The Morning After: Nov. 2, 2015

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

On the heels of the minorly successful dystopian action flick Mad Max, director George Miller returned with star Mel Gibson to craft a more artfully constructed vision of his own future wherein a post-apocalyptic world struggles to survive with their vehicles and the pursuit of fuel the only means of survival.

Gibson may never have been better than this series of features. He didn’t have that egotistical gleam in his eye yet, which made him seem more genuine as the title character. Miller’s grim world view is amply displayed in The Road Warrior, so called to avoid connection to the original film in the United States, which was considered a lackluster performer.

Miller excels when he allows his vision to play out to the audience without excessive dialogue. Max is a quiet antihero and through his eyes and those around him, you discover the horrific environment in which they all struggle, a bleak universe beyond redemption. It’s one of the most compelling visions of a dangerous potential future, one that seems all the more plausible as mankind drifts deeper into its self-centered reverie.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

It might have been a mistake to cast such a legendary icon in the film, but Tina Turner is surprisingly effective as Aunty, the dangerous leader of Bartertown, a hive of elicit trade and strict laws. Max makes a deal with her to get all of his stolen belongings back, but sets off a chain of events that threatens to topple the delicate regime’s balance of power and bring hope to a bevy of isolated youths brought up looking towards the past as an example of where to take the future.

Miller was involved in two productions at the time this film was made, which may explain why his relinquishing of control to his co-director led to a film that was more verbose than either of his prior outings. The Mad Max universe may have been at its grimy dystopian peak in terms of visual expressions, but much of the bleakness was replaced by a lingering sense of hope and, for the first time in the franchise’s history, a genuinely positive conclusion.

There are a lot of missteps in the film, but as it finally dips into its car chases and action theatrics by the film’s end, we’re back in a place where we can enjoy the pulp excesses again. It’s a film that has a lot of uneven tone, shifting from one locale to another, but ultimately it succeeds in drawing the audience into this universe and making them want to be a part of the less dangerous aspects. The violence quotient is also a bit more limited this go-round, but the end result is satisfying enough.

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