Better than Beyond Thunderdome but not as good as The Road Warrior, the original Mad Max fits snuggly in-between those two films, and looks super glossy now thanks to this new Blu-Ray release. It’s not the best action film in the world, but it definitely delivers some high-powered thrills, all looking quite nice on a flat-screen TV. I know this might compromise what you think of my taste in movies, but I’ve always thought that Mad Max was a bit overrated. Yes, I’m aware of its significance as an action film, and, more importantly, its significance as an Australian action film, but I think it’s always gotten a lot more acclaim for its relevance as a picture than for its overall quality. I also think it’s better in sections rather than as a complete whole, as it definitely drags in parts and is even yawn-inducing in certain sections. The romantic scenes are cheesy, the acting is subpar, and even some of the action sequences are overdone and dragged out with their constant cuts between the cars and the road. To put it bluntly, it’s a movie that I can understand why people like, but I can’t garner the same enthusiasm for it myself. If there’s any consolation to all this, it’s that I can at least say that I think its successor, The Road Warrior, is a much finer film, one filled with startling action and a better overall story. But we’re not talking about The Road Warrior here, we’re talking about Mad Max, and for what it’s worth, this new Blu-Ray edition isn’t all that bad. It’s just a movie I’d like to watch more than twice now that I’ve already seen it a second time.
The story takes place “a few years from now,” after some kind of apocalyptic event has made the world a sort of Road Rash-esque warzone. Nobody’s safe when it comes to the gangs that rule these roads, and a ragtag police unit known as the Main Patrol Force (MPF) is the only group that can stop them. This unit is hardly a threat against a group as psychopathic as the gangs in this movie, and it’s going to take a true hero to stop them for good. It’s going to take somebody who would later go on alcoholic benders and call an officer of the law “Sugar Tits.” That man is Mel Gib, er, I mean Max Rockatansky, better known as Mad Max to the world at large.
One of my biggest complaints about this picture is that it takes too damn long for Mr. Rockatansky to become Mr. Mad Max, because the build up to that transformation takes its sweet time. This being an origin story, it makes sense that we have to establish Max as this sort of badass character before throwing him out there to the public. But Mel Gibson, for all he’s worth today, just wasn’t a very strong actor back then. The truth is, Mel, even after he goes “Mad,” just wasn’t that much of a badass at all, and it’s mainly because he’s so young in this picture. Mel Gibson was only 21 years old when this film was made, and he doesn’t appear menacing at all, even if he is donning all that fancy black leather and driving the cool black car (Fun fact: He’s the only person in this film who actually is wearing real leather. Everybody else is wearing an imitation).
It’s this slow build-up that hampers all the cool action scenes, like a motorcycle flying high up into the air and sending its rider crashing down, or Max forcing another biker into an oncoming truck, with the ensuing fireball lighting up the Australian Outback. It must be said that these scenes are definitely amplified by the crispness of Blu-ray, as I compared how it looked on DVD, and the grainy quality is all but wiped clean with Blu-ray. But I must say, for a movie like this, I actually prefer it to be a bit grainer. It makes it feel more authentic.
Back to the film. As much as I’ve been ragging about how boring it can be, I think it’s definitely an important film that deserves to be watched by all. It’s one of those films that’s just classic, and while I’m not one of its biggest fans, it’s definitely worth a watch just so you can step into the far superior Road Warrior understanding how Max got the way he is in that picture. He goes through some pretty brutal stuff in this film. So, if you haven’t seen Mad Max before, definitely check it out. And if you have seen it before and you love it, then check out this Blu-Ray version, too, just to see how much prettier the barren landscape of Australia can be with the amplified quality. You can definitely tell that many of the special features on this disc are from an earlier release of the DVD, as there’s a documentary on here called, “Mel Gibson: The Birth of a Superstar” that is so in love with Mel that it has to be from before his downward spiral. Nobody could fawn about him this much in the wake of the sugar tits/Jew-bashing debacle. That being said, it definitely shows Mel in an impressive light, one that makes you both highly upset and also angry at Mel for ruining his career the way he did. He really was something special.
Another documentary entitled “Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon Featurette” gives an in-depth look at how successful the picture was, both in Australia and over here in America, and how it made Mel Gibson into an international star. Fans of the film will undoubtedly love all the info this featurette has to offer, as the wardrobe, the actors, and even the cars themselves are discussed in such loving detail that you expect to find drool all over the disc by the time you take it out.
There is also a commentary that includes the makers of the movie and a film critic (no George Miller or Mel Gibson, however). I, for one, found it tedious beyond belief and fell asleep on two separate occasions as they talked about all the low-budget techniques used to make the film, as well as swooning over Mel Gibson. Seriously, the love for Mel never ends on this disc.
Trailers, TV spots, posters, and trivia round out the special features on this disc. I have a feeling that many of these may have been on an earlier version, and if they have, there’s nothing new. But for what it’s worth, there’s a lot offered here, and fans who haven’t picked up a copy of the disc before will be doing themselves a great disservice to not pick it up now. There are enough special features here to have you watching long after Max has advised that scumbag to cut off his own foot.
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