The Road Warrior (1981), or The Emergence of A Post-Apocalyptic HERO

22 05 2009

Mel Gibson is a god-damn hero. No, not for his ridiculous anti-Semitic rants. No, not for his lackluster directorial efforts. No, not for the legendary What Women Want. NO! Mel Gibson is a god-damn hero because of his work on today’s film, the uber-cool The Road Warrior, the sequel to Australia’s national movie, Mad Max. They not only capitalized on what made the original great, but they made it somehow cooler than it already was. This movie IS the post-apocalyptic genre; I don’t know if I’ve seen a better one yet.

Max, played by the dyspeptic Mel Gibson, is a bitter and silent man after the events of the first film, and without a family he travels throughout the crumbling ruins of Australia with his great dog and his badass Pursuit Special. After finding a goof-mobile (it’s actually called an autogyro, but let’s assume it’s called a goof-mobile) and its tricky pilot in the desert, Max learns of a working oil refinery nearby (oil is VERY important). At the oil refinery there are settlers being besieged by the evil biker warlord Humungus, who wants the oil for himself. Max decides to rediscover his humanity by taking on a dangerous journey to help the settlers and put a stop to the charismatic but intensely vile Humungus.

It’s a hell of a lot of fun. I really found a lot of things to enjoy about the film. It’s tightly shot, it’s cinematography is nothing short of spectacular, the amazingly appropriate soundtrack is composed by rock legend Brian May (I’m kidding; it’s just by a Brian May, not THE Brian May), and the concept is strong despite so many people mining the same ideas over the years. If you like action and you want to see a movie that feels perfect, watch this movie.

I really discovered Mel Gibson. I felt like I haven’t seen the real Mel Gibson in years. Every time I see him now, he has a Walt Whitman beard or he’s directing some shitty movie about some shitty Savior or he’s playing Mel Gibson instead of an actual character. Here, we find Mel in a role, deeply interested and ready to put it all on the line. Max is actually someone I cared about! I want Max to be okay; he went through a lot in the first one, but the wastes aren’t done with him yet, so I feel pretty bad for the poor mug. Max is a man on a mission, and he cares so much about it that you care about it, even though it’s silly and post-apocalyptic. That’s the mark of a good movie, action spectacle or not.

The movie was made with only $4 million, but it entertained me far more than the $160 million Star Trek. Why is that? It feels just right. Everything fits; there’s no slack on the pants, and no excess cuff on this suit. It’s a film about biker gangs in the Australian desert, with enough philosophizing to keep it firmly planted on the ground, with enough dialog to keep me waiting for the next line, and with enough action to shake an incredibly rare functional shotgun at. It’s a great mixture, and not one easily duplicated.

What are you still doing here? Go watch this movie! It’s Memorial Day Weekend, so go enjoy the freedom our forebears earned for us by watching a movie that isn’t high art, but nearly flawless for what it is. I haven’t smiled so much while watching a movie in quite a while, and it felt good to have the ol’ cheek muscles stinging a bit. I give The Road Warrior 9 goof-mobiles out of 10. Check it out!!!

Tomorrow is the PSA, where I take a look at L’avventura!!!

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