George Miller’s Mad Max Trilogy: Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) – Review

I am the nightrider. I’m a fuel injected suicide machine. I am the rocker. I am the roller. I am the out-of-controller!” said The Nightrider (Mad Max).

Long before Mad Max: Fury Road, mastermind director George Miller broke every rule in crafting the titular road warrior. Rewind to the period between 1979-1985, a trilogy of car opera and apocalypse (labelled as ‘carmageddon’) become an Australian phenomena; an ozploitation film became a milestone to Australian cinema as well as to the exceptional Mel Gibson.

A clean cop, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) was nobody but a man who lost everything, specifically his future, in a world without future. In an apocalyptic world of the first film, Max lost his wife and his child when fighting some gangsters. It was the moment where a family man turned into a devil—a street avenger—who made millions of bucks out of the small Australian budget in making.

Mad Max was apparently a Western film without horses; it was western on cars; yet it wasn’t quite apparent until Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior hit the screen. Mad Max 2 was a kind of clean slate to the successful first film; George Miller stripped down almost everything from the first film but the theme and the damaged hero, now a drifter without family. Even the dark tone of the predecessor was toned down into a way darker, almost too dark to contain a hero. Surprisingly, Mad Max 2 ended up proving its quality as a cult film.


It was dark, brutal, and aggressive as the drifter Max helped people defending an oil refinery from a quirky mohawk gangsters with exuberant costumes and dreadful vehicles. In this sequel, Miller crafted one of the earliest car destruction action pieces that worked as destructive as it was. For me, Mad Max 2 was the best of the trilogy: the loudest, the most brutal, the most badass.

Mad Max 2‘s terrific performance in box office was, obviously, the reason the third installment of Mad Max was produced. Yet, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome wasn’t something to live up the hype of the second Mad Max; the film went too polite and less brutal. Max went to Bartertown and fussed with the leader (Tina Turner)—who went stealing Mel’s charisma. There’s no ‘car’-nage as aggresive as Mad Max 2, yet, this third film gave a new dimension to the canon: the thunderdome. Although it’s not as appealing for Mad Max aficionados, the thunderdome fight was still a monument to the modern action-exploitation genre.

From a small budget family-man-turned-devil action drama to billion dollar lone drifter, Mad Max was a darling of car opera way before Fast and Furious and other franchises existed. The cinema owe George Miller something more than just an influence—it’s a legacy.

Mad Max Trilogy (1979-1985)


Action, Thriller Directed by: George Miller, George Ogilvie (Co-directed Beyond Thunderdome) Story by: George Miller, Byron Kennedy Screenplay by: George Miller, James McCausland (Mad Max), Terry Hayes (The Road Warrior, Beyond Thunderdome), Brian Hannant (The Road Warrior) Starred by: Mel Gibson

IMDb 1 | IMDb 2 | IMDb 3

Jauh sebelum Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller melanggar banyak aturan perfilman dalam menciptakan sang jagoan jalanan. Kembali ke periode 1979-1985, sebuah trilogi car opera dan apokalips (nantinya dilabeli ‘carmageddon‘) menjadi fenomena Australia. Sebuah film ‘ozploitation‘ menjadi tonggak sejarah perfilman Australia sekaligus, secara pribadi, batu pijakan Mel Gibson.


Polisi bersih, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) hanyalah seorang pria yang kehilangan segalanya di akhir film pertama. Ia kehilangan masa depannya di dunia tanpa masa depan—harapan hidupnya, istri dan anaknya direnggut dalam pertempurannya melawan gangster masa depan. Seorang family man telah berubah menjadi iblis sejak saat itu; orang yang sama juga telah menggandakan budget minimalis pembuatan film ini menjadi box office jutaan dollar.

Kalau boleh dinilai, Mad Max memiliki sensasi film western, hanya saja tanpa kuda dan diganti mobil yang gila-gilaan. Namun, kecenderungan itu belum nampak sampai akhirnya Mad Max 2 dirilis. The Road Warrior, film kedua Mad Max menjadi semacam clean slate bagi film pertamanya yang sangat sukses. George Miller dengan percaya diri melucuti semua elemen dari film pertamanya kecuali tema dan sang pahlawan yang kini terluka batinnya—menjadi pengembara di tengah padang pasir. Film pertamanya bernuansa gelap, sekali lagi Miller mengambil resiko, membuat sekuelnya lebih gelap—terlalu gelap untuk menjadikan Max sebagai pahlawan murni. Hebatnya, Mad Max 2 malah menjadi film yang sukses secara komersial dan kritik—menjadi film cult.


Performanya di box office yang sangat dahsyat memberanikan Miller untuk memproduksi film ketiga Mad Max yang berjudul Beyond Thunderdome. Meskipun tak sekuat film keduanya—karena terkesan terlalu sopan dan kurang brutal—film ini tetap penting dalam kanon Mad Max. Kisahnya, Max menyambangi Bartertown dan malah bermasalah dengan pemimpinnya (Tina Turner)—yang malah mencuri karisma Mel. Tak ada ‘car’-nage yang seagresif prekuelnya, namun film ini punya gantinya, yaitu pertarungan thunderdome yang menjadi monumen bagi film action-exploitation modern.

Dari action drama tentang pria yang kehilangan segalanya menjadi sebuah kisah drifter-vigilante yang menghasilkan jutaan dollar bagi kreatornya, Mad Max adalah kesayangan pecinta car opera jauh sebelum Fast and Furious dan franchise lain bermunculan. Sejarah perfilman berhutang pada George Miller; lebih dari sekedar pengaruh saja, tapi warisan berharga.


Author: Paskalis Damar AK

A Bali-based blogger. A cinema loner and self-claimed movie fan since 2013. Public Relation in non-cinematic world.

2 thoughts on “George Miller’s Mad Max Trilogy: Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) – Review”

  1. This is such an interesting post. I really need to finally see all of these, even if the third installment didn’t live up to the first two. You’ve sparked serious interest in me.


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