Film Face-off: 'The Road Warrior' vs. 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

Film Face-off: 'The Road Warrior' vs. 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

May 18, 2015

The Mad Max trilogy is one of the most beloved franchises in Hollywood. Or is it? Mad Max (1979) is a quiet burn with not a tremendous amount going on. The 1985 film Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome proved that Tina Turner's song saying "We Don't Need Another Hero," was right. Right? But then there was the 1982 movie Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. It sits at 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but I worried that was nostalgia talking. Now we have Mad Max: Fury Road directed by George Miller, the same guy who did the Happy Feet movies (and the original Mad Max films).

So, realizing there will never be a better time to rewatch The Road Warrior and then compare it to Max Mad: Fury Road, that's exactly what I did. Two films enter, one movie leaves.

 

The Mad One

The Road Warrior

Mel Gibson is Mad Max. Gibson had only done a few movies. People saw the first Mad Max and Gallipoli, and didn't see Summer City and Tim. Max wants gas, as much as he can hold. He's willing to do just about anything to get it. Then, once he's been picked on enough, he helps a tribe at a small oil refinery try to get to safety.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Tom Hardy is Mad Max. Hardy has proved himself in a variety of roles like BronsonInceptionWarrior, and Locke. Max doesn't know if he is crazy, or the rest of the world are the mad ones. He's captured and used for his blood. Finally, he breaks loose and helps a small group try and find a new way of life.

Winner: The Road Warrior. Gibson is iconic and feels very necessary for The Road Warrior to work. I'm not sure if Hardy is needed. Perhaps we find out in the sequels. Sure, going into the film Hardy is more established, with a better track record, but both of these Max roles have limited dialogue. It's Gibson who has a more powerful presence. The flashbacks and visions help the Max character in Fury Road, but Hardy really is just shaking those images off. Also, it's impossible for a frequent movie goer not to think of Bane when Hardy is locked in a mask during part of Fury Road.

 

The Women

The Road Warrior

A nameless woman gets raped and murdered, there's also a warrior woman (Virginia Hey), Big Rebecca (Moira Claux), and Arkie Whiteley as The Captain's Girl. That's pretty much the entire list.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Charlize Theron is Imperator Furiosa, Zoë Kravitz is Toast the Knowing, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is The Splendid Angharad, Riley Keough is Capable, Abbey Lee is The Dag, and Courtney Eaton is Cheedo the Fragile.

Winner: Fury Road. This is an absolute, amazing victory, which doesn't even have anything to do with the character names in Fury Road. Heck, you could even remove Theron, and the women of Fury Road would still destroy (did I mention there is a large group of lactating women?). Here's the thing about Theron, she's the almost lead of this film. Her journey and past are more important than Max's. The only reason Max is the lead is because we see his visions (and name in the title). This is a film about women wanting to be free from ugly (visually and morally) men.

 

The Villains

The Road Warrior

Kjell Nilsson is The Humungus, a hockey-mask wearing, charismatic leader. Vernon Wells is Wez (the one with the mohawk), his lieutenant in the gang.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Hugh Keays-Byrne is Immortan Joe, an evil dictator. Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones) is his son. Plus there are other gang leaders, The People Eater (John Howard) and The Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter).

Winner: Fury Road. While the villains in Road Warrior are underwritten, I fully expected them to come out on top before I saw Fury Road. Wez, and his boy The Golden Youth (Jerry O'Sullivan) make quiet an impact, and the sad remains of hair on Humungus just make him all the more happily gruesome to look at. Immortan Joe, with his chest armor, breathing apparatus, and white hair chew up and spit out Humungus. Plus, Keays-Byrne is from the original Mad Max, so that earns tons of nostalgia bonus points, because you know plenty of A-list actors would have lined up for that role. Heck, I'm giving out more bonus points for The Bullet Farmer's gun-toting speech, and The People Eater's feet.

 

The Humor

The Road Warrior

Max's dog holds a shotgun trigger. Max exchanges his binoculars with the Gyro Captain's (Bruce Spence) monocular. The Toadie (Max Phipps) loses fingers, people laugh. Someone fixes the oil squeak in Max's leg. There is a random couple having sex under a tent.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Max eats a two-headed lizard. Nux (Nicholas Hoult) has "friends" named Larry and Barry. The People Eater (I think) plays with his nipple before a fight.

Winner: The Road Warrior. The humor is not supposed to hit you over the head in either film. It is quick, subtle and gives you a chance to be happy in this ugly world (which is different than being joyous from the action). I laughed with the way that Miller used drums and guitars in Fury Road. It's genius, but again, that laugh came more from joy than humor. Also, pretty much everything the Gyro Captain does is funny. With this category, Fury Road technically loses, but I don't think it really wanted to win.

 

The Action

The Road Warrior

There are three action sequences. Two come from Max and his car, the other one from the big rig.

Mad Max: Fury Road

There are three action sequences. Two come from truck chases, the other from Max running through some caves.

Winner: Fury Road. Sure, those above sentences seem simple enough. There is nothing simple about the beauty and destruction you will witness from either film, but especially Fury Road. The opening sequence to Fury Road is my favorite opening of an action film since Skyfall, but it doesn't compare to the two car chases that are probably at least 30 minutes each (though I didn't have my stopwatch out). Spitting gasoline, spiked cars, and bendy poles all add to exquisite cinematography and sweeping shots.

 

OVERALL WINNER: Max Mad: Fury Road defeats Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior 3-2

The scoreboard reads three to two, but you should know this is one of those victories where the game was always well in hand. Max Mad: Fury Road is something that must be seen on the biggest 2D screen you can find, as soon as you can find it. It is simple, but everything about the world (character names, randoms walking on stilts, Theron's arm) is fully realized and potentially complex. Fury Road doesn't stick the ending, and Hardy doesn't improve upon Gibson's Max, but by the time you read this article, I will have seen Max Mad: Fury Road twice in the theater in five days. I can't remember the last time that has happened.

 

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