Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Max Rockatansky is a Bronze, a mobile future cop prowling the Australian outback. Max operates out of a derelict municipal building, his fellow cops are damaged children living out comic book fantasies. Any centralised sense of law and order is long gone. In Mad Max society is fundamentally unsound to the point of being almost feudal. Although the odd university lecturer pops up to berate Max and chums, it's obvious they're the last of a dwindling bourgeois. Everybody else is in deep shit and fighting for their lives.
In the face of total socio-economic collapse what's left of mankind has huddled in townships for protection. Motorcycle marauders zip from place to place imagining slights and forcing confrontation. Violence is flippant, catalysed by the most mundane of interactions. Bodies remain where they fall, feast for carrion birds. Mad Max isn't post-apocalyptic in the traditional sense, there's no obvious sign of a nuclear exchange, rather everything, including people, has simply ceased to work. These survivors are beaten and living in the ruins of the twentieth century.
Environment established, Mad Max concerns itself with several sequences of visual transformation. When we first meet Max he's a creature of stillness, the suicidal pilot of a yellow interceptor programmed to make criminals cry by driving straight at them. Mad Max's first chase clues is in to how events will unfold - a couple of subordinate highwaymen repeatedly crash and disfigure their vehicle, refusing to abandon the chase. During their last attempt to stay involved their car is completely deformed, its hood a ruin of spiky angles and leaking machinery.
After his best friend is killed the baby-faced Max dumps the leathers and retreats into a white cotton minimalism that emphasises softness and his youth. During the holiday Max's family are killed by a pack of pursuing bikers. Max breaks. In George Miller's film revenge is more of a punchline than a prolonged narrative state. It's short and sharp, capping a long, miserable set-up. Max becomes an unfeeling ghost disguised as a cop. Max's mission isn't glib or celebratory. He's relentlessly attacked - a chunk of his leg is blown out, his arm mangled beneath a motorcycle's wheels. An action star transformed from a louche avenger into a shuffling special effect. The bouncy, boyish Gibson becomes a monster, a brain full of hate dragging along an uncooperative, malfunctioning body. Miller holds on this Max. We will his broken bones to take him further, to make it to the finish line.