It may have taken a few years for Mad Max (1979) to find success in America but it was a huge hit in Australia. A sequel was a no-brainer and director George Miller would reunite with producer Byron Kennedy and budding Hollywood star Mel Gibson for Mad Max 2 (1981). However, it is better known to most Americans as The Road Warrior. Since the first Mad Max never received proper distribution in the United States, Warner Brothers felt most of the audience would be confused and even turned off by a sequel to a film they still knew nothing about. However, with an official studio release, The Road Warrior would be a commercial success on par with other countries. In fact, it would even help make Mad Max a cult favorite as audiences wanted to see more of Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson).
When we last saw Max, he was headed for the desert. His humanity gone after the death of his wife and son, he chooses to roam the wastelands. Still driving his pursuit vehicle, we get the impression life has been hard. Sporting a brace on his left leg (following up on the plot thread of getting shot in Mad Max) and his car is battered. His only companion is a dog. He no longer works for the Main Force Patrol (MFP), which most likely didn’t even exist anymore. There has been a global war, the apocalypse has happened, oil is short and the gangs run the roads more than ever. After encountering a gyro captain (Bruce Spence), he is told of an oil refinery. Gasoline has become a precious commodity. Max has no problem eating canned dog food or living like those he wants chased down but he desperately needs gas for his car.
The refinery is being attacked by a gang under the leadership of The Humongus, a huge man wearing a hockey mask over what appears to be a scarred face. His gang of misfits goes far beyond any of the crazies we saw in the first film. Society is holding on by a thread, madness reigns and precious things such as food and water seem to pale in comparison to man’s never-ending pursuit of oil. The worst of the lot is a mohawked biker named Wez (Vernon Wells). Max soon comes up with a plan to help the people in the refinery in exchange for gasoline. However, his humanity eventually gets the better of him and his plans to leave change once Wez chases him down and destroys his car. Once the pilot saves max, he decides that their only chance at survival is to let him drive the oil rig and help with their dream of making it to the ocean. A climatic chases ensues that rivals anything witnessed in the first movie. Watch these scenes knowing the term CGI was still unheard of in the movies.
A narrator details how the people Max eventually saves (after the amazing car chase/battle) become a great tribe in the north. It is implicated that the narrator is in fact a young and wild boy who befriends Max. While they make it to the destination, Max is once again left alone in the desert. This time, his car is destroyed and he is certainly in much worse shape. But his tale was not over yet. Mad Max 2 was a huge hit, both in the theaters as well as on video and cable. With the action turned up to 11, the movie stands up quite well amongst today’s over-saturated CGI world.
Needless to say, I love Mad Max 2. While different in tone when compared to Mad Max, I found that they work quite well together when viewing both movies back-to-back for the first time. Check out the trailer and prepare yourself for some fun. Mad Max 2 is another highly recommended piece of the trilogy. Next time, we conclude the original trilogy with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). Unfortunately, I can’t promise the same ride as the first two entries.