Binge and Purge: ‘The Mad Max’ Trilogy

Thanks to free streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBOgo and Amazon Prime, thousands of television shows and movie franchises are available to use at the click of a button – revered and unknown, alike. With so many programs and movies at our fingertips, it’s hard to tell which ones are worth our time. Have you ever kept watching a series in the hopes that it might get better someday (if you’re watching Homeland, it won’t)? Or finished a show out merely because you’re too invested in it, but find that you no longer enjoy it? Well, are you in luck, because in our new editorial, “Binge and Purge,” we’ll give you a hit by hit on our experience watching the show. Yes, this is pretty much an excuse to look productive while we binge-watch, but we’re hoping that this could save you from or add to your viewing experience.

Show/Season: The Mad Max trilogy (3 movies)
Original Run: 1979 (Mad Max), 1981 (Mad Max: The Road Warrior), 1985 (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome)
Original Channel/Platform: Theaters, First Mad Max on Netflix and Comcast OnDemand, trilogy Blu-Ray on Amazon
Notable Actors/Characters: Mel Gibson (1-3), Joanne Samuel (1), Hugh Keays-Byrne (1,4), Bruce Spence (2-3), Vernon Wells (2), Tina Turner, Angry Anderson (3)

Thoughts before watching:

For our first installment of “Binge & Purge,” we’re starting with the Mad Max trilogy – right in time for the release of Mad Max: Fury Road. The original Mad Max came out in 1979, and inspired two sequels that were released in 1981 and 1985, respectively. For reference, I was born in 1987, so when I finally got around to watching the first one in college, it goes without saying that it was severely outdated. The effects were poor and the pacing was worse. Yet, the Mad Max franchise is still considered the signature post-apocalyptic badass film. This new movie straddles the line between sequel to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and a franchise reboot. I’m not honestly sure, but here is a pretty thoughtful article about where it fits in the Mad Max lore. It’s a new approach to relaunching a franchise, and judging by the reviews, it looks like it worked out. While the concept of futuristic wastelands may be tired out now, it was very much a new and exciting concept 35 years ago – back in a time when the world respected Mel Gibson. Buckle your seatbelt, Sugartits; it’s time to for us to dive in and get ready for some post-apocalyptic action.

Movie by Movie thoughts:

Mad Max

Mel Gibson plays this cop for the MFP (which I can only assume stands for Mother F*ckin Police) who is a fearless driver, and forces the “Night Rider” to crash his car and instantly explode. Well, apparently the dude was some heavy-hitter in a biker gang, and they retaliate by basically being a bunch of a-holes. They want to prosecute one of the bikers, but the lawfulness of the land has begun to unravel. The use of music is very grandiose, but doesn’t really fit the circumstances, making the film appear just silly at times. The bikers in general are a bunch of drugged up idiots, making them frightening enough villains. This movie screams the end of the 70’s, though. From the choice of clothing (cops in all black leather uniforms), fully-dressed funky cabaret performers), this is as much of a reflection of time as it is its dystopian setting.

mad max 1 toecutter

The movie takes a sharp turn for dark when the bikers decide to burn Max’s partner alive (He doesn’t die, of course. That would be too much…); essentially, the first real bit of action takes place almost 50 minutes in (the film is 93 min long). I do miss the days of short movies, but Max is really only in the movie for about 20-30 minutes of the film. Another odd point – I’m jealous of a time when a man named Fifi who looked like he did was considered manly. Australia is more progressive than we knew, I guess.

mad max 1 fifi

Upon seeing his friend burned to a crisp, Max takes a vacation to clear his mind or whatever. BIG mistake. Everybody dies and Mel Gibson goes full Patriot on these guys. He hunts the bikers down one by one in disturbing fashion (I mean, disturbing for 1979, anyway). I suppose the lesson is that if you’re hiding from a roaming gang of bikers, don’t drive a bright orange station wagon? I’m not sure. If the original Mad Max were made today, it’d be much more violent and gratuitous. While it wasn’t a great film by any stretches of the imagination, I appreciated the musically-induced thrills and implied violence; I almost forgot what it was like to use my imagination. Also, little tidbit – the actor who plays Toecutter, the main bad guy in the first film, will be the villain in Fury Road, going by the name Immortal Joe in the relaunch.

mad max 1 goos

Scorecard

Plot – 3
Acting – 6
Representation of Genre – 6
Cinematography – 7
Effects/Environment – 4
Captivity – 4
Logical consistency – 5
Originality/Creativity – 7
Soundtrack/Music – 7
Overall awesomeness – 5


Mad Max: The Road Warrior

There’s finally some backstory to what is going on here in the form of a black and white synopsis that reminds me a little of Nazi propaganda. Apparently the situation in the Outback is much more dire than the first film led on, and there is a super oil shortage, leading to chaos, deconstruction of civilization and a bunch of murder. More than anything, though, there are a bunch of weird mo-fos around now. In the first twenty minutes, I’ve seen: a midget squirrel child, a guy that looks like the roided-out version of Hook‘s Rufio in assless chaps, Jason Vorhees, Luke Skywalker, and a warrior lady that just stepped off a Bon Jovi music video set.

mad max 2 jason vorhees

Again here, the music really drives the movie. Just like the Star Wars throne scene, I’d love to see how awkward this movie would be if there was no sound. I swear that I heard no more than a couple sentences in the first 20 minutes (again).  Max is caught in the crossfire between another band of murderous renegades and a “civilized” bunch of idiots bogarting an oil rig. Whether he’s bored or endeared by the boomerang-throwing midget kid, he decides to take on the task of driving off the bad guys. These baddies are people I would personally not mess with; everybody looks like the first thing they looted after the apocalypse was the S&M section of Fascinations.

mad max 2 mohawk guy

The group of idiot bad guys make Mad Max even madder by killing his dog. Ya know, in two films, this franchise has pulled off two of the most despicable murders possible: defenseless dog and baby. All they need is an old lady to complete the trifecta. Max is able to defeat the bad guys with trickery and deceit, filling the tanker with sand and allowing the good guys to get away with the fuel. It was pretty dumb as far as movie endings go, but I can at least appreciate the effort to build a complete story in this iteration, as opposed to the borderline home video quality of the first Mad Max.

mad max 2 feral kid

Scorecard

Plot – 5
Acting – 6
Representation of Genre – 8
Cinematography – 7
Effects/Environment – 8
Captivity – 6
Logical consistency – 4
Originality/Creativity – 9
Soundtrack/Music – 8
Overall awesomeness – 7

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Mad Max: Beyond Thenderdome

Finally! Three pain-staking hours into this and we are at the finale. Judging by the opening sequence, and the rockin Tina Turner jam, this film is going to be all 80’s. Rock and roll mixes so well with dominatrix clothing. Max has abandoned the rugged pretty boy look for some really long Moses hair. Everything in the land is radioactive and there is a makeshift civilization being forged. Also, thanks to Tina Turner, there are suddenly a whole bunch of black people. The third in the series noticeably improved  in quality, from cinematography to dialogue to the amount of influence the music has, it seems closer in quality to what today’s output is.

mad max 3 tina turner

Welcome to the Thunderdome, b*tch! Now we’re at the part from the “California Love” music video. Master Blaster, who must surely be the inspiration for Mortal Kombat X‘s Ferra/Torr, is a corrupt tyrant of this odd makeshift city. Any disputes must be had in the Thunderdome, where they engage in Peter Pan-like aerial combat. After whooping Blaster’s butt, it turns out that the Blaster monster was actually the Feral Child from Mad Max 2. Tina Turner ends up being the bad guy, and by bad guy, I mean the evil genius who puts together short, senseless phrases that get stuck in your head.

mad max 3 thunderdome

It feels like Max spends an eternity in the stupid desert and then rescued by the Lost Kids from Neverland (one of whom looks like the “I Like Turtles” kid from YouTube) – at least he gets a haircut, too. He’s evidently the chosen one or some crap to these kids. I can’t begin to describe how far this show’s concept has gotten from the original Mad Max. It’s like defining the Star Wars franchise based off their time with the Ewoks in Endor. Max is a straight up a-hole in this movie; he rescues some kids, sure, but I never felt like I should be rooting for him in this one. Never once in this movie did I feel that there was a specific direction the story was going in. It ends pretty horribly, with the rescued party finding a destroyed Sydney, and Max left alone with no way to get where he needs to go. I almost feel like they made a bad choice by attempting a complete story; give me more senseless violence and humor.

mad max 3 lost kids

Scorecard

Plot – 4
Acting – 6
Representation of Genre – 8
Cinematography – 7
Effects/Environment – 9
Captivity – 5
Logical consistency – 4
Originality/Creativity – 7
Soundtrack/Music – 8
Overall awesomeness – 6

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Mad Max: Fury Road

For our full review of the 2015 film, Mad Max: Fury Road, click here.


Thoughts after watching the Mad Max trilogy:

At the end of it all, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a series of movies that was expected to have such an impact on the genre of post-apocalyptic films. It gets a bit of a pass for being done in the late 70’s-mid 80’s, a time when science-fiction was still trying to find its footing (that, or imitate Star Wars); in the end, it just didn’t live up to the potential I felt it had or the hype that surrounded it. The concept is cool, the vehicles and zany villains are awesome, and the relative stoicism of Max makes him seem really cool. You can tell that many movies and entries to pop culture since Mad Max have used it as inspiration, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good. You don’t see IBM going around saying how much cooler they are than flash drives because they invented the floppy disc, but you have to respect the creativity it took to get to that point.

Report Card:

Binge and Purge Mad Max ratings

This shows an overall upward trend in scores, meaning an improvement in each film for the most part. Road Warrior received a higher score than Beyond Thunderdome for the completely new concept of degenerate bands roaming the desert. All three final movies were a huge upgrade from the original Mad Max, which was basically about chasing down a biker gang and murdering the key members.

binge and purge mad max categories

Here we see the franchise’s strengths and weakness. While it might not have any logical consistency and usually crappy plots, it has really defined the genre for lawless dystopian futures. Mad Max also has great originality and sound.

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