How ‘Mad Max 2’ paved the way for the Wastelander landscape
Rarely does a film manage to fit seamlessly into multiple genres while remaining cohesive. Although valiant attempts are regularly made, multi-genre films usually fall into the trap of becoming a confusing and confusing pastiche. When a movie manages to get it right, it often stands the test of time, becoming a landmark for others to follow along its path.
Forty years after its release in the United States, Crazy Max 2 (title The road warrior here in the US) proved it remains a top, nailing the genre’s mix of post-apocalyptic, western, action, punk and drama themes into one insane pot.
Set three years after the events of madmax, this iteration continues to follow former police officer Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) as he wanders the dystopian post-war Australian wilderness in search of food and gasoline. He is haunted by the death of his family that took place during the first film, and his only companion is an Australian Cattle Dog whom he simply calls “Dog”.
Directed by George Miller, Crazy Max 2 addresses difficult themes such as grief, survivalism, isolation and the breakdown of society and humanity. Miller said he always wanted there to be a sequel, and after several other failed projects, he brought in writer Terry Hayes to work on the screenplay. Crazy Max 2. Miller said he was greatly influenced by Akira Kurosawa’s films and relied heavily on elements from them when crafting the story for this film.
This episode undoubtedly has depth and emotion, but balances them with shamelessly over-the-top fight sequences and car chase scenes that make for an explosive action flick. It examines the collapse of humanity while focusing on one man’s journey through a barren and unforgiving landscape. Plus, it stays true to a centrally western story of a traveler aiding a group of settlers who fall prey to a group of ruthless cutthroats.
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It’s not just a collapse of society. It is a total descent into mania and depravity. Max is a shell of himself, not only of who he was in the first iteration, but also of his former pre-apocalypse life. It’s something that was never explicitly shown, but rather an inherent understanding of what life was like for him and everyone else – normal, boring and safe. Now he clings to survival among the dregs of society; a group of crazed, brutal psychopaths who all want the same thing as him but go about it in much more callous ways.
The whole aesthetic of the movie, both in set and costume, has a post-societal vibe that only has gained popularity among fans. There’s a fashionable punk-rock feel to these people preying on the innocent for their own benefit, which creates a conflicting conundrum of feelings. Despite the manic nature of the antagonists, people have embraced Wastelander culture, hosting festivals and cosplay conventions centered around the dystopian attitude.
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Despite the challenges the past few years have presented to us as a society, we still have a fascination with all things post-apocalyptic, at least in the sense that it’s fun to play pretend. You have to have the courage to survive in a setting like that, and there’s definitely a little part in all of us that idealizes that aspect.
Max, and the madmax franchise, is just plain cool, plain and simple. When you take the harshness out of a world like this and look at it from a practical perspective, the appeal of a lawless world of hard rock is both timeless and entertaining. As long as it is within the comfort of our safe and secure life.