Review: Mad Max (1979)


A young Mel Gibson is ready to kick your ass!

Screenplay By: James McCausland & George Miller
Directed By: George Miller

Mad Max is a movie I have heard a lot about over the years, yet never seen. I have a lot of movies like that, we all do, no matter how big of a movie buff we like to think we are or how many movies we watch there is always some acclaimed or occult film that passes us by. I finally got around to Mad Max the other day and I was left with the feeling that I had just watched a good movie, but one not so worthy of all the hype it has received over the years. That’s not fair on my part, because to be honest most of the hype for Mad Max wasn’t for Mad Max at all but rather was for Mad Max 2. We’ll see how that one compares to the hype when I finally get around to it.

Now that my mind has returned to me and I have realized Mad Max wasn’t the hyped feature I thought I remembered, was it any good? It was, but it was just that, a good picture that never had any intentions of being great. It does certain things great, but on the whole it is a good picture and only a good picture, but that is nothing to scoff at. I’d rather watch a good picture than a mediocre one and a good picture entails you are doing plenty right and not so much wrong.

Speaking of which, there isn’t much wrong with Mad Max. It simply lacks some depth, there needed to be more than what was presented on the surface. For the most part Mad Max is a skin deep movie, a lot of stuff happens, Mel Gibson gets mad and revenge is had. It works, don’t get me wrong about that, it works in a lot of ways. But, I would have liked for there to be more to the story, for this world to be a little more robust and full with story.

Where Mad Max was perfectly empty was in its cinematography. Mad Max is a film filled to the brim with wide angle shots, shots designed to illustrate the starkness and desolation of this future world. The land of Mad Max is clearly bereft of something, we don’t know what exactly, but we know that something is missing and that it is an empty place now. The camera perfectly captures that as does the use of motor vehicles. nothing screams wide open and empty space more than cars and motorcycles going as fast as they want down the road with nothing to be seen in front or behind of them for miles. This is enhanced when they are used for weapons, not only is it an empty land but it is a lawless one as well.

Implication plays a large role in Mad Max, in the violence presented and in the performance of Mel Gibson. Mad Max isn’t that violent of a movie, but it can be extremely violent in our heads. Because we aren’t actually shown any of the violence, we are only privy to the before and after, said violence takes on a much more gruesome tint in our minds. Mel Gibson uses implication to make Max the one character we watch grow and change in the movie. He doesn’t go through any overtly emotional or obvious metamorphosis, but he does change. Gibson changes by implying that he has changed, a different look near the end than at the beginning, a different way of walking, his speech even changes somewhat, from more leisurely to matter of fact and urgent. It’s not a performance for the ages, but it helps to ground the movie and give us a central figure to follow in this world of ever changing chaos.

As I said, Mad Max is a good movie, a very good movie. It’s a nice little take on the dystopian future story that I happen to like quite a bit. I look forward to Mad Max 2, because the groundwork has been laid through the good aspects of Mad Max for the greatness that can be achieved. Maybe Mad Max 2 will let me down, maybe it won’t, but Mad Max was a good viewing experience and that’s all I ask for out of any movie.




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