarism to answer, to the fact that the post apocalyptic world Max is growing further and further into seems to drift faster and faster away from planet Earth and into an alien planet that would feel more at home in Star Wars than what is meant to be Australia. In fact, the third movie feels so inhumane that honestly, they could have got away with Jabba the Hut or a couple of Wookiee’s walking around in the background of Bortertown.

Sadly, while I can now say that I have seen the Mad Max trilogy, unlike Die Hard, I’m not sure whether it was worth the wait. I haven’t really enjoyed it and while I agree, the movies get better as you progress, they’re not really very good. I think it’s a case of they are a cult classic that paved the way for things in the future. For movies to come along and pick up that post apocalyptic baton and make films worthy of their settings. If you see the trilogy for sale at a stupidly low price it’s worth grabbing, purely for the fact that if you local Sainsbury’s still has any, at just over £2 a Blu-ray, you really can’t complain no matter how bad the movie, but I certainly wouldn’t pay much more for it.

For those interested my ratings on IMDb were:

Mad Max: 5 out of 10 stars (5.0 / 10)
Mad Max 2 – The Road Runner: 7 out of 10 stars (7.0 / 10)
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome: 7 out of 10 stars (7.0 / 10)
Average: 6.3 out of 10 stars (6.3 / 10)
Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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