"Mad Max" franchise
Starring: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Bruce Spence and Tina Turner
Running time: 88 to 107 minutes
Rated: R and PG-13, respectively
Ranking: Appealing to watch in any order
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” the first film in the Mad Max franchise to be released since 1985, comes out next month. Since I love action and post-apocalyptic films, I had to watch other movies in this series before I see Fury Road.
“Mad Max” is one of those franchise that seemingly everyone has seen, but I never took the time to watch any of them. Over the course of two weeks, I watched all three of them, and I loved every minute of it.
Before I continue, you should know there is no need to watch these films in order. You can pick up any one of them and rest assured you will understand everything that happens. In fact, unless you just really like low-budget action films, I would even suggest you skip the first “Mad Max.” It is a good film, but it is clearly inferior to other two.
However, the first movie has some novelty to it. For one, the villain of the movie — “Toecutter” — is played by the same actor, Hugh Keays-Byrne, who plays the villain of “Fury Road.” Also, Mel Gibson, who plays the main character in all of these movies, is young and inexperienced in this movie. I found it entertaining seeing him as a B-list actor before all of his later success.
Overall, this movie is decent, but nothing particularly special.
The series really takes off with “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.” For some reason, Director George Miller decided there would be an apocalyptic war sometime between the first movie and this one, leaving everything desolated. As strange of a decision as it was, it makes the rest of these films far more interesting.
Left in a desert wasteland, Max is forced to compete with roaming tribes of savages to obtain gasoline, which is an incredibly scarce resource post-war.
The bulk of the movie involves Max and a group of survivors attempting to defend an oil well from a horde of barbarian warriors. This movie is firmly in the action camp, with only a small and relatively simple plotline, but it isn’t a detriment. I still cared a great deal about all of the characters and the setting. The villains were entertaining and helped carry the story forward. I suggest starting with this film.
The third installation in the franchise, “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” was released in 1985. Thus far, this film is far and above the best one in the series. It has a story rivaling many of the iconic adventure films from the ’80s, an eternally interesting setting and enough action to keep you glued to your seat.
It takes place after the events of the first two movies and involves a dispute between Mad Max and Aunty Entity (Tina Turner), the mayor of a nasty settlement called Bartertown. Max is forced to fight his way through an arena called the Thunderdome before he is banished to the desert. He ultimately finds himself in the company of a tribe of primitives living in an oasis near the husk of a downed jetliner.
The rest of the film involves Max attempting to save the tribal people from Aunty Entity as they search for the remains of the old cities. It is action-packed but has a sense of adventure much more appealing than the other two movies.
If you have the time and inclination, I would suggest watching all three of these movies before “Fury Road” is released next month. But if you are strapped for time, “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” is a must-see, “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” is a solid and entertaining film and the original “Mad Max” is mostly mediocre.
But if the new movie is anything like the first three, there will be no need to watch the previous installations to understand it.
While Mel Gibson will not play Max in “Fury Road,” George Miller is directinh it. Warner Bros. has released an official trailer, which can be found at www.youtube.com/WarnerBrosPictures.
The entire Mad Max trilogy can be found on Amazon Instant Video to rent or own for $2.99-$13.99 each. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is scheduled to release May 15.
Andrew Akers is a columnist for The Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.