I saw Mad Max: Fury Road in theaters when it came out and loved it. That was a well written expertly acted thrill of a film that exceeded expectations. Well this 1979 film is the very beginning of the Mad Max franchise, which led to two 80’s sequels. I’d never seen any of the Mel Gibson originals, only the reboot that came out in recent years. I sat down to watch the original that kicked everything off. and unfortunately I must say that I was pretty underwhelmed. Mel Gibson is a great talent and there are some well done scenes here and there, but overall Mad Max (1979) is a let down.
The big glaring sin here was that this film doesn’t grab our attention in the beginning. This film is pretty boring for about the first half. There is little to no work to introduce us to these characters and let us fall in love with them and there’s too much time spent on somewhat meaningless supporting characters. The first half of this just comes off as aimless and meandering instead of focused. I kept wondering when exactly we were going to get to know these main characters and when the real plot was going to kick in. Little did I know that the real meat of the plot does not kick in until over halfway through the film.
THAT is this film’s big problem; it’s priorities aren’t in order. The main plot event should’ve taken place at the beginning so the rest of the film could’ve been spent focusing on the revenge thrill ride between Gibson and the biker gang. This script was just in bad need of an overhaul. There are too many pointless characters and too much time wasted on stuff that carries little weight when it comes to the story.
Once the actual meat of the plot does start to occur, then the film becomes entertaining and focused. Unfortunately, by that time there’s little time left. The last act of this film is well done and showed me what the whole film could have been like. The last act does a nice job of creating intensity and cultivating the fear and revenge aspect of the plot.
And I must say, the special effects and stunts performed are very good, especially for 1979. Even though the first half is meandering, at least there are a handful of cool effects and stunts to see. The leather outfits the members of the patrol wear are well designed too, fitting for the setting. As far as the cast’s performances go, it’s overall pretty good. Mel Gibson is an undeniably talented actor and he gives a worthy performance here as Max. He gives us that young somewhat inexperienced innocence that the character calls for and then on the flip side he handles the revenge aspect well too.
Joanne Samuel is also really good as Max’s wife Jessie. She is a loving wife who can defend herself if needed. I liked her character and I thought Samuel did a nice job playing her. The members of the biker gang which are of course the film’s villains are overall good in their roles, they do give off that evil energy and we do fear them. I did sometimes think though that they went a tad far into “cartoonish” level evil. The main member of the gang does this weird hissing from time to time and that came off as silly to me.
There is one member of the gang that I thought was the most interesting and that was Johnny played by Tim Burns. Burns gives a very intense performance but he doesn’t seem nearly as silly as the main gang member. Johnny as a character seemed more real which to me, made him a better character. Lastly, I want to mention the ending. I thought the ending was well done and had an impact, especially the shot of Gibson driving away. It would have had more impact though if the first half of the film wasn’t so aimless.
Mad Max (1979) is overall a pretty mediocre film because it’s first half is a flop and fails to garner interest. By the time the film actually gets good, it’s more than halfway over.