The Road Warrior Blu-ray delivers great video and audio in this exceptional Blu-ray release
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 Michael Reuben on June 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
The Road Warrior (or Mad Max 2, as it is known outside the U.S.) is a cinematic landmark that
quickly transcended its origins as an "Ozploitation" film to become a worldwide phenomenon.
The film redefined how car chases could be photographed and edited, in the same way that
Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns reconceived the choreography of gunfights. It brought co-writer and director George Miller to the attention of
Steven Spielberg, thus spawning a career
that gave us the Babe films and the Oscar-winning
Happy Feet. It created a vision of the future
that has been every bit as influential as Ridley Scott's in the following year's Blade Runner. And
it made a bankable movie star out of its lead actor, Mel Gibson, whose career flourished for over
thirty years before its recent collapse after repeated personal transgressions.
The remarkable thing about so influential a film is how simple it is. Its story can be summed up
in a sentence: Gasoline is scarce, and everyone wants to get their hands on a big supply. It could
have been gold in the Old West or water in the desert. But by making gasoline the essential
resource that everyone needs to survive, Miller and his co-writers, Terry Hayes and Brian
Hannant, ingeniously transformed the thrill of speeding down the highway in the original Mad
Max into a Darwinian fight for survival. In Road Warrior, the hero drives like a bat out of hell,
because he has to stay ahead of the pursuers trying to steal the very "juice" that powers his
vehicle. Speed and life are one and the same.
The film's opening narration—spoken by an elderly man (Harold Baigent) whose identity is not
revealed until the film's end, and accompanied by a montage of black-and-white images centered
in the widescreen frame—is a model of concise storytelling. With brevity and precision, it
summarizes the key events of Mad Max and draws the broad outlines of the world as it now
stands. Contrary to some accounts, it does not refer to a nuclear war, merely to a conflict between
"two mighty warrior tribes" that exhausted their resources: "Without fuel, they were nothing."
A short introductory chase introduces us to Max as he now exists, a loner behind the wheel,
accompanied only by his dog (named, simply, "Dog"), and also to the mohawk-topped biker who
will become his nemesis, Wez (Vernon Wells). But this encounter is mere prologue. After Max
meets the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) in a manner befitting two outlaws, they stake out the
makeshift refinery where a group of would-be colonists has barricaded themselves in an attempt
to stockpile enough fuel to travel north and start a new life. A marauding pack of outlaws led by
the Humungus (Swedish body builder Kjell Nilsson in a metal mask and prosthetic skull cap with
thick, pulsing veins) assaults the compound day and night. Wez is his chief lieutenant.
Max would like nothing better than to get in, get some gas and get out, but the situation isn't that
simple. Every attempt he makes to barter with the colonists for fuel involves him more deeply in
their predicament. When he offers to find them a rig to haul their tanker full of gasoline in
exchange for "as much juice as I can carry", the plan puts him in the cross-hairs of the Humungus
and Wez. Inevitably Max is forced to choose a side, which is just fine with the colonists' leader,
Pappagallo (Mike Preston), who has been losing his grip on the situation and needs all the skilled
help he can get. Max's presence is even more welcome to the youngster identified only as the
Feral Kid (Emil Minty), a wild child who speaks not a one word of dialogue but has expressive
eyes, terrific survival skills and a mean aim with a boomerang. In Max he immediately senses a
The climactic chase sequence with Max at the wheel of the tanker truck has never been exceeded
for its kinetic intensity, probably because no crew since then has been willing (or allowed) to risk
injury in the way that Miller's company did on a daily basis. No one was killed, but at least one
stuntman was badly hurt. The result on the screen is a high-speed assault that didn't have to be
tricked out in the editing room to feel dangerous, because it really was. (When I first saw it in the
theater in 1982, the audience literally screamed.) To Miller's great credit as both director and
writer, he is able to bring this signature sequence to a satisfying conclusion that also serves the
story, and he's smart enough not to extend the film one second longer than necessary beyond that
point. When the chase is over, so is The Road Warrior.
Warner Home Video previously released The Road Warrior on Blu-ray in 2007. J.C. Ribera's
review of that edition can be found here. The key point
of discussion was a change in color
timing from previous home video versions toward the cooler end of the spectrum. Initial
speculation suggested that this new 2013 remaster might have reverted to the earlier color timing,
but in direct comparison to the 2007 Blu-ray, it's evident that this is the same transfer with
identical colors. (For an example, see screenshots 10 and 11; the shot from 2007 is labeled as
What Warner has done for this Blu-ray edition is re-author the disc with the AVC codec, which
has replaced VC-1 as its preferred compression scheme, include lossless audio and a larger
selection of alternate language and subtitle tracks, and place the result on a BD-50 instead of a
BD-25 (although it should be noted that only 23.7 Gb of the disc's capacity has been used). The
average bitrate is now 25.63 Mbps, as compared to 21.94 on the previous disc. Both discs, of
course, are 1080p.
The result of the remastering visually is a slight (very slight) improvement in fine detail, which
was already quite good on the 2007 disc. Owners of large front-projection systems are those most
likely to benefit from the improvement; anyone with a direct-view TV will have to look hard to
spot the difference.
As Mr. Ribera noted in his review of the earlier disc, there are portions of Road Warrior that will
never look spectacular. In the Blu-ray commentary, cinematographer Dean Semler comments on
the limitations of the era's film stocks, describes "pushing" the film in the lab and notes his
tendency to underlight for fear of overexposure. Some of the grainiest night scenes, especially
when the blacks shade to gray, result from these issues, which today would have been fixed on a
digital intermediate. But these are artifacts of the age in which Road Warrior was made, and as
Semler and Miller laughingly note, filmmakers in that era had to work close and "get dirty". The
very conditions that created these analog artifacts are inseparable from the working conditions
that made Road Warrior what it is.
So, as far as image is concerned, this new edition of Road Warrior offers marginal improvements
that will loom larger as the image is expanded for display. It's in the sonic arena that the real
The Road Warrior was the first Australian film mixed with a Dolby stereo soundtrack, and it was
reportedly also released in a 70mm blow-up with a 6-track mix. Whatever source was used, the
film has had a 5.1 soundtrack on home video since its first DVD release in 1997. The earlier Blu-ray offered that soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1, but this
new edition has lossless DTS-HD MA
5.1, and it is impressive.
The roar of engines has a real bottom end to it now. So does Brian May's unforgettable score,
which is essential to a soundtrack that goes for long stretches without dialogue. Lossless
treatment cannot add more refinement to the orchestra's mid-section than is already there in the
original recording, but the top end never sounds brittle or fatiguing. The rear channels are not
used for major effects, because the sound design didn't envision discrete rear channel effects, but
they help broaden the front sound stage, enlarging the sense of space.
The spare dialogue, which frequently has to compete with many other sounds, is clearer and more
distinct than I have ever heard it before. This is the first version of Road Warrior in which I
could understand the Gyro Captain's every word. I could also make out more of Pappagallo's
speech off-camera when he is addressing the colonists, while Max is getting acquainted with the
Although I have not done an A/B comparison, I suspect that Warner didn't just re-encode the
mix, but they also may have "sweetened" it as well. Whatever they did, the result is the best-sounding version of Road Warrior I have
The extras are identical to those on the 2007 Blu-ray. Some people may notice that I have rated
them a little higher than Mr. Ribera, which is simply a difference of opinion. While I would have
preferred new extras, I think the commentary by Miller and Semler is among the better ones I
Introduction by Leonard Maltin (480i; 1:33:1; 3:37): Playable as either a separate item
or, optionally, before the film starts, this brief intro by the well-known film critic
introduces Road Warrior to anyone not familiar with its place in film history.
Commentary with Directory George Miller and Cinematographer Dean Semler:
Semler, an Oscar winner for Dances with Wolves
(1990) and a recent winner of the
Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Cinematographers, reunites
with Miller to reminisce about making their first film together. Both were relative
newcomers to feature films, and much of what they were doing had rarely been done. Of
particular interest in their account is how much they had to depend on instinct to know
whether they'd gotten a particular shot, because they were working without instant
playback or video assist.
Theatrical Trailer (480i; 1.78:1, enhanced; 2:31): Since Gibson was still an unknown,
the trailer focused on action.
It could fairly be argued that Warner has now provided us with the Blu-ray of Road Warrior that
it should have released in the first place. After a six-year wait, no one should be surprised if fans
are disappointed that lossless audio is the only real improvement on offer. For such an important
and influential film, were there really no new extras available? Wasn't it worth the investment in
producing any? For those who already own the 2007 Blu-ray, and are not interested in acquiring
the Mad Max Trilogy metal box, I don't see any reason to rush out
and acquire the remaster. The
improvements just aren't that significant. But for anyone who doesn't already own a copy of
Road Warrior, this is hands-down the version to acquire. And if you don't own a copy of Road
Warrior, you should. Highly recommended.
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