Video Game Review: Mad Max (PlayStation 4)

This fills the void in my heart of Fallout 4 being a broken trainwreck. Sure, it’s not really the same type of game, as this plays more like a post-apocalyptic Grand Theft Auto with mechanics that are very, very similar to Batman: Arkham City but it is a superb post-apocalyptic action adventure that hits its mark damn well.

From the start, I was captivated by the game. The opening scene that sets the stage for the main plot was fantastic and balls to the wall badass. This immediately felt like Mad Max with an extra level of gravitas thrown into it. I was pumped to play this while the credits were rolling after that intro scene.

The gameplay also starts with a bang, as you aren’t hindered by tutorials that take too long.

I love that the game also has a territory system similar to the board game Risk but with much more complex and layered ways at taking territory away from the enemy. The bulk of the game is wrapped up in these tasks, as you try to wrestle territory away and free the wasteland from tyranny. All the while, you work at building up your allies’ camps, which benefits you greatly in the game.

Surprisingly, even with a lot to do, you can blow through this game rather rapidly if that’s your gaming style. But you can also take your time, explore, pick up scrap (basically in-game currency) and get lost in vehicular combat, which is a hell of a lot of fun.

Additionally, the graphics are solid, the weather system is intense and the controls are really fluid. There isn’t much to pick apart.

All in all, this game is a literal blast and a fuck ton of fun. I hope a sequel gets made at some point but that’s probably unlikely, as this didn’t even get any DLC content.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: any of the Grand Theft AutoSaint’s Row or Batman: Arkham games.

Film Review: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Also known as: Mad Max 3 (working title), Mad Max III (Philippines)
Release Date: June 29th, 1985 (Japan)
Directed by: George Miller, George Ogilvie
Written by: Terry Hayes, George Miller
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Bruce Spence

Kennedy Miller Productions, Warner Bros., 107 Minutes

Review:

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… Dyin’ time’s here.” – Dr. Dealgood

I always thought of this as the worst of the original Mad Max trilogy. However, revisiting it now, just after watching the first two, I think I enjoyed it more than the original. In fact, I have a lot more appreciation for this film after watching it this time. Plus, it was the first time I had seen it since before Mad Max: Fury Road came out four years ago.

Now this doesn’t have the hard edge of the other films and it does feel like a Hollywood recreation of the franchise with a bigger budget, the addition of Tina Turner (a huge star at the time) and the larger scope of the movie. Those aren’t necessarily bad things, though, and I think that Hollywood sort of legitimizing this film series with a larger, more polished production, is probably what gave it the cultural longevity it’s had.

You also have to keep in mind that these films are really all that Mel Gibson was known for in 1985. Lethal Weapon and a much more lucrative, mainstream career didn’t come until 1987.

What makes this work so well, is the fact that Mel Gibson is so comfortable in this role by this point. Even though we got to know him in the first film, everything changes when his family dies and then in the second picture, he was sort of an unemotional husk with just a glimmer of humanity shining through. Here, that hard, outer husk is torn away and we’re left with a man that has found a way to live again. At least, he’s found a surrogate family and something that he must fight for. While that’s similar to the second film, it’s a much more fluid and human journey here. You don’t feel like he’s just playing the hero because it’s something to do and he hates scumbags, you actually sense love growing inside of him.

However, as much as I love Tina Turner in this, her being the primary villain also tames this movie when compared to the others. She kind of likes Max throughout the picture and she’s just a tough woman trying to maintain order in a town full of shady degenerates. She’s not pure evil like Lord Humongous, Toecutter or Immortan Joe and that kind of makes the threat in this film feel like a minor one.

Granted, the big finale which sees vehicle mayhem and the inclusion of a train car is still quite good. I don’t enjoy it as much as the finale from The Road Warrior but it is very close in quality to that one. In fact, this finale is better shot, looks crisper and has some stellar stunts. However, it is less gritty and thus, not as badass as the finale from the previous film. But it is fun seeing the kids in the film get in on the action during this big chase.

Speaking of the kids, there are a lot of them in this movie. But all the ones that have lines and are key characters are really good. This movie could have gone south really quickly with its overabundance of child actors but they certainly add more to the film than they take away.

This is definitely a film with three acts and each act has a very distinct feeling and tone to it. From a narrative standpoint, this is the best structured film and tells the best story out of all four Mad Max pictures.

Beyond Thunderdome gets a bad rap from some and while I wish it had been more of an R rated film than a PG-13 one, I’m still pretty satisfied with it and I think it’s aged pretty darn well.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other Mad Max films, as well as other post-apocalyptic car and biker movies, most of which were ripoffs of this.

Film Review: The Road Warrior (1981)

Also known as: Mad Max 2 (original title), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (US)
Release Date: December 24th, 1981 (Australia)
Directed by: George Miller
Written by: Terry Hayes, George Miller, Brian Hannant
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Mike Preston, Max Phipps, Vernon Wells, Emil Minty, Kjell Nilsson, Virginia Hey

Kennedy Miller Productions, Warner Bros., 96 Minutes

Review:

“Two days ago, I saw a vehicle that would haul that tanker. You want to get out of here? You talk to me.” – Max

The Road Warrior is a good example of a sequel being better than its predecessor. Some people might disagree but this was the best version of a Mad Max film until 2015’s Fury Road was released. But this is, in my opinion, the best of the original trilogy that starred Mel Gibson.

The world is pretty much destroyed in this film. While we saw a world on the brink of collapse in the first picture, by the time we get to this one, the world has been reduced to nothing but desert, as least as far as we know.

With that, the two most sought after commodities are water and oil. But here, oil is basically gold as those who can still run their machines, have a strong advantage over those who can’t.

The story sees Max discover a community that has a good amount of oil but they are being threatened by a vicious gang that looks more like barbarians than normal, well meaning people. The evil gang, led by Lord Humungus, keeps the community trapped behind their walls as they use their vehicles to run down anyone who comes outside. Max strikes a deal with the nice people being terrorized and we see him have to take on these vile villains in the most high octane way possible.

The Road Warrior is both barbaric and fantastical but still grounded in a sort of gritty reality. It came out just before the ’80s sword and sorcery trend took hold and while it has strong similarities to the genre, it doesn’t rely on magic and monsters but instead, machines and human monsters.

The movie feels otherworldly but not in a way that it doesn’t seem plausible or reflective of a possible future for humanity. Coming out during the Cold War, regardless of this being an Australian film, adds a natural heightened sense of fear. George Miller made something that effectively tapped into those societal and political concerns while also making just a badass action movie that has aged well, despite its weird fashion sense. But that ’80s punk meets new wave look also gives the film some of its charm.

While the film certainly doesn’t need to rely on Mel Gibson, his inclusion here adds and extra level of gravitas and personality to the picture. But I also have to give some credit to bad guy character actor Vernon Wells, as the mohawked savage Wez.

The Road Warrior is capped off by a twenty minute action finale that sees the greatest vehicular chase scene in cinematic history for its time. And frankly, it’s only really been upstaged by it’s later sequel Fury Road. I could say that maybe some movies have had better car chases but what gives this movie something special is how there is a variety of weird vehicles from cars, trucks, motorcycles and even a gyrocopter.

I love this movie. It’s one of the top action films of the ’80s and arguably, all-time. It’s simple, it’s tough and it gets the job done while surprising you along the way.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: all the other Mad Max films, as well as other post-apocalyptic car and biker movies, most of which were ripoffs of this.

Film Review: Mad Max (1979)

Also known as: Interceptor (Italy)
Release Date: April 12th, 1979 (Australia)
Directed by: George Miller
Written by: James McCausland, George Miller, Byron Kennedy
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Geoff Parry, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Roger Ward

Kennedy Miller Productions, Crossorads, Mad Max Films, Roadshow Film Distributors, 88 Minutes, 93 Minutes (Special Edition)

Review:

“I am the Nightrider. I’m a fuel injected suicide machine. I am a rocker, I am a roller, I am an out-of-controller!” – Nightrider

The original Mad Max is quite different than its three sequels. It exists in a time where things aren’t as post-apocalyptic as they would become by just the second film in the series. Granted, the apocalypse seems to exist already, to an extent, but the world isn’t as empty and desolate as what we would see just three years later in The Road Warrior.

Max is a cop in this film and it is his duty to intercept terrible people that terrorize the Australian highways. He’s got a badass car, a cool jacket, cool glasses and eventually, an even more badass car.

As much as I enjoy this film, it is actually my least favorite of the four movies to date. It is high octane and balls to the wall nuts when the action is at its peak but it is also the slowest moving chapter in the franchise. But it was also the template for what would come and George Miller would continue to get better and learn new skills as the series rolled on.

This certainly isn’t a weak film, it’s very good. It just feels out of place when looked at within the context of the whole film series. As its own picture, independent of the other three, it’s a really good demolition derby on screen.

I think the thing that holds this back is it is more of an origin story. The thing is, Max doesn’t really become Mad Max until the end when a biker gang murders his wife and infant son. But that intense moment comes late in the film, which only gives us the true Max for the last ten or twenty minutes.

But don’t get me wrong, the story is good and it is necessary to set the stage for what comes after this picture. I’m just not a big fan of origin stories but that’s not this film’s fault, it’s due to how many superhero movies I’ve seen in my three-plus decades on this planet. But if I am being honest, Mad Max predates nearly all of those movies so it certainly isn’t derivative in that regard.

This film feels small though. Especially when compared to the installments after it. That’s also not a bad thing but everything after this has more of an epic feel to it. Also, the world is much more threatening once we move on past this chapter.

Mad Max is a solid motion picture and a good framework for the character and his world. I just seem to get more enjoyment from The Road Warrior and especially from Fury Road, which is damn close to perfection.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: all the other Mad Max films, as well as other post-apocalyptic car and biker movies, most of which were ripoffs of this.

Film Review: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Release Date: May 7th, 2015 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: George Miller
Written by: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Music by: Junkie XL
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton

Village Roadshow Pictures, Kennedy Miller Mitchell, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures, 120 Minutes

Review:

*originally written in 2015.

This film is difficult to review.

I mean, being a lifelong avid film buff, I can only compare the task of reviewing this film to some crazed Evangelical Christian having to write a review of the Bible. Can a film be perfect? It is very fucking rare. Was this perfect? It is as close as anything I have seen in a very long time. This could honestly be the best film of this decade. It is certainly the best summer blockbuster film of this decade.

You see, the original Mad Max trilogy is an amazing thing. Those films are all great in their own way. Mel Gibson was prefect. But this film is something else entirely.

This is an homage to the original three films, a sort of reboot/sequel but ultimately, its own thing and a perfect amalgamation of all the things that made each of the original movies great on their own. It also offers up its own powerful ideas and vision and takes things further than any of the previous films could go, whether due to budget or because this film took George Miller decades to make. Having had three great films in this series, as templates and as trial and error efforts, this film took Miller’s life’s work and his direction and showed us what is possible if an artist is able to truly make the masterpiece they have intended all along. Balls to the wall, all out, motherfucking mayhem.

If this hasn’t set the bar higher in Hollywood, well.. fuck Hollywood.

Mad Max: Fury Road has proven that you can have an R-rated blockbuster and not have to cater to seemingly mindless PG-13 audiences. Also, the theater wasn’t full of a bunch of yapping kids muffled by Iron Man masks.

This is the big film that men have wanted since film became a neutered art form. This reminds me of all the things that made the original Robocop and the R-rated Schwarzenegger and Stallone films of the 80s so great. It had more testosterone than the last twenty minutes of Death Wish 3 after it pounded a few bottles of low-t medication and jacked off with a porterhouse in hand. This is a manly man’s film, through and through. It is high art in cinematic form for every man’s inner Neanderthal. It is like a Chuck Norris fist to the balls where the fist’s fingers are made up of little Bruce Lees. It made me sprout hair in places I didn’t know it could grow.

Tom Hardy was pretty damned good as the new Max Rockatansky. I will always feel that it is Mel Gibson’s role but the legacy is in perfectly capable hands going forward. Charlize Theron may have been her greatest in this film. She also had more lines and was more central to the plot than Max was. It is almost as if this was her movie and Max was along for the ride. But isn’t that Max’s modus operandi? He wanders around, stumbles upon some shit, rides the lightning and then wanders off again.

The use of colors and design in this film were amazing. The costumes were top notch, the set design was marvelous and this post-apocalyptic world that I got to traverse through with our heroes, was colorful and refreshingly vivid for being in the middle of such a desolate and bleak environment.

I actually don’t want to delve into too many details with this review because I think everyone should go see this movie. If, for some bizarre ass reason, you don’t find this film to be a tour de force of blazing machine gun testicles, something is seriously wrong with you. This film features enough bad ass action and intensity to satisfy any man and enough tough as nails female characters to inspire any woman.

Looking at what else is supposed to come out this summer, the rest of this blockbuster season is going to suck. Nothing will top this. In fact, Mad Max: Fury Road just magnifies all the things wrong with Avengers: Age of Ultron and every other big budget film I’ve seen in recent memory.

I may just go see this film again and again, every weekend it is still in theaters.