Mad Max (1979) Movie Review

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Due to the release of Mad Max: Fury Road (which I hope to see sometime soon), I figured it would be best to revisit the trilogy before watching it.

So here’s the beginning of the original trilogy. Mad Max is set in the “not-so-distant-future”, and for those who wonder why it doesn’t look brown and yellow, it could be for 2 reasons; 1. This is a Dystopian Future, not a post-apocalyptic 1, and 2. it had a budget of around $400,000 australian dollars in 1977 (when it was filmed), which is over 2 million australian dollars in 2014, and just over 1.5 million US Dollars in 2015.  When we compare that to Mad Max 2, which had 10 times the budget, and Mad Max: Fury Road, which cost 150 million dollars to make, it really tells you something about their resources. Whether or not director had 1 million dollars or 150 million dollars,

Mad Max demonstrates something that has to be admitted.  While few countries in the world have the geographical variety of New Zealand to make the Lord Of The Rings work well, few countries also have the geographical opportunity of a wasteland quite like Australia (I mean the parts of Australia that have a few caravans and farms here and there, hundreds of miles away, not the whole edge of the country where everybody else lives).  Geography-wise, along with the cinematography to show it off, Mad Max is surprisingly impressive.  I really like the visuals it has.

So what’s the story?  Well, it’s about a man named Max, a family man who works as a police officer in a world that is basically run by biker gangs.  It’s difficult to talk about it without giving too much away, but it’s basically about Max trying to stop a Biker Gang known as the Acolytes, headed by the charismatic Toecutter.  The fact that I can’t really talk about the story says a lot about it.  Yes it can be summed up into 1 sentence, but it’s difficult to distinguish it from other movies in this case.  So what more can I say?  It had a lot of travelling in it, some car chases, some bike chases and a lot of bloody violence.  Due to the nature of Mad Max himself, I guess we could say that this film is more of a back story or a prologue, rather than necessarily the 1st film in a series.

Despite the story, Mad Max has a lot of excellent qualities.  For 1 thing I enjoyed the acting.  I don’t think there was a bad choice of any of them.  Mel Gibson looks so young in this (He was 21)!  He did a good job as the quiet, deadly, yet surprisingly innocent Max.  It has a colourful bunch of villains (a key part of any good action movie, especially 1 from the ’70s), and the police aren’t a bunch of strict fools either (There are far fewer rules and regulations after all).

The characters are all incredibly awesome (especially The Toecutter.  Oh my goodness, Hugh Keays-Byrne is absolutely brilliant!  He’s like an Australian Oliver Reed…I know, he’s technically an englishman who was born in India).  The Acolytes are surprisingly a very intimidating bunch, even when they’re “toying around”.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted Hyena videos while preparing for their roles.  The characters make the movie really worth seeing, even if the story isn’t up to much.

Brian May (the Australian composer, not the guitarist for Queen) created an excellent and dynamic soundtrack that used a lot of brass and heavy drums which might be loosely inspired by the likes of Planet Of The Apes.  It sets the scene brilliantly and deserves its recognition.

The star of the show however is the film’s cinematography, which showed off the film’s landscape, setting and action scenes beautifully, which included the cinematographer risking personal injury and death to get the crashes, explosions and other violence.  So to get his name out there (It really should be), David Eggby, I salute you.

Would I recommend Mad Max?  Yes, but I’m not sure if it’s a film that could be enjoyed more than once or twice.  It served its purpose as a prologue (more so than a 1st film) to the character that is Mad Max, and especially when Mad Max 2 comes out as an episode to his journey through this dystopian wasteland (Although in this film, the existence of certain items seem out of place).  The story is rather vague and dull, but the interesting characters along with the fun and colourful acting make up for it.

Acting ****

Characters ****

Story: **1/2

Soundtrack ****

Cinematography:  *****

Overall Rating: ****

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