Mad Max 2

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Mad Max 2 (known as The Road Warrior in the U.S.) is a 1981 Australian post-apocalyptic action film. Directed by Australian doctor-turned-director George Miller, this sequel to Miller's 1979 film Mad Max was a worldwide box office success that launched the career of lead actor Mel Gibson. The film's tale of a community of settlers moved to defend themselves against a roving band of marauders follows an archetypal "Western" frontier movie motif, as is Max's role as a hardened man who rediscovers his humanity when he decides to help the settlers.

Noteworthy elements of the film include cinematographer Dean Semler's widescreen photography of Australia's vast desert landscapes (primarily the Mundi Mundi Plain in Silverton, New South Wales); the sparing use of dialogue throughout the film (which is almost non-existent during the opening and closing scenes); costume designer Norma Moriceau's punk mohawked, leather-bondage-gear wearing bikers; and its fast-paced, tightly-edited, and violent battle and chase scenes.

The film's comic-book post-apocalyptic/punk style popularized the post-apocalyptic genre in film and fiction writing. The film eventually became a cult classic: fan clubs and "road warrior"-themed activities still occur in the 2000s.


Plot summary

A brief prologue covers the events preceding the original Mad Max (no backstory was offered in that movie). After uprisings and an extended war due to energy shortages proved to destabilize the country, marauding biker gangs began to terrorize the townspeople in the Australian desert. The crumbling remnants of the government created a tiny, underfunded group of special highway patrol officers to attempt a restoration of order in the outback. By contrast, Mad Max 2 features a much more pronounced breakdown of civilization. In the prologue, a narrator informs us that the world has "crumbled and...the cities have exploded"; life has become a "whirlwind of looting and a firestorm of fear, in which 'men began to feed on men.'"

Max Rockatansky, the former police officer who sought vengeance against the gang that in the first film killed his family, has now become "a burnt out, desolate" shell of a man. Clad in his torn and dirty leather police uniform, Max roves the desert in a scarred, black, supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special, scavenging for food and, especially, gasoline, which has become a precious commodity. He also has a pet dog (a blue heeler), who has been his only companion, and a rare functioning firearm — a sawed-off shotgun — the ammunition for which is also scarce.

The film begins as Max clashes with a team of marauders, led by biker warrior Wez (Vernon Wells). After driving off the gang, Max collects the gasoline from one of their wrecked vehicles and continues on. As Max continues to comb the desert wastelands, he comes upon a seemingly abandoned autogyro and investigates. The autogyro's pilot (actor Bruce Spence) has in fact set a trap with a poisonous snake; but Max and his dog outwit and overpower the gyro captain. To stay alive, the pilot tells Max about a small working oil refinery nearby in the wasteland.

Encamped on a cliff overlooking the oil refinery, Max watches as a gang of marauders piloting a motley collection of cars and motorbikes besiege the compound. They are led by the grim, charismatic warrior called "Lord Humungus" (Kjell Nilsson) — a large, muscular man with a hockey mask over his disfigured face. Lord Humungus commands a vicious mob of mohawked degenerates. Although he leads a rag-tag band of biker-berserkers, Humungous' speeches to the settlers exhorting them to surrender are articulate and convincing; he uses his eloquence as psychological warfare, and a number of the settlers begin to believe his seemingly peaceful offers.

The next morning four settlers' vehicles roar out of the refinery, they are chased down by the marauders and the people are murdered. After the Gyro Captain and Max witness the brutal treatment, Max goes down to the wrecked vehicles and slays one biker. One of the settlers is still clinging to life, and Max strikes a bargain with the man: he will return the critically-wounded man to the refinery compound in exchange for petrol. However, the deal falls through when the man dies following Max's entry into the compound. He is accepted without condition, though, by a feral boy who wields a sharp-edged steel boomerang.

The marauders return and Lord Humungus uses a public address system to offer the settlers and their leader Papagallo (Michael Preston) safe passage out of the wastelands if they leave the facility undamaged. Max has an alternative bargain for Papagallo: he will retrieve the abandoned Mack semi-truck he came across earlier in return for petrol and his freedom. This vehicle would be sufficient to haul their tanker-load of fuel out of the wastelands. The besieged settlers accept Max's proposal, but retain his car. Max sneaks out of the compound at night, carrying fuel for the battered truck and the autogyro.

Max returns to the abandoned Mack truck and drives it back to the compound, despite the efforts of the Humungus and his men to stop the vehicle, in part due to help from air by the Gyro Captain. The settlers invite Max to escape with the group, but the psychologically-scarred Max opts to collect his petrol and leave. As Max tries to break through the siege and is chased down by Wez in the Humongus' nitrous oxide-equipped car, his car is wrecked and he is badly injured - narrowly escaping some marauders. His loyal dog is killed by a crossbowman, much to Max's anger, who can only look on from behind a rock. The marauders trigger an explosive booby-trap, blowing up his car and discouraging them from searching further. The semi-conscious Max is rescued by the Gyro Captain, who flies him back to the refinery, where the settlers are making hasty preparations to leave.

Despite his injuries, Max insists on driving the freshly-repaired Mack truck with the fuel tanker. He roars out of the compound in the now heavily-armored truck, and he is pursued by the warriors on their cars and motorbikes. Several settlers are in armored positions on the tanker, and Pappagallo drives a powerful escort vehicle. After a prolonged and violent chase, all the settlers on the tanker are killed, as is Pappagallo. Max kills Humungus and his lieutenant Wez by crashing head-on into their vehicle, causing a massive wreck.

The tanker is driven off the road, tips, and sand spills from the overturned tank. The Mack truck and its tanker trailer were a decoy allowing the bulk of the settlers to escape with their precious fuel in oil drums inside their vehicles. (Earlier, back at the refinery but intercut with the tanker pursuit, a handful of marauders seize the empty compound, and discover to their misfortune that the refinery is rigged to explode.) With Papagallo dead, the Gyro Captain leads the settlers to the coast, where they establish the Great Northern Tribe. Max remains in the desert, once again becoming a drifter, alone in the wasteland but remembered by the narrator who is in fact the adult feral kid.


  • "Mad" Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) was a member of an elite Australian highway patrol unit and a family man in Mad Max. However, after a biker gang kills his family at the end of that film, he leaves the force and hunts down and kills all of the biker gang members. The trauma transforms him into the embittered, "burnt out" "shell of a man" that we are introduced to in the beginning of The Road Warrior. At first, the settlers dismiss Max as a mercenary and "a maggot [who is] living off the corpse of the old world." Eventually, though, Max wins their admiration by his courage and fighting skills, and they accept his offer of help. Notably, while Max is featured in almost every frame of the film, he speaks only about a dozen lines. Gibson described his approach to the character as "Heavy metal acting, doing less and making more of it."
  • Pappagallo (Mike Preston) is the idealistic leader of the settlers in the barricaded oil refinery that Max discovers in the wastelands of the Australian outback. Even though the settlers' compound is besieged by a violent gang, Pappagallo "...carries the weight of his predicament with swaggering dignity."[2] While the film does not reveal his background prior to the apocalyptic war, the script states that he was formerly the chief executive officer of a petroleum company.
  • The Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) is a wanderer like Max, who combs the wasteland scavenging for fuel and supplies. However, instead of driving a car, the Captain flies in a ramshackle old gyrocopter and ambushes people who try to steal his parked autogyro. Like Max, he eventually decides to throw in his lot with the settlers, and help defend their compound. A Time reviewer called the Captain "a deranged parody of the World War I aerial ace: scarecrow skinny, gaily clad, sporting a James Coburn smile with advanced caries." An eccentric character, he "is given to abrupt whinnies and wistful meditations on the good old days" before the war.
  • The Feral Kid (Emil Minty) lives in the wasteland near the refinery settlement. He flips, growls when displeased and has a fascination for the Gyro Captain's autogyro. The Feral Kid wears shorts and boots made from hide, hunts and defends himself using a lethal metal boomerang. He has access to the refinery compound via the chicken tunnel. The Kid is befriended by Max who gives him a tiny musical box. After helping Max deal with the bandits he escapes with the refinery occupants and eventually becomes the 'Leader of the Great Northern Tribe.' In a review from the year the film was released, Time describes the Feral Kid as "an eight-year-old who growls in anger, purrs with pleasure, performs backflips into burrows and wields the demon boomerang."
  • Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) is the violent, yet charismatic and articulate leader of a "vicious gang of post-holocaust, motorcycle-riding vandals" who "loot, rape, and kill the few remaining wasteland dwellers. Styling himself the "warrior of the wasteland, [and] the ayatullah of rock-and-rollah", Humungus' "malevolence courses through his huge pectorals, [and] pulses visibly under his bald, sutured scalp."[2] Humungus' face is never seen, as he wears a hockey goalies' mask; as far as clothing, he has a bare torso adorned only with leather biker paraphernalia. There is nothing to suggest what his background was prior to the apocalyptic war, but there are indications that he possibly suffered from radiation exposure. Although ruthless, he also appears to have the ability to think rationally in times of crisis.
  • Wez (Vernon Wells) is a mohawked, leather-clad biker who serves as Humungus' lieutenant in the gang, leading groups of the warrior-bikers in several battles. Vincent Canby, the New York Times reviewer called the Wez character the "most evil of the Humungus's followers...[a] huge brute who rides around on his bike, snarling psychotically." He is calculating and cruel, and unrelenting in his pursuit of prey.

Critical reception

The film's depiction of a post-apocalyptic future was widely copied by other filmmakers and in science fiction novels, to the point that its gritty "...junkyard society of the future almost taken for granted in the modern sf action film."

The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction says that Mad Max 2, "...with all its comic-strip energy and exploitation cinema at its most inventive." Reviewer Roger Ebert calls Mad Max 2 "skillful filmmaking," "...a film of pure action, of kinetic energy", which is " of the most relentlessly aggressive movies ever made". While Ebert points out that the movie does not develop its " of a violent future world...with characters and dialogue", and uses only the "...barest possible bones of a plot," he praises its action sequences. Ebert calls the climactic chase sequence "...unbelievably well-sustained" and states that the "...special effects and stunts...are spectacular", creating a "...frightening, sometimes disgusting, and (if the truth be told) exhilarating" effect.

Reviewer Pauline Kael called Mad Max 2 a "mutant" film that was "...sprung from virtually all action genres," creating " continuous spurt of energy" by using "...jangly, fast editing." However, Kael criticized director George Miller's "...attempt to tap into the universal concept of the hero", stating that this attempt "...makes the film joyless", "sappy", and "sentimental."

Richard Scheib calls Mad Max 2, " of the few occasions where a sequel makes a dramatic improvement in quality over its predecessor." He calls it a "kinetic comic-book of a film," an "... exhilarating non-stop rollercoaster ride of a film that contains some of the most exciting stunts and car crashes ever put on screen." Scheib states that the film transforms the " landscape into the equivalent of a Western frontier," such that "...Mel Gibson's Max could just as easily be Clint Eastwood's tight-lipped Man With No Name" helping "...decent frightened folk" from the marauding Indians.

Critics praised the stunt work and mobile camera techniques, particularly during the final chase and showdown. The use of fender-mounted cameras at high speeds was similar to the Frankenheimer race film Grand Prix and the staccato editing style helped give the illusion of very fast speeds, although other critics were concerned about the shocking violence in the film, which included rape, torture and brutal murders at the hands of the marauding biker gang. As of 2008, the movie has 35 reviews and a rare 100% fresh rating at the movie review website


The film score was composed and conducted by Australian composer Brian May. Unlike his previous score for Mad Max, May's soundtrack for this movie seems heavily influenced by John Williams prior work. The 35 minute-long recording is available on CD on the Varese Sarabande label, catalog number VCD 47262. The music is presented out of order and sometimes retitled; part of the track titled "Finale and Largo" is actually the main title, "Montage" was written for the truck chase scene (and as such would fit between "Break Out" and "Largo") and the "Main Title" is actually the post-title montage. The sound effects suite that concludes the disc has two cues, "Boomerang Attack" and "Gyro Flight," that do not appear elsewhere on the album (the former is actually presented without any overlaying effects).

The soundtrack begins with the music for the "Montage/Main Title" sequence, which gives the back-story to the descent into war and chaos. The next selections accompany the action-packed sequences as Max and the settlers battle with the gang ("Confrontation"; "Marauder's Massacre", "Max Enters Compound"; "Gyro Saves Max"; and "Break Out"). The final tracks include the "Finale and Largo" and the "End Title" music, which is used while the narrator describes the settler's escape to the coast to start a new life. The recording also includes a suite of special effects sounds, such as The Feral Kid's "Boomerang Attack"; "Gyro Flight";"The Big Rig Starts";"Breakout"; and the climactic effects for "The Refinery Explodes", when the booby-trapped oil refinery turns into fireball.

External Links

  • Mad Max 2 at Internet Movie Database
  • Mad Max Online – Home to the original Mad Max movie, maintained by members of the cast and crew.
  • Mad Max Replica Stats – Displays a comprehensive list of all known Mad Max Replicas in the world.

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