The return of 'Mad Max'

Looking back on the action series set to make a comeback this summer


In a post-apocalyptic Australian desert, fictional cops Mel Gibson and Steve Bisley engage in high-speed police chases and fights with motorcycle gangs.

If you can picture that, then you are seeing the setting for the original Mad Max film, released in April 1979. This low-budget film - $400,000 – takes viewers through the life events that set Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) on the path to his iconic “madness.”

Since the initial release in 1979, Mad Max has gained a strong underground cult-like following, and fans of the film series are eagerly anticipating the comeback film, being released in May.

The newest installment of the film brings the older three back into the light – a trend that’s been seen in films recently across all genres. Be it a remake of an old classic – like Texas Chainsaw Massacre – or a sequel to a childhood favorite, like Monster’s University, it seems to be common practice to use an imaginary world that’s already been created.

In the first film, Gibson and Bisley embark on a high-speed chase to catch gang leader known as Nightrider (Vincent Gil), who dies when his car explodes after running into a mound of explosives.

This brutal scene sets the tone for not only the first movie, but also sparks the plotlines for the entire series.

As a result of Nightrider’s death, Max loses his best friend, wife and child to this motorcycle gang’s violent retaliation.

The death of his family members is what makes Max “mad.” He goes insane with rage and hunts down the rest of the gang members to avenge the deaths of those closest to him.

Over the course of three movies, Mad Max fights to avenge his family and then to reclaim the humanity he lost in his quest for revenge.

By the end of the first film Max is no longer the man he was in the beginning; he has lost all sense of himself in the midst of his rage.

Mad Max 2 was released in December 1981. At the beginning, Max is found wandering throughout the desert with only his dog for company.

While searching for food and fuel, in an area that does not have a surplus of either, Max finds himself once again fighting off a motorcycle gang. He winds up in a compound led by a man named The Humungus (Kjell Nilsson).

The inhabitants of the compound, known as the defenders, are trying to escape the rule of The Humungus and the compound when Max arrives and decides to help them.

Here Max regains a bit of his humanity when he remembers the reason he became a cop in the first place was to save other people.

But Max gets stuck in the middle of both groups negotiating a deal and he wishes to leave the compound but wants to take as much fuel as he can with him. He ends up being tricked into being a decoy for the defenders, and leads the gang out of the compound long enough for the defenders to escape safely.

Mel Gibson returns once again as Max in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 1987 alongside Tina Turner. The third movie in the series continued building on the gritty, violent wasteland that made the first two films so popular.

The action continues as Max finds yet another group of individuals in need of his help; this time, children who survived a plane crash, in need of help escaping from a ruthless leader.

Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) runs a town known as Bartertown and leads a group of her civilians to chase after Max when he tries to sneakily get the children out of the town.

They manage to escape but he sacrifices himself in order to save the children from the original plane crash. Aunty Entity decides to not kill Max in the end out of respect that she has gained for him throughout the film.

Tom Hardy is set to replace Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky in the upcoming film Mad Max: Fury Road.

The budget for this film is approximately $150 million so it is to be expected that the stunts and graphics will be much more advanced than in previous films.

For die-hards and casual fans alike, the question is whether or not the new, high-budget will try to continue the rough, ragtag atmosphere of the first three films, or whether the influx of money will see a big change in the movie’s appeal.

It is predicted to be just as action-packed and thrilling as the previous three installments, however no plot details have been released as of yet.

Fans of the Mad Max series can see this latest thriller in theatres on May 15, where they can discover the newest adventure Max has to face.

Rebecca Vincent is an arts staff writer and can be contacted at