Pray that he's still out there—somewhere
By Bert Ehrmann
April 16, 2010
Part 2: "Pray that he's still out there—somewhere"
Part 3: "Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves"
Last time we talked about the film Mad Max (1979). This time the focus is on The Road Warrior (1982).
The Road Warrior (Warrior) picks up a few years after the events of Mad Max. If the world of Mad Max was teetering on the brink of collapse then the world of Warrior has completely crumbled ruining whatever was left of civilization in the process.
In Warrior, the gangs who threatened travelers on the highways of the Australian Outback of Mad Max now completely control them and instead of Max (Mel Gibson) being the one who chases down the roving gangs the roles have been reversed and he's the one who's chased. After the collapse, the only thing left of real value is gasoline and the highways are littered with the wrecked evidence of little wars fought over a gallon or two of fuel.
After a stunning ten minute opening sequence to the film where no words are spoken with Max driving for his life as he is is alternately chased, then chases a highway gang, Max stumbles upon a working oil refinery besieged by musclebound/hockey mask wearing "Humungus" and his hoards of minions all wanting into the refinery and at the gas. Max is able to sneak into the refinery and makes a deal with the people within. He'll bring them back a semi that is capable of hauling the gasoline away if they'll give him as much gas as he can carry in return.
They agree and Max delivers. But before he can escape into the wastes Humungus' hoards run Max down, destroy his car, shoot his dog and leave him for dead. Max is rescued and is brought back to the refinery where he volunteers to drive the semi out. The semi and its cargo of fuel will act as a decoy allowing the people living at the refinery time to escape. But is Max a good enough driver to race and beat Humungus' hoards out into the Outback before they're able to stop him?
If Mad Max was all about a character loosing himself in revenge then Warrior is about redemption. In Warrior, Max is presented as a man who's not that much different that the members of Humungus' murderous hoard. Though I never got the sense that Max would kill or take advantage of people who weren't trying to kill or take advantage of him first; woe is the person good or evil to cross Max. In Warrior, Max kills when it's needed, leaves people for dead and at one point uses a man who tried to steal fuel out of Max's car as a sort of human pack animal.
Except things change for Max when two events occur. First he meets a young feral boy living who lives with the people at the refinery but I suspect Max almost being killed out on the road had the biggest effect on the character. It's almost as if with the young boy he's able to reconnect to his normal life pre-collapse with a wife and son while I think Max's near death experience made him realize that one way or another, be it doing good or bad, the hostile elements of the post-collapse world will eventually catch up and kill him. And Max is made to realize that in the end it's probably better to be on the side of good than evil.
In a bit of a twist at the end of Warrior it turns out that the people of the refinery aren't all good in that the semi they've sent Max out in to lead Humungus and his hoards away from their escape attempt was not filled with gasoline but instead was full of sand. They needed the fuel themselves to escape away from the refinery and figured that an outsider like Max was more expendable than of sacrificing one of their own.
Still, this doesn't take away the fact that at the end of Warrior, the character of Max has redeemed himself from the events of the first film.
Interestingly enough, both Mad Max and Warrior were originally released a bit differently for American audiences than international ones. For years, the only version of Mad Max that was available here in the US was one where all the voices of the Australian actors were redubbed with American voice actors while in most of the rest of the English speaking world The Road Warrior is known as Mad Max 2. It wasn't until recently that the original voices in Mad Max were restored to the US version of the film and the original title was recently added to the US Blu-ray version of the film.
There's been talk of a fourth Mad Max film for the last decade and it wouldn't surprise me in the least that in this world of movie remakes and reboots that we don't see another Max film sooner than later. Coming soon Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.