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The Road Warrior

Though this movie is the sequel to Mad Max, and one of its titles is indeed Mad Max 2, it’s more commonly known by the subtitle of The Road Warrior. This caused me a fair bit of confusion at first, but then I saw the movie. Only a few minutes in, I completely understood why this film goes by such a different title: It feels like a different movie.

My chief complaint from the last film was that though the production design was very good, it was used to create a world that didn’t really feel like it took place after Doomsday. Everything looked way too clean, there was clearly an enforced legal system in place, and nobody really looked or acted like they were in seriously dire straits. Additionally, the film never offered a clear explanation for what happened between then and now.

Flash forward to this movie, which is post-apocalyptic in all the ways its predecessor wasn’t.

Anarchy is the only system in place, with no police force of any kind to be seen or heard from. Essentially everything in this world — clothing, vehicles, weapons, even entire settlements — look like they were cobbled together from scrap. People are dying for want of a precious resource, and violent street gangs assert their dominance by stealing and hoarding it. There’s even a prologue to give some explanation for how the disaster came about, though it doesn’t make any sense: For a world that suddenly started considering gasoline a scarce commodity, these people sure do waste a lot of it.

Yes, everything that was enjoyable about the last film is back and better than ever in this one. The production design is phenomenal, the car chases are still thrilling to watch, and the film somehow managed to keep its “low-budget” charm with a budget that was actually ten times greater than before. Of course, the schlocky dialogue and predictable storytelling of the prequel is also back, but the story is so close to non-existent that it doesn’t serve as much distraction from the action and the campiness.

In the previous movie, there was at least some iota of effort toward a love story and a man’s development from unorthodox cop to psychotic vigilante. Here, Max gets only the least possible amount of development as a character, and the possibility of a love interest is shut down as quickly as it’s raised. Even more than with the last film, there’s a certain kind of charm in how self-aware this movie is about its total lack of a story. Speaking of which, I have a correction to make.

Because I wrote my Bellflower review before seeing this film, I figured that Lord Humungous was simply a creation of that movie’s main characters. I looked at this larger than life figure, clad only in a hockey mask and bondage gear, and assumed that he was simply a creation of Woodrow and Aidan. After all, those two characters were a couple of guys who were stuck in a childlike state and obsessed with living out hyper-masculine fantasies of their boyhoods. But no, it turns out that Lord Humungous is the villain of The Road Warrior. I’m sure you can understand the mistake.

Anyway, this movie took everything that was enjoyable about its predecessor while removing everything that seemed remotely weak. The result is a far more streamlined film that augments its action and campiness by getting rid of such distractions as “story” and “character development.” This is a movie that’s made for nothing but cheap action thrills, and it was wonderfully built toward that purpose. Put simply, The Road Warrior is one of those rare sequels that’s better than its prequel in every possible way.

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