OK, I'll admit it.
I'll admit that I was skeptical when I heard about the "remake" of Mad Max. I enjoy powerful and happy nostalgia for the giddy "I-don't-give-a-flying-f" exuberance of the first two movies. Those films took place during my otherwise staid and shockingly tame upbringing, and as a result I had made up my mind long ago about two fundamental rules with regard to Mad Max:
1)I would forgive them for making the Thunderdome movie since Tina Turner had, without question, the hottest apocalyptic-gladiatorial legs in the history of cinema.
2)I would never, ever, forgive them (whoever the heck "them" is) if they (whoever the heck "they" are) ever tried to make another Mad Max film. In other words, don't screw with Max.
These movies belonged, I believed until recently, squarely in the halcyon days of my adolescence. They belonged in simpler times, when I would not for at least three decades covet a Toyota Prius and would likely have been appalled by the fact that such a car could even exist. They belonged to an era when I would have called into question the judgment and even sanity of anyone who didn't crave with desperate testosterone a 1978 Corvette.
They belonged to a time when I had hair...to a time of hope and possibility.
Look. Let me put this into perspective.
When I was in junior high and high school, my football coach would have us line up with our helmets on and inspect the backs of our necks to make sure no hair was showing. If we did in fact sport even a lock of growth, he would trim the offending strands with an electric razor. The locker room on game day was thus reliably more hirsute than a barber shop floor on the Saturday before Easter.
But then we inevitably paired this exercise with the paradoxical exhilaration of riding to our games in the not-at-all secure back of an old pick-up truck. In this way, I figured, I was at one moment clean cut and wholesome and at the same time racing through the imagined desert in search of gasoline and high-octane revenge. You know how some pundits worry about kids today driving worse after indulging in video games? I figure that worry is more appropriately contemplated for anyone in the late 70's and 80's who was driving home from a Mad Max movie. Max made me want to pull off into a cornfield and wreak unholy havoc on those orderly rows of produce.
Who, after all, didn't want to be a Road Warrior?
So, like I said, when I caught word that there was to be a sequel, it was not without significant trepidation that my eyebrows were raised. What was this new assault on my youthful recollections? It is worth noting here that I was wondering all this as I steered my decidedly uncool Kia Rondo with careful and middle-aged discipline.
Max, I thought, belonged to the bygone world of stringy hair and straight black combs and greasy plaid flannel shirts. Max does not belong in a world where I am old and balding and have daughters. I didn't know what the movies were about when I was a teenager, and I kind of don't know what they're about to this day. But I remember that they were totally awesome.
Mad Max belonged to me. How dare anyone bring him up to date!
And yet, I am, alas, an adult. If I am to attack "the Man" (whoever "The Man" is) for making a sequel that I felt feverishly should never have been even tried, then I should exercise my best scientific judgment and go see the film for myself. Plus, this was one of those films that my wife just wouldn't attend. (Go figure). I therefore was free to indulge my memories in the absence of a familiar rational adult who knows better.
Here's what I learned:
Observation #1: I don't really know what this movie is about either.
Observation #2: Mad Max is still awesome.
Observation #3: I kind of hate my Kia Rondo.
I think I maybe understood at most a third of the dialogue but that doesn't matter.
This is not a film that's big on pithy wordplay. Watching the new Mad Max is like viewing Salvador Dali actively painting a moving landscape after he took something akin to mescaline. The set is surreal, bone dry, with all traces of normal life replaced with yellow-orange sulfur and fire. It's like the Sex Pistols made a movie about pro wrestlers driving big rigs while swinging high above the road on circus-like poles. It is visually beautiful, immediately arresting, and deeply disturbing.
I hate, hate, HATE spoilers. I will not give you a single spoiler, except to make clear that Tina Turner's legs are not making an appearance in this rendition.
But find me a greater collection of nitro-fueled hot rods and grotesque mutants and fragmented skulls, all coursing through the wind-swept heat, and tell me you won't feel compelled to run that red-light when you leave the theater.
In fact, do yourself a favor. Walk around the block first and then drive your car home. After all, you might be driving home through my neighborhood.
And I, after all, have my family to consider.