One of those oft-repeated questions set to stir up debate among film fans is trying to name a film sequel that tops its predecessor (in fact, if I remember correctly, Scream 2 devotes an entire scene to such talk).

Now, the chin-strokers among the film fraternity like to appear clever by trotting out the likes of The Godfather Part II, while others like to claim that Aliens trumps Ridley Scott’s original (which it quite clearly doesn’t).

But, for me, there is one movie that undoubtedly tops the list and without question stands head and shoulders above its previous incarnation, and that is Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.

When I entered my later teenage and university years, Mad Max had almost taken on a mythological edge – I’d heard of the films, knew they were packed with post-apocalyptic violence and made a star of Mel Gibson.

But up until my time at uni I hadn’t actually seen any of them.

That all changed when the BBC kindly threw the original on one Saturday night and I plonked myself down at our shared house and expected to be entertained.

But, truth is, apart from a thrilling last 20 minutes or so (when Max does indeed become ‘Mad’) I was pretty bored for a lot of it – I liked the idea and the locations etc, but it was no great shakes.

Being the film nut I am though, I thought I’d plough on and pop to the local video store and rent the second one anyways, for no other reason than to tick it off the list.

What I got though was a kinetic, action-packed, unbelievably thrilling 90-minute orgy of mayhem containing more memorable characters than you could shake a stick at.

Just rattling off the likes of Max himself, Feral Kid with his razor-bladed boomerang, Bruce Spence as the gangly Gyro Captain and, lest we forget, the beefcake-in-a-Jason mask villain that is The Humungus is enough to bring a smile to my face.

humongous

And that doesn’t even take into account Vernon Wells’ wildly over-the-top Wez, or the gaggle of supposed good-guys that Max aligns himself with.

Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Mad Max 2 kicks off a few years after the original, with Max (and dog) driving the deserted terrain looking to survive.

Fuel is now the currency of choice, so when Max stumbles across a guarded gasoline refinery he reckons his luck is in.

Trouble is though, the refinery is surrounded and challenged on a daily basis by a bunch of psychotic petrolheads led by the aforementioned Humungus, eager to get their grubby mitts on all that precious petrol.

Max elects to help the refinery folk in their battle for freedom in exchange for some fuel for himself, as well as getting his legendary V8 interceptor fixed.

That is about it as far as plot goes, as for director George Miller this hour-and-a-half slab is all about vehicular carnage and a handful of grizzled lines from Gibson.

And what carnage it is – yes, some of the action is speeded up and looks a bit silly for doing so, but in the main the chase scenes are pure jolts of adrenaline, and that is a tasty reminder that real, physical moments of cars, bikes and trucks beating the hell out of each other will always trump some dodgy CGI.

The barren landscapes still look great, the plentiful moments of violence veer neatly between the serious and comic – an idiot getting his fingers cut off attempting to catch Feral Kid’s boomerang anyone?

Gibson is great in the role – a classic cinematic interpretation of the anti-hero. Sure he doesn’t have much to say, but he doesn’t need to, in many ways an updated version of the characters Clint Eastwood used to trot out in his westerns heyday.

Miller really stripped things down for this sequel, and to see why this was the right decision one only has to look at Max’s third outing, Beyond Thunderdome – a bloated, backwards step of a movie.

I actually got to meet Vernon Wells at a film convention a few years back and he proved great fun, and I got a real buzz out of him signing a Wez pic with his classic line ‘you can run, but you can’t hide’.

Definitely one to savour.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.