The Mad Max films are classics of the genre but they deserve a better 4K set than this; there are very few special features and I even had to return the set once as The Road Warrior stopped playing at 53 minutes (but it was fine with the new disc). If you already own the films on Blu-ray then I would keep them as there isn’t anything to make this set worth the hefty price tag ($80 USD).
I recently picked up the new 4K Anthology set of the Mad Max franchise; the movies are classic post-apocalyptic, action-packed spectacles but does this 4K set do them justice? Let’s find out…
Mad Max (1979)
Plot: In a not-too-distant dystopian future, when man’s most precious resource — oil — has been depleted and the world plunged into war, famine and financial chaos, the last vestiges of the law in Australia attempt to restrain a vicious biker gang. Max (Mel Gibson), an officer with the Main Force Patrol, launches a personal vendetta against the gang when his wife (Joanne Samuel) and son are hunted down and murdered, leaving him with nothing but the instincts for survival and retribution.
I don’t think I appreciated this movie as much when I was younger but watching it as an adult it’s easy to see how Mad Max inspired a whole genre of post-apocalyptic action movies as well as 3 sequels (so far) and an upcoming spin-off. It’s been several years since I last watched the original Mad Max and sometimes you can forget just how good it is; at a tight 90 minutes it manages to create a hellscape future which isn’t outwith the realms of possibility mixing elements of horror, action and dark comedy to perfection.
Mel Gibson is ideally cast as Mad Max making the character very much his own (sorry Tom Hardy); he’s a loyal family man but after his friend Jim Goose (Steve Bisley) is left for dead by a group of thugs led by the crazed Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) Max wants out of the police force before it destroys his life too. Destiny has other plans however, and Max’s wife and child end up getting killed by the same gang so Max hunts them down delivering his special brand of vengeance.
A lot of the violence in this movie is implied (including rape) and it works so much better as the imagination can be even worse than actually seeing it; there is some spectacular carnage here with exceptional stunts and the low budget gives it extra grit.
Toecutter and his cronies are incredibly unsettling and outlandish characters just out to make people’s lives miserable, so watching them get what they deserve in the end is incredibly satisfying.
The music score is a little over dramatic but it works in giving a horror vibe and added excitement to the picture.
The 4K looks nicely remastered and the audio is decent but I did need the subtitles on which helps you pick up a lot of background chatter on the police radios.
There isn’t a single special feature for this movie so if you already own it on Blu-ray then there’s no real reason for the upgrade.
Overall, Mad Max is a classic film with Mel Gibson at his best and an unnerving atmosphere throughout where violence could (and usually does) occur at any second. Toecutter is a truly hateful villain and the final 15 minutes makes for satisfying viewing.
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
Plot: After avenging the death of his wife and young son at the hands of a vicious gang leader, Max (Mel Gibson) drives the post-apocalyptic highways of the Australian outback, fending off attacks from nomadic tribes that prey on outsiders. Falling into an encampment led by the relatively peaceful Pappagallo (Mike Preston), Max at first schemes to steal their oil, but soon becomes the group’s reluctant defender against the hulking Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) and his ruthless marauders.
Mad Max 2 also known as The Road Warrior is arguably the best of the series however, I should point out that the film stopped playing at 53 minutes. I returned it and got a replacement as it was a faulty disc but I’ve been having various issues with Amazon orders lately and it makes me miss being able to buy physical media in actual stores.
Let’s look at the film itself which to this day remains one of the all-time great action pictures wasting no time getting going and moving at a nearly relentless pace. This is the entry that really inspired all the copycats over the years with the hilariously over the top outfits and campy villains all looking like they’ve walked off a Frankie Goes to Hollywood music video.
Vernon Wells as Wez is maybe my favourite villain of the franchise as he is just so unhinged that he makes you feel constantly on edge any time he is on screen. The big bad is The Humungous (Kjell Nilsson) who is more reasonable than Wez but every bit as dangerous.
Mel Gibson returns as Max and what’s funny is how he really isn’t interested in helping others; he just wants enough gas to keep moving in his Interceptor. This makes him less sympathetic for the first half (especially the way he treats Bruce Spence’s The Gyro Captain) but it makes him feel like a more believable character especially after seeing how selfish people have behaved over the past few years.
I thought Emil Minty was incredible as The Feral Kid who helps Max rediscover his humanity again and gives the film a little more heart.
The action still holds up with incredible stunts, explosions and chases only (nearly) matched by Fury Road; this didn’t need CG to beef up the visuals which makes it feel rawer.
The music score is better this time around too really adding to the excitement of the action.
The film looks and sounds great with a nice intro from legendary critic Leonard Maltin who loves the film; it also has a commentary and a behind the scenes documentary so at least it has that.
Overall, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is a classic of the genre with jaw dropping action, memorable villains and Mel Gibson at his best but it deserves a better 4K release than this.
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Plot: In the third of the “Mad Max” movies, Max (Mel Gibson) drifts into an evil town ruled by Turner. There he becomes a gladiator and gets dumped in the desert where he is rescued by a band of feral orphans who have been looking for help for years. When several of them take his appearance as a sign and go off into the desert, he follows them back to the town.
Not only is Beyond Thunderdome the last Mad Max film to star Mel Gibson in the title role but I also consider it the weakest of the franchise and in fact part of me hates it; it certainly has its moments, for example all the scenes in Bartertown and the Thunderdome fight but as soon as Max goes into the desert and meets up with the Lost Boys-esque group of kids it kills the movie for me. The pacing really drags especially after The Road Warrior which was a constant shot of adrenaline.
This is a longer film than the previous entries and feels it, rarely capturing the excitement or sense of danger from the first two films; the PG-13 rating hinders it giving a more family friendly tone which doesn’t work for this kind of movie.
I enjoyed Tina Turner as Aunty but she is the least threatening villain (is she even the villain?) of the franchise; I also still like her main theme We Don’t Need Another Hero which is still a classic tune.
Beyond Thunderdome still has the crazy side characters with Angry Anderson’s security officer Ironbar arguably the most bizarre yet with his kabuki mask that he has above his head and Masterblaster is a wonderful creation. Brian Spence returns as the gyro pilot who is now called Jedediah along with his son and they once again join the fight.
I’ve heard mixed reviews for the 4K with several people complaining about the audio but it seemed fine to me; the picture is a little grainy which is unacceptable considering they are asking for $80 USD for the set. No special features either so once again it’s hard to recommend this especially if you already own it on Blu-ray.
Overall, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is a mixed bag which has a few entertaining scenes but the desert interlude with the kids is incredibly tedious making it the worst of the franchise by far.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Plot: Years after the collapse of civilization, the tyrannical Immortan Joe enslaves apocalypse survivors inside the desert fortress the Citadel. When the warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leads the despot’s five wives in a daring escape, she forges an alliance with Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a loner and former captive. Fortified in the massive, armored truck the War Rig, they try to outrun the ruthless warlord and his henchmen in a deadly high-speed chase through the Wasteland.
Now we reach the fourth and (so far) final entry in the Mad Max series Fury Road; Mel Gibson didn’t return due to well… y’know, but he is replaced by Tom Hardy who does the best he can but Max feels more like a supporting character in his own movie with Charlize Theron stealing the limelight as Furiosa. Admittedly she is awesome but you can’t help feeling like it’s setting up a spin-off (which is now currently in production).
Hardy does his usual mumbling once again spending the majority of a movie with his face covered but he does bring a jitteriness to the character making him feel unpredictable and indeed possibly mad. Gibson simply is Mad Max to me so it’s hard to get used to seeing another actor in the role; it’s like someone else playing Rambo or John McClane which is just weird.
Anyway, once you get over the recasting Fury Road is one of the better action movies in recent years with incredible visuals, spectacular set-pieces and the best music score of the entire franchise. There is some CGI but it only adds to the eye candy and there is still some jaw dropping stunt work; the sandstorm sequence is a major highlight and arguably the most memorable of the film.
After the rather dull Beyond Thunderdome, Fury Road brings back the crazy carnage feeling like a genuine follow-up to The Road Warrior. It takes place in a fiery obscenity of a future with some truly surreal visuals that will stick with you long after watching. The big bad this time is Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) who promises great things to the last remnants of humanity but is just as evil as anyone who has come before. He keeps women as slaves for breeding so when Furiosa escapes in a tanker with the girls, Joe and his crew of War Boys are in hot pursuit. Along for the ride is Nux (Nicholas Hoult) who initially wants to please Immortan Joe but he ends up helping out Max and the girls.
I love how weird the world of Mad Max is with ridiculous character names and bizarre costumes where you get a feeling danger around every corner.
The Doof Warrior (one of Immortan Joe’s War Boys) is my favourite addition playing an electric guitar that spews fire as they race along the desert chasing their prey. It’s like a nightmare brought to life and one of the coolest ideas I’ve seen in an action movie in recent times.
It looks and sounds fantastic in 4K but like the other movies in the series there isn’t a single special feature. Why isn’t the Black & Chrome Edition on here or all the features from the Bu-ray? Once again it’s just a lazy and half-assed approach making this overpriced and only worth getting if you just want the films on their own. If that’s the case this set should be $30USD rather than the hilarious $80 price tag.
Overall, Mad Max: Fury Road is an awesome semi-reboot with spectacular action and one of the best music scores of recent times from Junkie XL; I do miss Mel Gibson in the role but Hardy and Theron make for a decent duo. Once again it’s too bad the 4K only has the film and no special features whatsoever.
So those are my thoughts on the 4k Anthology of the Mad Max series; I love the movies like everyone else but they deserve better special features than what we get here especially for the ridiculous asking price of $80 USD.