Wayback Wednesday – The End is Near: The Road Warrior

Posted: October 22, 2014 in Movies, Post-Apocalypse, Science Fiction, Wayback Wednesday

The end of the week, I mean, and the beginning of something altogether different. Kind of like the end of the world (as we know it) isn’t going to be the end of everything per se. To quote Aslan, it is only the beginning. But, as the typical workweek goes, the end is near (or nigh, if you prefer) and now it’s time for the fun to begin: the Weekend Media Review.

How could I possibly start this Weekend Media Review posting without mentioning my favorite movie of all time, The Road Warrior. Directed by George Miller (the same guy who brought us The Witches of Eastwick and Babe. Yes, that Babe.) this movie gave birth to the iconic look for the post-apocalypse (along with the punk movements, or is it the other way around?) for decades to come. The Road Warrior also raised the stakes in the car chase scenes, throwing bevies of cobbled road-rejects together -along with an innovative sky chase with the quirky Gyro Captain. Chase scenes in this movie weren’t just for the thrill of speed or just to get away from the bad guy, but they became central to the subplot of the survival of the people in the “village.” A need for speed that transcends – imagine that. This film, admittedly, could have been placed in a western setting*, with a town’s fight for survival because of the one commodity they owned, but we wouldn’t have had those fabulous punks and super-adrenaline chase scenes. Horses are beautiful creatures, and they’re not that expendable. So it’s excused. And George Miller needed a segue for Beyond the Thunderdome. And Fury Road, if it ever gets made as a real movie and not as anime.

What about Max? “Mad” Max Rockatansky already devolved into a heartless killing machine in Mad Max, but in this film, we see him follow the path of the Hero and rise above the self-centered anti-social ex-cop. Miller’s storyline fits the pattern unabashedly of the three-act character growth story.

Act I: Max runs around doing his own thing until the Gyro Captain challenges him to get what Max thinks he wants more than anything else: more fuel (literally, more fuel to keep him going in his old lifestyle, to run the wild roads by himself and stay away from the bad guys). Faced with the challenge, he also is forced to face something else – namely, his own self and his motivations. The people of the town ask him if that is what he really wants – to continue on his pointless crusade of “days go by” and he blows them off. While he experiences a little success in getting the tanker for the people of the town through the baddies’ blockade, all he manages to do is get himself back into trouble with enemies who have all the more reason to hold a grudge. Then when these people come to his aid, he finally realizes No Man is an Island and decides to help them. What does he get for it? The realization they used him as the proverbial red herring. The old Max, the Max of Mad Max, born of vengeance, disappears. Suddenly, he’s laughing at himself, and the pre-friends-and-family-brutalized-and-murdered Max is back.

The Road Warrior, while following the character growth structure so well, manages to create an interesting juxtaposition of the “world upside down” style. Most movies depict “life as usual” and drop an unwitting character into a situation where he/she rises above their everyday selves to become a hero when events turn a little crazy so they can return to their “normal” world. In Miller’s story, nuclear war distorted what is normal and made anarchy the reigning queen of the day. The “upside down” is where Max encounters a village still governed by order and civility, nothing like what he became used to in the outback.

Miller’s characters are over-the-top bizarre, including his good guys (note: Miller was a medical doctor before he became a director, and his movies tend to include at least one character with some type of medical issue, such as the man in the wheelchair in this one, or the cop in Mad Max forced to use the electrolarynx after the accident which slit his throat). As stated previously, the look of the film is groundbreaking and everyone that came after with something even slightly post-apoc lifted from The Road Warrior. Weird Science not only borrowed the gestalt of the character Wez, they even lifted the same actor to parody himself. Even Wells’ character in Commando draws from it.

Besides all of the above analysis, The Road Warrior is just a damn fine movie, a great flick to watch with your girlfriend on a Friday night. Well, maybe. That is, if your girlfriend is like me.

Meltdown Café: 10/10

IMDB: 7.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

Flixster: 75%

*Note: Vernon Wells (Wez) sports a mullet mohawk, wears chaps and flaps with his arse free to the wind, shoots (cross)bow bolts and rides a motorcycle with his not-so-‘squaw’ behind him. Tell me that isn’t lifted and tweaked right from a Western. Go on, tell me.

(Originally published on The Meltdown Cafe 7 AUG 2009

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