Rewatching the Mad Max series - spoilers of course

For a variety of reasons (especially including the new Mad Max movie coming out this summer), I decided to rewatch the movie series. There were some things I either hadn’t noticed or didn’t remember from when I last watch them 20 odd years ago.

Start with “Mad Max”. The title, of course, means Crazy Max, not Angry Max. This was not lost on me before. I didn’t remember how far gone things already were by this movie’s timeframe. It is set in ruralish Australia, but even so, the “Halls of Justice” are rather worn down and threadbare, with the interiors junked out like an abandoned building. The cops themselves largely don’t seem much more than thugs with a badge. They certainly take a page out of Batman’s oeuvre, leaning more toward the Alan Moore variety of Chaotic Evil Batman. There’s rather a lot of bloodlust and a reckless abandon toward the innocents on the road.

Then there’s the depiction of the biker gang to show they are crazy and evil. One of them does a dive roll walking out of a building for no other reason than he just wants to. Another one is definitely gayer than gay, wearing red leather and various stereotypical mannerisms. One guy licks another guy on the face and that leads to what appears to be headed for a molestation.

Then there’s Benno, the big lumbering oaf from the scene on the farm. I thought for a moment it might be the same actor for MM3, but imdb says otherwise. The characters probably aren’t meant to be the same at all - Benno is lumbering and slump shouldered, whereas Blaster is square-shouldered and fairly nimble.

That brings us to MM2: The Road Warrior. What’s surprising about this movie is that the cause of the end of civilization is not depicted as a nuclear exchange. Rather, it is an accumulation of more conventional warfare that is blamed. Though all the film it shows from the conflicts is from WWII era - which was dramatically out of date for depiction of technology and weapons even in the '80s.

This one also sets the framework of the narrator who is telling the story of something from long past and the stranger encountered.

What sticks out here is how wasteful the marauders are being with the fuel they have. Sure, they are driving around and chasing the ones who try to escape, living off fuel they’ve scavenged from others. But at one point they are staking out the compound through the night, and they are doing donuts on the motorcycles and things. Where did they get all the fuel they had for that?

Anyway, somehow I had missed a few details from watching this one, perhaps not paying attention too closely at the time. For starters, the marauders have people tied to the front of a couple of their cars, especially the two upright on Humongous’s car. I didn’t catch that they were some of ones who had tried to go out searching just prior to that.

The other two details that got lost on me are from the big battle at the end. First off, Max wakes up from his unconsciousness from the last attempt to leave, and hears the folks going through their plan one more time. He says he’ll drive the truck, and the leader reluctantly agrees. Later after the truck crashes, we see it is full of dirt - it was a ruse. What I wasn’t sure of but now understand is that the ruse was not for Max at all, he was just the unwitting victim of being unconscious when the plan was outlined. The leader knew the tanker was the target for the marauders, so the plan all along was to smuggle the fuel out in the other vehicles. The truck was, of course, attempting to escape simply to survive, but the expectation was that it likely wouldn’t. The people on the truck were fighting to ensure the others had the best chance at escaping, and they were sacrificing themselves for the others. They just didn’t feel like filling Max in on the plan completely once he came too.

The second bit was I somehow didn’t catch that the leader with the white helmet and mask was driving one of the cars they acquired from the prior attempt to break in by the marauders. He drove along with the tanker for a while, then departed, presumably to try to draw off some of the marauders. Then for some reason he came back. So when he was encouraging the feral boy to jump to his car, that now makes sense to me.

One other plot point is they claimed that the compound was a refinery, but that compound was actually pretty small, and refineries tend to be rather large chemical plants, not situated on top of a single oil derrick. But maybe it was something built up in the aftermath to accommodate the remote location of the well.

Now we get to “Beyond Thunderdome”. First off, I have to say I think this movie gets a bad reputation for no reason. It seems like a pretty enjoyable movie to me, and most of it makes a lot of sense. It also fits very well the world of the Road Warrior.

I suppose one criticism is that it tries a bit too hard to duplicate the previous movie. Need a car chase with bizarre vehicles - check. Cute kid who is surprisingly useful - let’s make a dozen of them. Heck, it even goes so far as to not only include another pilot, but use the same actor for the role (Bruce Spence).

Anyway, the movie begins with Max stumbling across Bartertown tracking down his stolen goods. His aim, of course, is simply to reobtain what was taken from him, but to get in to Bartertown he gets attention enough to go see Auntie - the creator and leader of Bartertown. And she has need of a man who can handle himself in a fight.

You see, while Auntie is the leader/founder/owner of Bartertown, there’s someone else who is amassing power of his own at her expense - Master-Blaster, the duo running the power plant that provided Bartertown with electricity. Master is the brains, technologically savvy, but a tiny dwarf with no physical abilities of his own. But his partner is Blaster, a very large man with powerful muscles who follows his every command without hesitation.

Aside: I suppose another complaint could be the fact that Master is described as being intelligent, but he speaks like a three year old. What is it with wizened old midgets who can’t speak correctly? It’s like Yoda. I suppose the justification is that English is his second or third language or whatever, but it just seems weird.

Anyway, Master-Blaster runs underworld, and is trying to garner power to himself, by forcing Auntie to capitulate to his whims and loudly proclaim Master-Blaster is the one who runs Bartertown. So from Auntie’s perspective, she needs to take him down to size, as it were.

Auntie’s dilemma is that she has created a town with the rule of law. It may not be the kind of law we’re used to, but it is a damned sight better than what goes on elsewhere, with savages and the mighty taking from the weak. So she doesn’t want to send her enforcers in to bust up Blaster just to keep power - that would undermine the very rule of law and society she is trying to forge. So she needs to take out Blaster in a way that leaves Master to answer to her needs and doesn’t undermine the social structure, preferably leaving her hands clean. Her goal is laudable. It’s not just pure protection of her own status, though there certainly is some of that. But what happens if Master-Blaster can usurp her authority and take over control? Does he have the same respect for the idea of the social order she’s trying to establish? It seems not - he seems a petty tyrant more concerned with his own power and status than with the good of everyone. He does not seem like he’d make a good ruler for the people.

That’s where the deal with Max enters the picture. Max wants his stuff and provisions. Auntie needs someone unaffiliated with her to get into a conflict with Master-Blaster, which will then be decided via Bartertown’s legal negotiation system - Thunderdome.

Note that the theater of Thunderdome itself feels right. The speaker sets the stage with his lesson so any newbies are informed and the message of why Thunderdome is reinforced. The point is a way to resolve disputes in a way they won’t continue to fester bad sentiment. Simple - one of the parties is dead. No festering.

It’s all set up nicely and working according to plan right up until Max actually gets the upper hand and is ready to finish off Blaster, only to discover Blaster has Down’s syndrome and is mentally just a big kid. So he doesn’t want to be the executioner. So Max breaks the deal by refusing to do the killing, and by calling Auntie out. While Auntie still gets Blaster dead, she loses face.

That makes Auntie look bad, and she has to do something to turn the crowd back in her favor and rescue the situation. So she turns to the next element of the law that Max happens to be wholely unaware of - “Break a Deal, Face the Wheel”. The wheel of fortune does have acquittal as an option, though only a small fraction of the wheel, where the rest is bad things. But it’s in there.

Max is exiled into the desert on a horse, which dies from exposure to the elements. Max himself nearly dies, but is discovered by an explorer - a teenage girl from a weird tribe of kids living in an oasis at the edge of the wasteland. These kids are a herd of children and teens with no adults whatsoever, living with a fractured recollection and poor retelling of the civilization that was. Apparently the airplane that brought them there, the captain had at some point taken all the able-bodied on an expedition to go looking for their old world.

It’s not quite clear if the intent was to really return, or to abandon the kids they thought wouldn’t survive. It’s odd that there weren’t any adults left with the kids. Seems if it really were an expedition to look for a way to some form of civilization, they would have left some adults in the camp while they were out looking.

Of note here, the kids have such a poor and incomplete understanding of the world gone past and technology, they are heavy on symbolism. It’s a very sympathetic magic kind of approach, like the cargo cults of the south seas. There’s also a weird similarity to the Ewoks.

Anyway, because of Max’s arrival, a few of the kids depart looking for a way across the wasteland to find civilization. Max sets out to bring them back, but they end up at Bartertown.

Here’s the thing - Max seems intent on stealing Master away. Maybe he’s just looking for info so he can steal a few provisions and maybe a vehicle, it’s not clear. But what happens is a real travesty - the busting up of the power source that makes Bartertown run, with the strong possibility of ruining Bartertown.

Now Auntie may have been rough on Max, she may have been manipulative and underhanded with Master-Blaster, but Bartertown was something to be proud of. It was the closest thing to civilization we have seen in that world. It was a society functioning beyond the powerful stealing from the weak. So what Max and the crew do is a crime. Or a sin. Or something.

Max is in the wrong. He entered a bargain to kill Blaster and do so without revealing Auntie’s role. It doesn’t matter that Blaster was a big “kid” - his connection to Master made him a threat. Separating them in some other way might have been possible, but by the rules of Thunderdome, one of them had to die. And Max broke the deal, both by refusing to kill and by revealing Auntie’s role. So she was in the right to punish him by the rules of the society she built. Sure, she forced it for her own power, but it was still legal by the rules of Bartertown, and more importantly, the rules were set up to create a sense of order and ultimately a safer place for everyone.

And Max is in the wrong to bust up underworld and steal the truck that is the heart of the power generator. It’s arguable whether “rescuing” Master is wrong or not. Master is being imprisoned and forced to keep the plant running rather than given freedom to exchange his services. However, Master kinda earned that imprisonment with his embargoes and other bully tactics when he had power, so that’s a debatable point.

Anyway, the ending of the movie has the few that escaped from Bartertown resettling in the burned out Sydney, and building up a society there, passing on the legend of how they came to be there.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts. What are yours?

i thought he was Angry Max
people always think of Mad Max as being postapocalyptic but the first one is interesting because it’s not; it’s just regular life in Australia

1- I wish Fury Road was the direct sequel to Thunderdome instead of of a reboot of Road Warrior.

2- In Road Warrior it is hinted that Humongous is Goose. Goose was badly burned but lived and Humongous uses a police revolver. A couple of threads can be found about it on IMDb.

3- I don’t think in Mad Max that the cops were as chaotic evil as you think they were.

4- I think the fundamental flaw of the franchise is that at this point, particularity in the second two movies, there would be no fuel left at all, unless you had a refinery or a pig dung generator.

5- Whether Max knew the tanker was empty is a minor plot point. He would work a bit harder if he thought it was full but it’s not exactly a criminal mastermind level deception that they pulled on him. In the end it a a simple but effective trick.

6- I disagree that Auntie was the “good guy” and that Master was the “bad guy”. I guess you could make that argument but I really don’t think this movie is that morally complex, I prefer it as a straightforward representation of good guys and bad guys.

Mad usually means crazy or mentally ill in British English, not angry. “Are you mad?!”

Yea the first one is more like the initial stages of societal collapse, due to oil shortages of all things.

Speaking as an Australian, I’m guessing you’ve never been anywhere near Australia.

I recently rewatched the three films, too. The first one is particularly interesting to me because it was made in and around Melbourne; I know many of the locations well.

I was a teenager when the films came out, and I own the first two on DVD - the third gets its bad reputation from the fact that it’s a big mess. It’s not really one thing or the other, and the big budget really didn’t help - instead of the crazy inventiveness of the first two, we just got standard Hollywood fare. It’s not a terrible movie, by any means, it just lacks the style and flair of the first two.

Tina Turner should act more often; I don’t know how good an actress she is, but she has great screen presence.

Turner was excellent in the third film. And even the ending highlights that she really isn’t that bad. In fact, as the OP noted, she lives by the code she herself created.

I have not read anything beyond the first paragraph of the OP because I too recently purchased the Mad Max movies on BR in order to watch them before Fury Road. I haven’t done that yet, but now that this thread is here, I’ll accelerate my viewing schedule so I can better participate in the discussion. I’ll be back! (“Wrong franchise!” " I know!" :D)

My own theory is that Humongous is Fifi, Max’s boss from the first movie. He sees most of his MFP team killed off and rather than becoming a survivor/scavenger like Max fights the bad-guys until he finally snaps becomes what he most hates.

interesting theory

I think it’s been reported that the actor who played Toecutter from the first film is coming back as the archvillain in the new film. Don’t know if he’s going to play the same character, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Now here’s a question I’ve had for a long time:
Can anyone give me a in-universe or out-of-universe for why Mad Max is so sadomasochistic and homoerotic? I think this is self evident, but if someone doubts it, I’d be happy to provide examples, like the blonde collared twink sex slave owned by Wez in the second film.

Agreed, I’ve seen some mockery of the third film just because she is in it (of the singers can’t act and shouldn’t try school of thought), but I thought she was great in what was a fun and interesting role.

But then Beyond Thunderdome gets a lot of undeserved hate in general in my opinion. Is it a silly film? Yep. Is it a fun and action-packed film with a very well done aesthetic? Yep.

I always understood it was because in late 1970s Australia nothing indicated madness, society breaking down and there was no more terrifying a threat than overt, predatory, violent homosexuality. Female rape was already a well established film trope but the threat of male on male rape was far more unsettling.

Not really any different than the same style used in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Easily achieved, visually distinctive but relatively unusual. The film was made as a cult / exploitation film. They hoped for more (I’m sure) but they never expected it to travel beyond Australia.


First off, Robert163, there is no reason to quote my post in full.

I don’t buy it. I don’t recall Humongous being burned. He’s wearing a mask, maybe he’s burned under that, but his torso and arms are exposed and they are pristine. Furthermore, he’s wearing a collar that suggests he actually has neck damage, though is possible it’s to prevent getting choked out like he does his favorite henchman.

Humongous is just some guy. No need to be connected to anyone from before.

I’m exaggerating for effect, but they’re awfully abusive and generally bloodthirsty. They don’t have a lot of regard for the innocent bystanders when they’re chasing the Nightrider.

Well, yeah, gasoline goes bad and would mostly be used up within a few months. They are awfully wasteful of gasoline.

Agreed, that’s what I said. I just wasn’t paying as much attention previously or something.

Please give a clear presentation on how Master is a “good guy”.

The thing is, everything Max does can be morally justified. He didn’t set out to destroy Bartertown.

In the beginning, his stuff is stolen, so he’s tracking it down to get it back. He wants in to Bartertown, but the door guards aren’t wanting to let him in, until he shows his skillset. They give him an offer to get his stuff back and more - simply kill off the thug Blaster so Master is back in check. One could argue that Max here is morally ambiguous, but he’s not exactly evil, he’s making a deal to get back what is his. And he does so via the laws of Bartertown.

Except when he sees who Blaster really is, he doesn’t feel that is right - Blaster isn’t mentally competent. Too bad he reveals Auntie’s role. Think, if he’d just refused to kill Blaster himself, Auntie could have lived by the “Two men enter, one man leaves” rule and had Blaster killed just like happened, but then let Max out and been done. But he made her look bad, and she had to regain the town’s support. Thus her need to punish Max.

Anyway, when Max awakens, he decides to stay with the kids and try to keep them safe. They have a decent life in the post-war world, no sense going looking for trouble and a world that is gone. He could pass along some wisdom, maybe some knowledge, and just generally shape them a bit. Better life than wandering the wasteland. Except the girl has wanderlust already, now she’s got hope to get somewhere else because he made it through to them. So Max has to set out to bring the departed back.

When they get to Bartertown, I’m sure he’s only thinking of getting some resources to return to their oasis. Maybe use Master’s knowledge to help them get his stuff back and a few other goodies. I don’t think he was intent on widespread mayhem and destruction.

That just kinda happened because the kids ran amok and got noticed, and the situation went downhill. Then Pig Killer grabbed the truck in the chaos as the break out vehicle.

But a strong case can be made to morally justify every decision Auntie takes. Yes, murder is wrong, but she doesn’t really murder Blaster, or at least that’s not the plan. Yeah, the subterfuge is there to protect her image, but the necessity is there not just for her privilege, but for the long term good of Bartertown.

When Max reveals her role in Blaster’s death, she’s stuck, but she has the law on her side. When Max returns and steals Master and the truck that is their power generator, it is for the good of Bartertown she sets the whole posse to chase down the truck to get Master back. He’s the source of knowledge to recover the operation of the powerplant.

When the kids and Master get away in the plane, she could execute Max on the spot, or drag him back as her prisoner - he’s a bright and resourceful guy, maybe he could make the power plant work. But he’s probably more trouble than he’s worth as a prisoner, and she doesn’t need a partner she can’t trust. So she lets him go. She doesn’t punish him for the destruction he caused, she just leaves him to find his own way.

I always suspected this as well. The camera shots of Humungous seem to be hinting that we should recognize the head. But then, there never was a reveal to make it clear.

It’s not. At all.
It doesn’t directly reference or contradict anything in the previous movies. I think a better way to think about it is like “Superman Returns.” It barely vaguely referenced the earlier Donner Supes movies but it was spiritually the next in the series.

I got the impression that the Master spoke like that on purpose. “Dumbing himself down” for the masses and all that. If I remember correctly, after Blaster is killed Master speaks normally.

Edit: This wasn't part of the deal... - YouTube

Okay, I read that whole thread on IMDB. What a laugh. It is so full of shit. Here is the sum of the argument for Humungus being Goose:

Taking this in order…

  1. Humungus has some kind of burns to the head and wears a face mask, but his torso, arms, and legs are unscarred and exposed for us to see.

  2. Jim Goose had extensive body burns including a stump of a hand and was on a ventilator. Erm, right.

  3. (A)Humungus never runs into a tent. (B) The big ass revolver is not a police revolver. (C) There is no photo of motorcycle cops or cops of any kind. The photo is a black and white picture of a man in an old military uniform and a woman in a white dress. (D) The revolver case has some medals and icons in it, look more military than police. (E) Nobody in the picture looks like Max.

  4. There was no tent, so there’s no running out of the tent. During the break out with the Interceptor, Humungus is sitting on his truck wearing a blanket/animal hide and jumps up, he mutters something about someone trying to escape, but does not say anything about or sounding like “Max”. During the truck break out, Humungus is loading his pistol knowing the break out is coming. He then shoots at the truck as it exits the compound, but only hits the plow on the front.

Other discussions about Goose claim that early during the writing process it was proposed that Goose be the villain, but that was dropped. No evidence given.

Somewhere there was a comment that Humungus drives a police interceptor. No, he does not. A couple of the people on his squad drive an interceptor and wear police outfits, but Humungus drives a 6 wheeled truck with frames to tie up the victims on the front. Some form of front loader?

In short, there is no connection for Humungus to be Goose, and it really is unnecessary and doesn’t make any sense. There’s no reason for Humungus to be anyone that knows Max. That’s falling into the George Lucas trap of tying everything together too tightly. Australia is a big place. There are plenty of people there, even after an apocalypse. There’s no reason for Max to ever run into anyone he’s ever met or known before. Is it possible? Sure. Weird coincidental occurrences do happen. But there’s no particular reason for it to be so, and making it so would kinda lessen the movie IMO. The world is a big place: stop trying to make it smaller by recycling people.

you know, since you seem to like the movies so much, i thought you might like hearing some trivia associated with the film.

Coming out this spring. It opens next week, more than a month before summer.