Phoenix from the Ashes: The Literature of the Remade World

By Carl B. Yoke | Go to book overview
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19
THE ROAD WARRIOR: SELF AND SOCIETY IN THE REBUILDING PROCESS

Thomas P. Dunn

Australian director George Miller's first film, Mad Max, appeared in 1979; an unabashedly juvenile car-crash film, it passed without comment until its sequel appeared. That sequel was released in other countries as Mad Max 2 but appeared in the United States as The Road Warrior. It is an outstanding representative of the mature and intelligent science fiction film even while it draws energy from its roots in the exploitation genre.

At first blush, The Road Warrior may seem like a rather formless exercise in chaotic mayhem. Even sympathetic reviewers praising it for its adrenaline- charged bursts of energy have overlooked, for the most part, its careful ordering of social relationships in the postholocaust wasteland and by so doing have missed the film's significance: The true winners in The Road Warrior turn out to be neither the "vermin on machines" nor the communal people of the fortress- refinery but the loners, the individuals who work alone for their own independence. Max, the Gyro Captain, and the Feral Kid all compare favorably and obviously to the Wild Ones, whose nihilistic ferocity is self-limiting and defeating. Less obviously they appear finally as stronger than the communards whose conscious working for the future masks a more basic huddling together out of fear. These three independent souls work together best by working each for himself, yet they provide the vital energy needed to rebuild society. Thus, for all its violence and sadistic ugliness, The Road Warrior, by virtue of its penetrating examination of the rebuilding process, emerges finally as a lasting vision not of nihilistic decadence but of tough-minded optimism.

But no thought of this kind is likely to cross the viewer's mind for most of the film's length, not at least until he has become, like the wasteland inhabitants

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