After I watched Mad Max, I thought it was just a good movie. Great setting, good car crashes, good villains, decent dramas, but nothing more. I talk about it with my friend, and he suggested that I should gave the series one more chance and watch the sequel. Hesitant but intrigued, I take the chance to watch it.
It was the best advice I've followed in my life.
While Mad Max is a decent, if very slow, exploitation film, Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior in the US) trimmed down the fat of the last film and added more over-the-top stuff, which makes it much more enjoyable to the normal audiences. Also, it was the film that made the most influences on the post-apocalyptic genre.
Max Rockatansky: No longer mad, but still a broken shell with an iconic outfit.
Set in 5 years after the death of his family, Max Rockatansky keep roaming around the desolated wasteland of Australia with his dog in his Pursuit Special while trying to stay alive. He runs into a small ragtag group of survivors occupying a small oil refinary, trying to get some gasoline from them for his car. Meanwhile, the survivors also ran into trouble with a group of bandit gang led by a enigmatic masked man known as Lord Humungus. Trying to take advatage of the situation, Max offered to get the survivors a vehicle for their plan escape in return for the release of himself, his car and some oil.
Unlike the first film, The Road Warrior is less dialogue-driven, faster paced and have more action scenes than before. The film have more interesting scenes than previously so the film doesn't dragged on and bore some audiences. It also added a bit of a comic relief in the form of the Gyro Captain, a scavenger who first targeted Max when he try to steal some oil from the Gyro's flying machine, whose role is significant in this lighter and softer sequel. Despite being a lighter and softer sequel, this doesn't mean it's any less depressing, as the film also shown just how cheap human lives are to some people even in the world in ruins, most notably during the climax.
The Gyro Captain: Loves snakes, hates dog food.
It also said that director George Miller tried to tell his story through cinematography, so those who don't understand English could at least know what's going on through the screen, which is somewhat true. The survivors wore white cloths while the bandits wore black leathers to establish their presences as good guys and bad guys. The camera often shows the full picture of what's going on and what the characters are doing. The cast also use facial emotions to show how the characters are feeling on-screen. While I've not tried watching the whole movie on mute, the fact that the director tried to convey everything in the film through visuals alone (And succeeding thus far.) is pretty damn impressive.
Lord Humungus, or Bane?
The cast is also much better this time. Kiwi legend (I assume he is.) Bruce Spence is comical as Max's partner/comic relief the Gyro Captain. Michael Preston is good as the survivors' leader Pappagallo. Emil Minty is both cute and ferocious as the Feral Kid. Vernon Wells (Also known as the main antogonist in Ahnold flick Commando.) as henchman Wez is both terrifying and awesome. Swedish Kjell Nillson looks intimidating and muscular as Lord Humungus, although I did find some of his acting rather comical at certain scenes. Mel Gibson also returned to his star-maling role as Max, but unlike the rest of the cast, he only have less than 20 lines of dialogue, and mostly relied on his acting to tell his character.
Wez don't need no girl or gun.
Being the film that popularise the post-apocalyptic genre, one also have to thank costume designer Norma Moriceau for her influential work on this film. Providing the villain designs with BDSM clothings (Particularly assless chaps.), punk hairs, and tribal facepaint, her work continued to influenced apocalyptic works for more than 30 years.
The action is also far more exciting this time around, as Miller provided us with more actual car crashes than before. The final climax is the most notable, when it has the largest explosion in Australia back then, big rig trucks are known as the tanks of post-apocalypse, and some people did get hurt in the making of the climatic chase. Also, it have the classic Miller collision shot (Which I nicknamed it.) like when Toecutter had it.
Big Rig: Over the Road Racing could have been better if it has this scenario.
In conclusion, The Road Warrior is a classic example when the sequel surpassed the original film by several miles, with one of the best car action scenes that still managed to age well till this day. Naturally, Mad Max fans and action junkies could step right in, and those who's doesn't like the first film, they can just skip it and watch this film straight away, as this film covered the important things in the first movie during the intro.
Also, here's another Mitsuru Kirijo/May Rockatansky fanart again.