Mad Max (1979) - George Miller's first entry in the trilogy, Mad Max packs brutal action and insane stunts as it follows the inevitable downfall of relentless cop Max Rockatansky (Gibson) in a world gone mad. Living on the edge of an apocalypse, Max is ready to run far away from it all with his family. But when he experiences an unfortunate encounter with a motorcycle gang and its menacing leader, the Toecutter, his retreat from the madness of the world is now a race to save his family's life.
Mad Max Road Warrior (1982) - The sequel to Mad Max, Mad Max Road Warrior provides action-packed, “automotive” entertainment, telling the story of a selfish-turned-selfless hero and his efforts to protect a small camp of desert survivors and defend an oil refinery under siege from a ferocious marauding horde that plunders the land for gasoline.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) - Mel Gibson returns for his third go-round as the title hero who takes on the barbarians of the post-nuclear future - and this time becomes the savior of a tribe of lost children. Music superstar Tina Turner co-stars as Aunty Entity, a power-mad dominatrix determined to use Max to tighten her stranglehold on Bartertown, where fresh water, clean food and gasoline are worth more than gold.
To borrow from one of the movie's villains, 'Mad Max' is a fuel-injected suicide machine, rocking and rolling out of control down the highways of a dystopian Australian landscape. It's a bleak, nihilistic future where law and order is quickly deteriorating while the world continues to survive on the fumes of the planet's virtually-depleted fossil fuels. Ironically, those still desperately clinging to some semblance of civil society have taken to a near masochistic obsession with high-performance, gas-guzzling automobiles, like the Holden Monaro driven by the aforementioned villain calling himself the "Nightrider" during his escape in the opening act. Along with the thrilling action and awesome stunts, part of the film's greatness is in these very subtle touches of subtext and underlying themes.
In that same opening, we are also introduced to our would-be hero, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson in the title role that essentially launched his career), top pursuit driver for a federal police force named the Main Force Patrol (MFP). The suggestive fetishism with roaring muscle cars is made all the more implicit as we watch the cop almost methodically dress into his black leather uniform and easily dispatch the criminal while in a rather colorful pursuit vehicle. Later, a motorcycle gang with a bizarre hatred for anything on four wheels and led by Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne looking like a scruffy, hairier version of Simon Le Bon) seek retribution for their fallen comrade. But when the gang comes after Max's wife (Joanne Samuel) and son, he takes his car fetish to the next level with a souped-up black Ford Falcon XB GT and does away with the whole lot of them.
To some, 'Mad Max' can be dismissed as another car-obsessed action flick in the vein of similarly-minded American features like 'Bullitt,' 'Vanishing Point,' 'Death Race 2000,' the original 'Gone In 60 Seconds' and 'Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry' — only revving with a bit more violence. Still, the film from George Miller, making his directorial debut, is a super-charged, high-octane actioner with a genuine soft-spot about family and an uncertainty for the future of the social order. Brilliantly fusing current environmental concerns and a standard revenge/vigilante plot, the story is at its core a western theme set in a dystopian future where humanity seems to be slowly devolving into anarchy and the degradation of civil values, a harsh and unpleasant world where barbarity and savage brutality lies in wait, soon to become the norm. (Movie Rating: 4/5)
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
Miller and company continue their dystopic vision of humanity's western-theme future in 'Mad Max 2' — known as 'The Road Warrior' in the States so as not to cause too much confusion during its original theatrical run. Picking up some years after the events of the first movie, Max Rockatansky (Gibson) wanders the desert landscapes of Australia in his modified Ford Falcon XB GT, battling other ruthless road bandits in search of gasoline. The experience of losing his best friend and his family, we can immediately tell, has hardened our former MFP officer in the brief opening. He's become a callous survivalist, resorting to kidnapping and shrewd dealings, as in the case of the kooky, somewhat off-kilter Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), who eventually surprises as a resourceful ally in Max's yet-unrealized quest for redemption and purpose.
Since last we saw it, society has further degraded and spiraled into an anarchic existence of foragers due to civilization's dependency on the now extremely-rare fossil fuels. The battle between a small band of settlers led by an idealistic Pappagallo (Michael Preston) safeguarding one of the few remaining oil refineries and a large gang of vicious marauders led by the captivatingly memorable "The Humungus" (Swedish Olympic weight lifter Kjell Nilsson) best encompasses this struggle for maintaining some semblance of social order versus reverting to animal-like indifference and brutish savagery. The settlers' goal is to gather enough gasoline for their travel north, but the Humungus and his cruel, Mohawk-haired dog of war Wez (Vernon Wells) deny them safe passage. Another interesting comparison worth noting is the settlers' family-sized vehicles which are arguably more fuel-efficient as oppose to the gang's gas-guzzlers.
The plot's western frontier theme is brought to a head when Gibson's seemingly cold-hearted and detached Max is soon tasked with sticking his neck out for the safety of the settlers. Taking a page directly from Italian westerns, Miller has his morally-ambiguous, ronin-type protagonist journey through his self-defined sense of ethics, justice and rugged individualism. After a rather conventional beating that's usually gravely severe, Max quickly becomes the reluctant archetypal hero we can cheer, discovering that doing something for the greater good doesn't imply abandoning one's true self. A bit more polished and refined than its predecessor, 'Mad Max 2' is a wildly imaginative epic of thrills-a-minute action spectacular, long before CGI became commonplace. Over thirty years later, Max continues to rule the post-apocalyptic road as the definitive "Road Warrior." (Movie Rating: 4.5/5)
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
In the case of the Mad Max series — and this is arguably true of most franchises — the third outing is not a charm. Don't get me wrong, there's a good deal worth enjoying in Miller's 'Beyond Thunderdome,' as the movie is, for the most part, satisfying and delivers its fair amount of visual excitement. Over the years, the movie has grown in cult status and is reasonably well-liked by most fans, such as yours truly, mostly deriving from fond memories of seeing it in theaters and Tina Turner dominating the screen. But admittedly, and in spite of the plot's loftier goals and romanticized hopes for humanity, Miller's script, which he co-wrote with Terry Hayes, ultimately falls a bit on the hollow side and feels rushed as it tries to encapsulate a larger vision of a post-apocalyptic world.
Splitting some the directing duties with George Ogilvie, Miller expands the epic scale of his dystopian Australia to include a peculiar settlement called Bartertown and a camp of children living a quasi-pastoral, Eden-like ignorance. In this portrait of a future where humans try to regain, in some small measure or another, the social civil order of the past, the filmmakers imply this as paving the road to a new existence. In Bartertown, matriarch leader Aunty Entity (Turner) is in political dispute with Master (Angelo Rossitto), an engineer who uses his expertise to refine methane gas from pig feces. Here, it is politics as usual with adults old enough to remember a time before the apocalypse, before civilization quite literally went to the pigs. On the other hand, the children with their broken English rely on stories, hearsay and random artifacts to imagine times past, creating a sense of innocence and inaugurating a future that's hopeful.
Gibson's Max is caught in the middle of these two planes of existence while traveling through desert and is robbed of his possessions, which included another modified vehicle pulled by a team of camels. The thief it turns out is none other than Bruce Spence, this time playing Jedediah the Pilot. Like the first two movies, 'Beyond Thunderdome' comes with a strong western theme, particularly in Max as the archetypal, morally ambiguous anti-hero. At one point, Miller makes this influence very clear when Max is announced into the Thunderdome arena as "The Man with No Name." Much of the action and plot evolves at a decent pace, but it all comes to an abrupt conclusion that largely leaves fans feeling somewhat empty. Nevertheless, and despite a rather weak ending, the third outing in the Mad Max adventures is a good and mostly satisfying addition. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings the 'Mad Max Trilogy' to Blu-ray as a three-disc package. The most interesting feature of this particular package is an attractive and sturdy tin box with a photo of Mel Gibson and tire tracks. The box opens in half and can be used either as a neat storage compartment for knickknacks or for storing your Blu-ray package. Inside, a blue, eco-vortex keepcase with a flipper in the middle stores all three BD50 discs, but the first from MGM is Region A locked, while the other two from Warner are Region Free.
All three go straight to the main menu at startup, except the menu screen for 'Mad Max' comes with full-motion clips and music, while the sequels show a static photo and generic options at the bottom of the screen. Fans are also given the option to buy all three movies separately; however, part one has been available for some time, and 'The Road Warrior' is essentially a reissue with a new video encode and lossless audio. Meanwhile, 'Beyond Thunderdome' arrives to Blu-ray for the first time as both a standalone release and as part of this package.
Mad Max roars unto the scene with a great-looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode which appears to be identical to the release from three years ago. Some noticeable wear and tear is present, several soft spots in the photography creep up and minor discoloration in the source manifests throughout, but for the most part, the video is in rather excellent condition. Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the high-def transfer comes with an appreciable, thin layer of grain while displaying comfortably bright contrast levels and clean, crisp whites. Blacks are true and accurate with strong shadow delineation. The color palette is limited by the cinematography, but primaries come in vivid and richly-saturated. Fine object and textural details are distinct with several scenes looking remarkably sharp and well-defined. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
The sequel hits the road with a strong and for the most part excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1). Compared to its VC-1 counterpart from 2007, this new encode appears to come from the same master, as there is little to no difference between the two. While the presentation doesn't quite stack up to more recent high-def releases of movies from the same period, it nevertheless looks fantastic with sharp, fine lines around hair and the costumes. With crisp, vivid contrast, the image exposes every rust and imperfection in the vehicles while the smallest pebble and rock in the dusty landscape is made perfectly visible. Black levels waver somewhat although they're mostly deep and accurate, and colors are bold and cleanly rendered. With a thin veil of grain washing over the picture, the transfer looks great and satisfying. (Video Rating: 4/5)
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Of the three movies, the third installment to the series arrives with the best AVC-encoded transfer. Granted, like the previous two, there is some minor wear and tear in the high-def presentation, mostly of which is forgivable due to the original photography. Many nighttime and poorly-lit scenes, particularly while walking around Underworld, arguably look the worst with pronounced grain and a slight drop in resolution. Nonetheless, it doesn't take away from the film's enjoyment, and the 2.40:1 image is generally fantastic with deep, resilient black levels. Much of the palette leans towards secondary hues, which are cleanly rendered and full-bodied, but primaries are bold and upbeat. Contrast can feel a tad on the hot side, but it's consistent and comfortably bright. Fine object and textural details are very well-defined for the most part with excellent clarity of background info and good delineation in the shadows. (Video Rating: 4/5)
Continuing the road rage and asphalt mayhem is a terrific if only slightly troubled DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Much like the vehicles in the movie, this is a souped-up version of the original mono design for modern viewers, as the music of Brian May and the roar of the vehicles screeching in all directions fills the room and creates an amusing environment. While it would have been nice to see a lossless option of the original mono, I must admit this is a fun track with excellent directionality and a well-balanced mid-range. Bass is also full and palpable where appropriate although explosions and crashes feel a tad wimpy. But the unfortunate problem, and arguably its drawback, is the dialogue being often overwhelmed by the surrounds and discrete effects. It's a minor issue, but an issue nonetheless. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
As with the video, so too the audio. Warner has corrected its previous blunder, in which they tacked a legacy Dolby Digital track to the high-def picture, by updating the audio to a DTS-HD Master Audio. The upgrade is not exactly a leaps and bounds improvement, but the soundtrack feels a bit livelier and fuller in the soundstage. Imaging is broad and welcoming with strong detail clarity in the mid-range, allowing for the metal-on-metal mayhem to come off clean and distinct. Low bass is also a tad heftier with good presence without seeming overwhelming, just enough for listeners to feel the roar of the high-octane engines. Brian May's score also benefits from the upgrade with better depth and warmth. Dialogue reproduction is excellent and precise in the center. Although remaining a front-heavy presentation, as it should, the lossless design does occasionally bleed into the rears with a few appreciable discrete effects, most notably when Gyro Captain rescues Max after a brief car battle. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Like the video, part three screeches and hollers its way unto Blu-ray with a fantastic DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The mostly front-heavy presentation delivers excellent dialogue reproduction and terrifically well-balanced channel separation. The soundstage is wide and welcoming with several great off-screen effects, particularly while within the borders of Bartertown. Chants, screams, yells and random chatter is discretely heard throughout, and imaging is further broaden by the music of Maurice Jarre. The mid-range is clean and precise with splendid clarity between the mids and highs, allowing every shriek in the action, every grind of metal and the howl of the wind to come in loud and clear. Low bass may be on the lighter side of things, but it's punchy, responsive and appropriate for a movie of this vintage. There's also some very minor activity in the rears, lightly expanding the soundfield, but it's not especially noteworthy. Still, the lossless mix is enjoyable and quite satisfying. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
The majority of the supplements from previous releases are ported over for this latest edition of the entire trilogy.
Mad Max 2
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max roared into theaters like a fuel-injected suicide machine, splattering the silver screen with bloody vengeance, modified-car mayhem, and a bleak vision of a post-apocalyptic future. Super-charged and revving with wild stunt spectaculars, George Miller continued the lone adventures of the road warrior with two more sequels that satisfy audiences' lust for action and adventure with a hero we will gladly cheer for. The Blu-ray arrives with all three films in either a single-package collection or as individual releases. Audio and video on all three are excellent, but supplements are ported over from previous releases. Nonetheless, this is great package for those who have waited patiently. Recommended.