Wednesday, 5 September 2007
THE ROAD WARRIOR
The Road Warrior (1981) dir. George Miller
Starring: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence
“Two days ago, I saw a vehicle that would haul that tanker. You want to get out of here? You talk to me”
In 1981 Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and George Miller’s “The Road Warrior” were released. Both films have a kinship of grandiose childlike cinematic action and are the best examples of the highest quality of adventure cinema. George Miller’s film takes the character he created in 1979’s “Mad Max” and places him in a new world, a post-Apocalyptic outback – a dangerous land where gangs fight to survive after all semblance of government and authority has been wiped out. “The Road Warrior” was so creative, so exuberant, so much fun to watch it stands the test of time as one of the great action films and ranks right up beside Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Max is the prototypical anti-hero, a former policeman whose wife and child were brutal murdered by a brutal gang of hooligans. Max now lives in a world of hooligans. He remains a loner, an anti-hero outcast, with only his car, his shotgun and his dog as his possessions. His sole purpose in life is to find more gasoline so he can drive farther and farther away from civilization and distance himself from his own personal demons.
A piece of narration opens the film over a montage of images summarizing the time and place. (Note: the Australian version did not use this prologue). The near future world has gone through nuclear war, most of the land is barren and most forms of social civilization have been destroyed. The currency of this new world is gasoline, and the opening action sequence shows what lengths people are willing to go to get the ‘petrol’. Just like the first “Mad Max” George Miller opens with a brilliant car chase set piece. Max is super bad-ass and outsmarts and out drives the gang, led by a motorcycle-riding apocalyptic punk with his chained homosexual boy slave. After the incident Max escapes a trap set by a helicopter pilot named gyro (Bruce Spence). Before he’s about to be killed he tells Max about a tanker filled with gallons and gallons of gas. Max and the pilot enter into a unique partnership that will continue over the next two films.
Max is led to a commune of white-clad idealists who continually fight off a horde of maniacal warriors. Max makes a deal with the group to drive the tanker out of the compound and through the gang’s attack so they can escape to a civilized oasis thousands of miles away.
The visual design of Miller’s wasteland Australia is one of the highlights. Made in 1981, the costumes, props, vehicles and nihilist attitude reflect the punk culture of the day. Though different in genre it has much in common with “Blade Runner”, “Brazil” and “1984”. It’s a makeshift world created from the destroyed elements of a broken society. The film also has strong elements of the Western and Samurai genres – a lawless society and an unscrupulous lone reluctant hero hired to protect the innocents.
The other highlight are the tremendous chase sequences which stands up to anything done today. Miller edits his perfectly framed camera angles to accentuate the speed, intensity and danger of the chase. And amid all the crashes, explosions, ass-less chaps, and feral children is the tragic but noble heart of Max that he just can’t turn off.
Steven Spielberg and George Miller have a lot in common. They are both natural born filmmakers with both an accomplished technical acumen and an instinctual ability to entertain their audience. “The Road Warrior” will never cease to kick ass. Enjoy.
P.S. Spielberg himself saw the commonality of their work and hired Miller to direct the final (and best) chapter of “Twilight Zone: The Movie” (1983).
Buy it here: The Road Warrior