Posts Apocalyptic: The ‘Mad Max’ journey…

Adam O'Brien begins a look at the legacy of Mad Max and its influence on the 'post-apocalyptic' landscape...

It’s one of the all-time greatest franchises and one that to this day still has scores of fans all around the world. We are talking about the one, the only Mad Max: the Australian franchise created in the late nineteen seventies by director George Miller and his producing partner Byron Kennedy.

It’s one of the most quintessential action sagas. With a western vibe of the lone gunslinger, out on the prairie waiting for trouble to find him as he survives, in an animalistic state. That’s Max Rockatanksy (played by Mel Gibson and then Tom Hardy), the Clint Eastwood like figure cut against the backdrop of the fall-out future Australia. A one-time police officer for MFP (Main Force Patrol), travelling the wayward roads of Victoria for the motorcycle gangs that were terrorising the roads.

In 1979 when the first film came out, the world went wild. The film had been a modest budget film, quite low even for Australian standards for the time, but had a way that got the story, action and talented actors on screen to give such memorable performances. That, in line with the stunt-work, and the amazing cars, the V8 Ford Interceptor and of course the Kwaka’s (Kawasaki Motorcycles) made for an amazing thrilling film.

Much of Mad Max’s amazing work is done out in the wild, with the chasing of these vehicles, with Steve Bisley (who plays Jim Goose) hunting the Toecutter’s gang down.  As they traverse the streets and take on the gang, Max and Goose lead a series of some of the best stunts in action film cinema.

1979’s Mad Max was followed up by The Road Warrior otherwise known as Mad Max 2. This film broke records all over the world, with its mythic, ronin-like story where Mel takes an even closer step to becoming ‘The Man with No Name’. In a story that is pretty much Yojimbo, we see Max battle it out between two rival factions and he gets involved with the dwellers of ‘gas town’ and getting them to freedom from a band of evil ravagers hell bent on taking all the fuel. Shot by Dean Semler the film has some of the most intricate and amazing stunt work and an almost fifteen minute truck chase at its climax that has to be seen to be believed.

It was followed in 1985 with a film no one saw coming. Starring Tina Turner alongside the returning Mel as Mad Max, the third outing Beyond Thunderdome was a true western with no real villain. Between Aunt Entity (Turner) and Master Blaster Max, it plays up the ‘Fistful or Dollars‘ trope of  the ‘Man with no Name’ even further and in the middle of it is a lost civilisation of children left behind by a plane crash. The myth they have of a ‘Walker’ gives the Saga a chance for a man that has had the humanity stripped away from him get a chance of civility returning to his life. It was also the first time George Miller was to do a film himself – without Byron Kennedy, who tragically passed before the film.

George would return much later in 2015 minus Mel Gibson to make a film that would relaunch the franchise in a far more theatrical, and epic scope. Mad Max :Fury Road brought us the characters of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), and a new Max (Tom Hardy). The film garnered six Oscars and more amazing stunts and action than all three of the originals.

Where to next? At forty years of age Mad Max is surely due for another film. However differences between the studio (Warner Bros.) and director George Miller have made this near impossible. With two already finished scripts (Furiosa and The Wasteland) ready to go, the Fury Road relaunch of the saga is still primed for more films.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t take Miller another twenty years to make them…


Adam O’Brien

Podcaster & host of: #thefanthafromdownunder @fanthatracks #lethalmulletpodcast @fanpodnetwork