Though much less dystopian than its sequels, the original Mad Max is still definitely post-apocalyptic at its core, and not just for its look. For a scant $400,000, this would-be blockbuster ended up becoming just that, grossing over 100 million dollars worldwide, and like most big success stories, spawned a host of imitators all trying to recapture that which made the original so great and popular. Some may have succeeded in individual factors, but few have managed to duplicate everything about it. As usual, the list opts for the original to best represent what Mad Max created, though like I mentioned, it’s the sequels that really flesh out the universe George Miller has envisioned here.
Mad Max was so popular and influential that it spawned a genre of its own, the apocalyptic road flick. It was also a leading film in what became known as the Australian New Wave. It also was the film that introduced Mel Gibson to the world, and he handles himself very delicately here, like he is hesitant about his first big acting job and doesn’t want to muff it up. Everything else, though, was straight out of the campy action factory. From the action itself (well done, but stuff you’ve seen before, even before Mad Max), to the editing (which way over-emphasized some of the bits of action to a laughable degree), to the plot (there are several moments where the motivation of the characters to be doing half the stuff they’re doing to each other is thrown wildly into question), it was all just so… campy. The music, too, was particularly bombastic and on-the-nose, being overly heroic whenever Max or the other officers would do anything remotely “good”, and vile and threatening whenever the bad guys so much as appear on screen. It got really annoying at parts, and I rolled my eyes more than I really wanted to, but the rest of the film did little to hinder my efforts, and for once, I wasn’t convinced that it was because I was watching the forerunner of the tropes utilized – Mad Max just seemed to be behind the pace when it came to action conventions, using them in ways long since outdated, even for 1979.
So, yeah, here it comes: for all this, I’m not saying Mad Max is a bad film. I’m just saying that it seemed incredibly outdated for even its own release window in the late 70s, and aside from some of the action bits, the structure of the setting, and Gibson’s (probably unintentionally) restrained performance, this doesn’t hold up well very much at all. Of course, I’m only saying this from my perspective; you might find a lot more to like about Mad Max than I did, if indeed you’ve never seen it before, and there is quite a bit to like about it. But for me, there was way more for me to roll my eyes over, and that’s not what I want in a movie experience, to be silently, judgmentally laughing at what the filmmakers are trying to do on screen. Your mileage may vary, and since Mad Max is a road movie, you’ve got quite a lot of mileage to get out of it.
Oh, and the guy who plays Johnny the Boy looks conspicuously like Quentin Tarantino. Just saying.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10