After the inevitable nuclear apocalypse (have you seen Steel Dawn?), the world is plunged into an odd state; the machines that gave us power still exist, but the fuel for them is unbelievably scarce. After the events of Mad Max, Max (Mel Gibson) has become a drifter, fighting death battles on the roads of Australia for as little as a few gallons of gas. It's all right, though, he has a nice doggy to keep him company. While on his travels through the Wasteland (which is probably what Australia should call their Outback anyway), Max encounters a Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence, who eventually went on to voice the Eye of Sauron), who tells him of a place where a clever man could find more gasoline than he could carry. The only problem with this place is that it has been surrounded by Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) and his gang of scavengers. Sure, these oil refiners might have a semi-secure base, but they are stuck there; with Humungus and his men patrolling, they can never escape the Wasteland. That is, of course, until they meet a handsome and dangerous loner named Max.
|"Just walk away..."|
The Road Warrior is that film anomaly in where a sequel far surpasses the original. Mad Max is a pretty decent B-movie, but The Road Warrior is bad-ass beyond compare. What makes it better? Just about everything, actually. Max doesn't have to waste time developing feelings or building up to be a tough guy; from the first scene, it is clear that he is not someone you mess with. The characters are far more iconic, largely thanks to some amazing costumes and sets. This is the movie that set the standard for post-apocalyptic films; the whole idea of leather-clad, S&M-styled people in a wasteland that use found junkyard technology for their own purposes comes from this film. In other words, the visual style of pretty much every other post-apocalyptic movie made after 1981 owes a debt to The Road Warrior. The villains are much more colorful this time around, too. Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) has a pretty iconic look going and he's eloquent, to boot. Wez (Vernon Wells) added that extra-spicy element of danger as the ferocious, animalistic psychopath henchman. Sure, this movie had a bigger budget, but even the story is better in this movie; the fact that Max's motives are not determined by rage or the urge to protect family makes this a much more complex and satisfying story.
|Tell me that this doesn't look awesome, I dare you.|
What carries that story, though, is a stellar cast of unknowns. Mel Gibson, Mad Max aside, was an unknown quantity in America at the time, so seeing him play such a dangerous, confident character must have been startling at the time. What makes Max even better to watch is that, cool as he is, he still needs help. His number one helper is the Gyro Captain, played by Bruce Spence; Spence is best known for his role here, but he eventually went on to small roles in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the Matrix trilogy, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In this role, though, he plays the kind of role that is now usually filled by Rhys Ifans. He's quirky and a little dirty, but his heart is in the right place. The only other interesting good guy role was Emil Minty's performance as the grunting and growling Feral Kid.
|Kids should be seen and not heard, unless they're "Feral Kid" ugly. Then they should live in underground tunnels and play with killer boomerangs.|
|Can you believe that this awesome bad guy was the awful one from Commando?|
|After the Apocalypse, Jason Voorhies moved to Australia.|
The Road Warrior is, in my eyes, the very best film to take place after the inevitable