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The Road Warrior(1981)
In the first sequel to Mad Max, Max lends his aid and protection to a small band of survivors who are losing their struggle to protect an oil refinery under siege by a band of savage, mohawked marauders.
For more about The Road Warrior and the The Road Warrior Blu-ray release, see the The Road Warrior Blu-ray Review published by J.C. Ribera on June 3, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Virginia Hey, Syd Heylen, Bruce Spence, Emil Minty, Michael Preston (I)
Director: George Miller
» See full cast & crew
The Road Warrior Blu-ray Review
Mad Max 2. Give me the gasoline, the pump, the whole color gamut
Reviewed by J.C. Ribera, June 3, 2008
Mad Max 2, or The Road Warrior, as it is known in the US, is a great action film. Even though it was made a generation ago, it's set in a near apocalyptic future where oil has run out and civilization has crumbled, so it might well be a movie released today. When it was released in the 80's it was a very exciting film to watch, with all its car stunts and non stop action. The Australian film was also one of the first films that Mel Gibson did (the latest being reviewed Signs), and with the iconic character of Max the little mad one, both actor and creation became stars and an ingrained part of our culture. Mad Max 2 was actually the sequel to the previous Mad Max, another Australian production, both directed by George Miller, and its success pushed the wave of the Australian invasion. Subsequently, the first Mad Max was re-released in the US, and a third sequel was later made and released. Since most people in the US hadn't seen the first Mad Max before, most people experienced this second movie first, as a standalone piece.
The movie starts with the original Mad Max 2 title card which is great, as it lets you know immediately it's the version as it originally was, intact. After a brief "intro", we're literally thrown into the widescreen action and it barely stops from them on. We instantly are aware the future is dangerous, we need gas, and the savage remnants of humanity aren't playing nice. And it's gonna take the hardiest. cleverest, maybe maddest of persons to survive. And Max is all of them. All he wants is gas to keep moving on and surviving. But sometimes you need to make pacts with others to get what you want. So Max has to weight joining forces with a group of survivors for the time being. And here lies the excuse for a story full of car chases, car crashes, stunt doubles flying through the air and audiences saying did I really see that happen? Not a CGI effect in sight on those days, even the night scenes were shot at night. The movie has some blood and stunts that look so realistic, you wondered how many people were getting hurt, plus some nudity in a few brief shots.
With creepy characters galore, and the slightly different accents and cultural perspective of an Australian production, Max was different and a lot whole of fun, it was a very fresh movie back then, and although now in the jaded CGI-ed 21st century we're used to more visually complex extravaganzas, the passage of time makes watching Max a strange retro/futuro experience. I saw the film in it's original run, and this time it was almost like watching a middle-ages movie set in the future, no crazy gadgets, no zap guns, just human real action and violence, with a Mad Max in the middle of it tying it up. The car sequences are still impressive and "villains" are still outrageous. After you watch the movie, knowing there's a "prequel", you want to watch some more cool car action, and you feel ready to pop in another Mad Max movie. In other words, fully satisfying and leaves you wanting for more. In a literal sense, they almost never do them like these no more.
The Road Warrior Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warners has given us Mad Max 2 in a clear 2.39 transfer from an element that looks clean and sometimes looks almost brand new. The movie didn't look this clean on the original presentation I saw. With a VC-1 bit-rate in the 20's the image seems solid for the most part, except for shots done on location in available light, specially a night. The worst shot, occurring on a night excursion by Max to transport gasoline on foot hiding from the desert gang, looks just like how an underexposed photograph does when its pushed to the limit, and on top of that the shot has this lighter area coming from the left that seems to be the result of either a location light source, lens flare, or maybe actual fading of the film element. Noticeable because the transfer tries to bring out the maximum detail possible of that scene onto the BD. On the DVD, this scene is almost totally black, and you can barely see anything.
So having no real worries about wrong grain, DNR, and sharpness, which on those respects, the transfer is satisfactorily fine, the main issue to note about this transfer is that, it has color timing different from previous video incarnations and seemingly from the original prints. Pointed out by Blu-ray.com Forum member and disc producer dvdvision, the transfer hasn't been color timed like the original, compared to the DVD and Laserdisc. While I remember the theatrical presentation being visually exciting and earthy (a warmer tone), this Blu-ray color seems to strive for a totally neutral, cooler, straight transfer from the source element. It may be that the original color balance should be slightly warmer, darker, pungent and arid. In comparison to the Blu-ray's deeper blue skies, pale beige sand and earth, and fully green bushes, the DVD colors suggest the notion that sunlight from an apocalyptic sunset was striking at the locations, the earth was dry, and skin tones all looked more vibrant. You could try setting your display's color temperature to it's warmest setting, or boost the color slightly but it wouldn't be the same. Even the Helicopter Man's pants looked more of a bright yellow orange, while on the Blu-ray his pants are almost a pale pastel yellow. You can see comparisons here, here, and here. That's the only dissatisfaction I have with the transfer, which based on image structure alone, specially compared to the DVD, trounces any previous version, having superior enlarge-ability on a big screen that a DVD can't even touch. And this is truly a movie where the larger you watch it the better it gets, which the BD provides for your viewing pleasure.
An interesting detail about the BD transfer is that it's slightly window-boxed, and doesn't reach the full 1920 pixel width. But the image's dimensions, being 796 x 1907 = 2.395, are correct, as the film is from 1981 and the standard Anamorphic 35mm projection ratio changed to 2.39:1 a decade before. Compared to the DVD, the BD actually shows a little bit of more image on all sides. Excellent.
The beginning prologue starts in Academy 1.37 (actually 796 x 1075, 1.35 ) which works to great effect when the image transitions to the full CinemaScope width of Max's Interceptor's engine, one of the biggest thrills on film for widescreen aficionados. (note: the DVD's prologue image, being cropped into a wider 1.46, created a more diluted introduction of this).
The Road Warrior Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Mad Max 2 The Road Warrior comes on this Blu-ray Disc incarnation with a DolbyDigital 5.1 640 mb/s soundtrack. The 5.1 stereophonic remix favors the music more than the mono mix I heard on my theatrical viewing (the theater I went to didn't have any fancy "Dolby Stereo" back then) so it was a pleasant, albeit different, experience this time. On the theatrical, the dialogue and engine sound effects were predominant but this wider stereo presentation lends the Brian May music a better showcase among all the explosions , squealing tires, engine rumble (that beginning Interceptor roar is great!), and crashing metal and debris.
Complete with 30 seconds of Exit music. (Although I didn't like having a title card telling me all the time the music played that it was the exit music)
The Road Warrior Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray comes with a very interesting Director and Cinematographer's Audio Commentary where they have a great time reminiscing on how things were back then and the particulars of shooting, even taking about film stock speeds, shooting in the desert with available light, the stunts, the dog and even Mel. ;). When they mention the ratio, is the customary "2.35", even when Anamorphic projection hasn't been that shape since the 70's and the film is truly 2.39. I mention this so that in the case that you listened to this, you woudn't start worrying, as the disc is in the proper ratio.
Also included is the two and a half minute Trailer, letterboxed in 1.85 4:3 coded mpeg-2 SD, whose faded colors in some way resemble something of the original theatrical memories, and a 3 and a half minute SD Leonard Maltin introduction where the renowned film critic gives us an overview of the film explaining the history of the distribution of the Mad Max films and the innovative action and its influence on movies, while the film plays in a big theater screen behind him, the way the movie should be viewed (and thanks to 1080p projectors and Blu-rays you can emulate this now at home).
The Road Warrior Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Well what's there to conclude about the Mad Max 2 Blu-ray? Color pays an important part of setting the mood, and in that area, the disc, looking neutral, and cooler, and "accurately" flat, doesn't reach the best color representation possible. That's not to say the colors on the disc look bad or off, in fact they look pretty good, nice blue skies, normal skin tones, there's the red blood, etc. But they don't look warm, worn, arid and excitingly hot, as the apocalyptic world of a Road Warrior should be.
But at the same time, the BD is obviously the best quality version available and in many respects the preferred source to watch the movie as it has been seen in a couple of decades. Plus the music and effects sound fine and widely appropriate for the film, in fact much better and finer than most mono/stereo optical sound theaters of the era could ever achieve. Because of those factors, I recommend watching Mr. Mad Max on Blu-ray: A Panavision/CinemaScope-wide image can really only be experienced as it should and appreciated fully on a big screen, to get the maximum in velocity, thrills, and excitement. And in that respect, after many years of pan and scan and tiny letterboxed SD images, it is a pleasure to relive the movie with that kind of excitement.
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