Jun 5, 2015

[Movies] Mad Max (1979)

Given the almost surprising popularity of the latest Mad Max movie, naturally Tobie and I figured it would be fun to go back and revisit the original trilogy of movies to better appreciate where we are now. But that also means really going far back into the history of the franchise when things weren't quite as crisp and clean as the latest venture.

The original Mad Max seems so far apart from the latest movie - and this goes beyond the change in aesthetics due to advances in movie technology. Even the character of Mad Max himself feels so different given here he's really more of a cop and not just some gruff old survive of a harsh world.

But at the same time, you can feel how the movie shares a particular tone and pace as what was experienced in Fury Road. The movie maintains a rather high level of tension for the most part that can certainly stress you out in case you're not all that careful. That same level of tension made the more recent movie feel all the more intense given how realistic movies are now these days.

Synopsis: Mad Max is a 1979 dystopian action movie directed and co-written by George Miller together with co-screenplay writer James McCausland. It long held the Guinnsess record for most profitable movie for many years.

The movie begins with a big car chase as motorcycle gang member "Nightrider" (Vincent Gil) is on the run from the Main Force Patrol (MFP), which is pretty much the police in this not so distant future. Other MFP officers are unable to catch the Nightrider in their vehicles and it isn't until Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), the MFP top pursuit man, follows him that they square off until Nightrider is taken out of the picture. Naturally, this paints a virtual target on Max as the rest of Nightrider's gang swears vengeance on him.

In other news, the MFP mechanic is busy at work on a custom black Police Special vehicle with a more powerful V8 engine. The car is meant as a lure to get Max to stay on the force as he desires to get away from all the risk and danger and focus on his family. At the same time, Nightrider's gang starts committing a series of crimes and naturally attract the attention of the MFP.

This movie is set in a near future that isn't quite the dessert post apocalyptic land that we more generally associate with the franchise. Thus we get a greater sense of a more traditional or conventional level of civilization and community compared to what we've seen in later movies. Mor people have cars and gas doesn't seem to be a significant issue and the very fact that a group like the MFP exists speaks of a greater organized government still keeping the peace.

But at the same time, there's no mistaking how this movie involves a lot of genuine love for cars and the sort of action one can only really achieve using practical effects and big time car stunts. No matter how good CGI becomes, you can never really quite beat the real thing. And in this regard the movie feels right at home with all the others.

Mel Gibson is practically unrecognizable in this movie as his character is pretty much a cop on a mission to keep his family safe and to protect those dear to him. He's just so young and skinny here and I think we all associate him with a fuller sense of hair like in the Lethal Weapon movies. He's still quite interesting as an agent of law and order.

The movie is definitely dated not just by its special effects, but also in terms of the music and how some of the shots were put together. And while you can argue that its dystopian tone can somewhat excuse older movie making technology, the journey to get things done and make sure Max does right by his family. So get past thinking how old the movie is and just hang on for the ride.

There's a weird sophistication of how the shots of the movie were put together and even how the story was structured. As crazy as it was to have the movie start with several MFP officers in hot pursuit of a criminal, one must also note just how long it took before we actually got to meet the titular Mad Max character.

Mad Max is a clever movie experience that has a charm of its own despite the years that have passed. I can appreciate how the movie nicely reflected some of the better bits of the story of the books with other aspects of things left be pondered elsewhere. Thus the movie gets 3.5 strange villains and goons out of a possible 5.


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