Friday, December 17, 2010

The Road Warrior (1981)

Mad Max 2, Australia, 95 minutes
Director: George Miller
Writers: Terry Hayes, George Miller, Brian Hannant
Photography: Dean Semler
Music: Brian May
Editors: Michael Balson, David Stiven, Tim Wellburn
Cast: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Max Phipps, Vernon Wells, Kjell Nilsson, Emil Minty, Virginia Hey

The Road Warrior tells the simple, straightforward post-apocalyptic fable of how a relatively cultured tribe trapped in "the Wasteland" (presumably what we now call the Outback in Australia) (no, not the restaurant chain) survives besiegement by a vicious band of outlaws, ever prowling for oil. Along the way, it offers a good many plain electrifying pleasures, which serve as something of a palate cleanser from the franchise's more tedious first effort, Mad Max. Everything is bigger and badder, chockablock with ripe end-times insignia rather than ugly hoodlums on motors. Had George Miller gone to the crossroads? The storytelling schema is throwback to another era—visuals tell the story during daylight, often across great expanses of space, and sounds tell it after dark. Most of what dialogue there is could have practically been replaced by title cards. The action is headlong, constant, and visceral, focused on the blazing energy of post-punk fashion plates in control of jerry-rigged muscle cars and motorcycles (and a bizarre helicopter as delightful as it is weird) zigzagging across sand and down decrepit stretches of abandoned highway, across which lie random heaps of wreckage, smoking and otherwise. Even the wipes that provide the transitions bristle with energy. The whole thing gets positively Biblical at points; also medieval. Many die. Dean Semler's camera rattles and rolls and shakes, just barely keeping up with much of it, underlining the explosive danger stalking these events. The stunts, on hurtling vehicles, are often inventive and daring, and always convincing. An orchestral score counterpoints the raw look and feel, lending a moody doominess if not quite achieving the lofty operatic grandiosity it seems in search of. The one misstep is a big one: Mel Gibson, who is altogether too pretty to be the least bit believable and who, as the star, occupies entirely too much screen time. That may be his latter-day baggage bothering me, I allow that. I don't remember being so annoyed by him when I first saw this, on the original release. But that was then and this is now. Nevertheless, it's a pretty good show.

No comments:

Post a Comment