Often, when a low-budget genre movie becomes a big enough hit for a studio to turn it into a trilogy, the second movie is essentially a flashier remake of the first, perhaps with bigger stars or at least more elaborate special-effects enabled by an increased budget. (That’s how it worked with Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies and Robert Rodriguez’ El Mariachi series.) Something similar was at work when George Miller’s Mad Max got upgraded from a cheap one-off into a studio-backed series. Both Mad Max and The Road Warrior are basically glorified chase movies, each an ironic celebration of gas-guzzling vehicles speeding down the open road across vast deserts during a post-apocalyptic fossil fuel shortage.
Nonetheless, Road Warrior is a deeper, more emotional movie than Mad Max. In the first, Mel Gibson’s hero goes from cop to vigilante when his family is killed. In the second, he’s no longer out for revenge. He’s more like a ronin, a masterless and wandering samurai, who comes to the aid of a terrorized community, so there’s a lot more at stake than Max’s personal sense of honor. For a while, Max nearly gives into the temptation to belong to a group, to a family again. But he’s still unable to shake his own past and become a joiner. The movie’s poignant ending is all about self-sacrifice, and Max’s sacrifice of a more comfortable future helps set him up as a gladiatorial loner in the third film, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Next The Snapper