There's never been a better time to revisit a movie which basically started a whole sci-fi subgenre and led to one of this year's best blockbusters. Mad Max was the film which gave Mel Gibson his big break and provided a welcome alternative to Hollywood's movie-making machine.
Now, if you've never seen Mad Max, don't sit and watch it expecting Mad Max: Fury Road. Those two movies may share the same character but one is expensive and is set in a post-apocalyptic desert world with some, admittedly pretty, CGI thrown in while the other is very low-budget and is set in what looks like pre-apocalyptic small town Australia. There are trees, houses, cops, Halls Of Justice (of sorts), there's still some form of society present here. For something closer to Fury Road, you might want to just check out Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior but why would you not want to know how Max became "Mad" Max?
This is one character arc that's worth sitting through, trust me.
George Miller's film unsurprisingly opens with a car chase as a bunch of cops fail to catch the self-proclaimed "Nightrider" until Max steps into the ring and takes care of it. The introduction to our main character is slickly done and it really does feel like you're watching an early comic-book movie. Max's "Batmobile" being his trusty V8 Interceptor, a beast of a car which only really comes into play near the end of the film when Max goes dark. Even today, it's still easy to see why such a low-budget film made such a big impact upon its release. You've got some unforgettable characters from Max himself to the intimidating cigar-smoking, plant-watering chief of police, the demented, animalistic villain Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also plays the leader of The Citadel in Fury Road), his team of misfits and Max's biker partner Goose (Steve Bisley). Miller is so good at not only getting memorable performances from great actors but also when it comes to creating iconic characters which belong in a Mad Max film and only in a Mad Max film.
Max's journey from a good cop to a troubled cop, to a family man and, finally, to an anti-hero renegade is a fascinating one with Mel Gibson nailing the contrast between the happier early Max to the pissed-off badass he becomes. The build-up to what happens to his friend and his family is very effective and the result is genuinely heartbreaking. The film feels a lot like a Once Upon A Time In The West-style Western with the bad guys leaving a trail of misery wherever they go and the hero/anti-hero not saying much throughout, plus the deserted nature of the setting and all the weird-looking supporting characters. Aussie Western revenge movies may be few but the few there are sure get the job done.
By all means, go watch Mad Max: Fury Road, it's a kickass flick, but if you get the opportunity to watch (or re-watch) the first three movies beforehand then I'd say do that because the franchise's progression is interesting. This first movie is pure cult gold: from the amazing stunts, to the cool factor of its main character and the brutal rock n' roll attitude throughout, it's an unmissable gem which influenced a crazy amount of movies since then.