For every issue of Holdfast, Laurel and I watch a SFF franchise whilst stuffing our faces with all the snacks. All of them.
For issue 5: Of Land, Sea and Sky, we chose the Mad Max trilogy, partly because we have two brilliant essays by Australian writers in this issue's non-fiction section about the theme of The Land in Australian speculative fiction, partly because landscape and environment feature heavily in the Mad Max narrative, and partly because what with the new Tom Hardy version of Mad Max out soon, it seemed relevant.
Mad Max (1979, dir. George Miller)
The film opens with a car chase with some crims and the police – we think.
LJS: Wait, are they the police? I guess so, they have radios. But they're wearing super cool leather jackets!
LAS: I like that even though it's the dystopic future, the local government has clearly engaged a famous fashion designer to create the police uniforms, like how Wayne Hemingway did with the TfL uniforms recently.
LJS: I also like how dirty it all is! Despite the fancy uniforms it looks like a proper, grimy dystopia.
LAS: What do you mean, despite? It's because of those fancy uniforms! No money left in the municipal budget for anything else!
Max appears for the first time. He joins in the chase and the crim, some guy called Nightrider, dies.
LAS: Wait, Max is a policeman? I thought he was an outlaw or something. A loner crim?
LJS: I think that comes later. Probably something terrible happens and he chooses the loner crim lifestyle, or is forced into it, no other choice of course, because of the terrible thing.
Max is at home with his baby.
LAS: He has a BABY? Definitely something terrible will happen.
Max and the baby are just chilling out, listening to some saxophone music. The camera pans to his wife, on the other side of the room, playing the saxophone.
LJS & LAS: Wahahaha!
LAS: Most absurd use of non-diegetic to diegetic sound I've ever seen/heard. Who owns a saxophone? Who decided to put that in the film? Who sits at home entertaining their baby and husband with plaintive saxophone music?
LJS: Max really has an idyllic life. Lovely house, cute baby, talented saxophone wife.
LAS: That idyllic life is for it, I reckon.
A motorbike gang make some trouble in a village.
LAS: Ah! These guys are creeping me out. They are so arbitrary in their violence and weirdness!
LJS: Oh god, they are going to terrorise that young couple.
They do. It is horrible.
LAS: That was horrible. I have a feeling that this series will involve a fair amount of rape and Max doing revenge for it, which is crap, really.
During a montage, one of the punk baddies does fire poi.
LAS: Christ. This is the most intense montage I've ever seen. Fire poi!
LJS: Are they punks or hippies!!! C'mon!
The dog gets shot.
LJS: Oh, man!
Extended escape fight scene.
LAS: Everyone keeps dying! What's happening! Warrior woman crossbow white outfit super model! You tried super hard to look super strong and super clean all movie and you just die super quickly.
The tanker Max is driving turns out to be a decoy, filled with sand, not petrol. The normals escape in the other direction, with secret petrol.
LJS: So clever, to decoy the punks!
LAS: Although… if they had just made the tank empty, not filled with sand, it might have gone faster?
LJS: Shhh. That sand reveal looked super cool. So what if it was impractical?
LAS: Yes. Like that entire film.
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At the Halls of Justice, one of the biker gang is awaiting trial for the assault of the couple.
LJS: This is the worst kept office I have EVER seen. It's filthy and has no furniture. No wonder no one is bothering to come and testify.
LAS: Max's partner's name is Goose? Why are there two films in existence where the best friend is named Goose? He will probably die like Goose in Top Gun.
He does. Max is traumatised.
LJS: Hmm. Max's wife is comforting him quite silently. All she's doing is hugging him. Has she spoken yet?
LAS: Maybe she can only communicate through the mode of sax.
Max's boss tells him to take some time off.
LJS: Did he just say 'take a couple of weeks off. Grow a beard?'
LAS: Australian equivalent of therapy.
LJS: I am really enjoying this road trip montage. Lots of dreamy shots of the landscape.
Sadly, they run into the biker gang.
LAS: Please don't fridge Max's wife.
She gets fridged. Max spends the rest of the film chasing the biker gang.
LJS: Ah. Do you know what though, even though she does die, I did like the build up to it a lot. It had such an unsettling atmosphere, like how I imagine a dystopic Australian version of the wild west to be. And it wasn't just her who suffered – civilisation as a whole there was really just collapsing and some people were clinging on and trying their best but I just don't think they were ever going to win!
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981, George Miller)
LAS: Ooh, archive footage opening fake newsreel. Nice.
LJS: Hmm, the future has no petrol. But Max is a road warrior! How.
After a run in with some punk baddies, Max meets the pilot of a tiny gyrocopter.
LAS: OMG his outfit is AMAZING. Pink trainers and a yellow legging jumpsuit. Excellent colour combination.
LJS: I love Max's new dog. I hope it survives the film.
The punk baddies are harassing a compound of normal people who have petrol.
LAS: Ah, Max won't care about those normals. He is a shell of a man. He's a loner. No more human relationships for him anymore.
Max proves he is a shell of a man by eating some dogfood.
LJS: I'm a bit confused about this compound. Is it that hard to take over? Not that I want the punk bikers to get in and kill and rape everyone, but I mean… it's just there. With some flimsy fencing.
LAS: Shh. I mean, yes. You're right. It is like a fortress in the desert, again, quite like some kind of Australian western, but it doesn't look that fortress-like.
LJS: Is that punk baddie wearing chapless leather trousers? That seems like a bad costume choice when you're riding a motorbike all day. I don't know. Maybe.
A young couple get attacked and raped and killed. Max kills the rapist.
LAS: Max is always getting there after people die. Can't he get there before they die? And just kill the baddie then, and not have to keep avenging people?
LJS: No, because he wouldn't be as tortured. It's about him, not about the women who get raped and murdered. OBVIOUSLY.
In the complex, Max offers to help the normals in exchange for petrol.
LAS: These normals have some amazing costumes!
LJS: How does that warrior woman keep her clothing so pastel coloured! She's in the desert! In a fortress complex! I wouldn't last five minutes without dropping some coffee down me.
LAS: Yes, this film sure looks great but everything seems very impractical. Also, everyone is like, super white. Super clean and super white. No diversity or dirty clothes for these guys.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985, dir. George Miller and George Ogilvie)
LAS: I am saying right now – how can a film with Tina Turner in it be bad? I love her.
LJS: This is an excellent opening landscape wasteland shot.
LAS: Woah, look at Max in this film. His hair! Shocking.
LJS: He cares so little about everything. How is he still alive? Why is he still alive? Why isn't he dead from lack of caring?
Max's wagon is stolen by someone who looks suspiciously like the gyro pilot from Mad Max 2.
LAS: Is that the same guy? Why would he be mean to Max?
LJS: This is confusing. Is it him?
Lucy Wikipedias it.
LAS: Same actor… different character. Why. Why would you do that?
LJS: That is extremely poor casting. Are there so few actors in Australia?
They arrive at Bartertown.
LJS: Hmm, this film at least has a more diverse cast.
Max is taken for a meeting. A saxophone is heard…
LAS: No way. NO WAY. Will the camera pan round….?
The camera pans, to reveal a saxophone player.
LAS: OMG. OMG. They just referenced the most ridiculous soundtrack moment ever. This is amazing. [applauds].
Tina Turner explains that the town runs on energy created by pigs underground. She wants that power.
LJS: So much more budget for this film! Check out this pig area! So much engineering.
The Thunderdome is used for a fight between Max and Blaster, the giant man who carries Master, the brains behind the pig area, around.
LAS: Is this the only time that the Thunderdome appears in the film?
LJS: I don't know, but I guess? Seems like a waste.
Max gets sent off into the desert because his wheel of punishment lands on 'gulag' after he fails to fight properly in the Thunderdome.
LAS: Hang on, that isn't what gulag means. Gulag doesn't mean 'go off tied to a horse with a mask on'. Does it? I'm going to have to Wikipedia a lot of things in this film.
LJS: I don't know, but I do know that killing someone by tying them to a horse in a desert is a VERY expensive way to commit murder when you're living in a world with no petrol.
Max is rescued by a group of super odd children who have created their own community based on the remnants of a plane crash.
LJS: Wait. How long have they been there? They've gone totally crazy. Don't they remember anything? I refuse to believe that young people would deteriorate into this level of madness so quickly, and make up their own religions and so on. Maybe they would? They're trying to communicate with him with a vinyl record tied to a stick.
LAS: It's like a weird mix of Peter Pan and the Goonies. I feel like this film is just all over the place. Are you a film set in a western frontier town powered by pigs, or are you a film where a bunch of insane children create their own religions? Are you both!
Max and some of the children go back to Bordertown. I am unsure why. My notes for this section are unintelligible. I have written: 'Max's bird hat flies off. He does an eyeball'. Seriously, that is what I have written. I don't think that happened.
LJS: What do the children want?
LAS: I think they want to go to Tomorrow-morrow Land. That Max told them doesn't exist anymore and was over many, many years ago. But they still want to go there.
LJS: Their lagoon looked super nice though and had clean water and stuff. They are on a fool's errand.
After a very long escape scene involving a train and a plane, the children leave Max behind and go to a gross-looking Sydney.
LJS: Oh, is this Tomorrow-morrow Land? Where do they get their food from living here? And clean water? Their lagoon was really a lot better.
LAS: Wasn't sure about this one! Think I would have preferred it to stay in Bordertown and see more about the powerplays between Aunty Tina Turner and the pig dudes. Those kids were so ridiculous.
LJS: Yeah, I think the series was best when it was being bizarre punky Australian western movies, not when fannying about with feral children. Although at least no one got raped in the third one.
LAS: I think the series was best whenever anyone was playing a saxophone.