The Road Warrior

The Road Warrior (1981)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Mel Gibson, Vernon Wells, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston
Extras: Commentary Track, Introduction, Trailer

After making a huge splash on the scene with "Mad Max, " director George miller and Mel Gibson teamed up again to present fans with a sequel to the violent action film. "Mad Max 2, " or "The Road Warrior" as it was called in the US, was the result and it easily eclipsed even the original Mad Max with its stunts and level of violence. Warner Home Video has now prepared the film in high definition and I felt it was time to revisit this film.

Some time in the near future war between the superpowers has caused civilization to crumble across the world. Economies are gone, countries destroyed, and society has turned into a everyone-for-themselves war zone. In this post apocalyptic world, Max (Mel Gibson) is roaming the outback in his interceptor trying to stay alive and find enough gasoline to keep going. Be runs into a small settlement under siege by a horde of brutal outlaws under the command of The Humungus (Kjell Nilsson). These violent outlaws, almost subhuman in nature, kill every human being they encounter, they rape every woman and shoot at everything that moves.
The settlement is so valuable to them because it contains an oil well that allows the settlers to pump and refine oil into gasoline, the most valuable commodity in the area.
In desperate need of gasoline himself, Max decides to cut a deal with the settlers. In exchange for gasoline for himself, he will provide them with a big rig truck that can pull their gasoline tank into safety, away from the dangers of the outback. But before he knows it he is pulled into their community more than he anticipated and begins help them fight for their cause.

"The Road Warrior" is one of those few films that has a very distinctive look and feel. You see a single frame from the film and you know it is "The Road Warrior." From the red desert of the Australian outback to the iconic characters, their costumes and make-up, everything in this movie has a signature look. It has been copied on occasion but never matched.

The story of "The Road Warrior" is also a great way to extrude on the original Mad Max story in which Max was rendered virtually emotionless after the bestial attacks on his family by a motorbike gang. Tight-lipped and tough, Max is a force of nature that pulls the story through with his intensity, but so is Wez (Vernon Wells), a red mohawk-toting warrior dead-set on bringing Max down. To break up the intensity of the non-stop action sequences, the film also has a great sense of humor that is never in your face comical. Instead it is more of a cynical, payback nature where we enjoy seeing bad guys get what they deserve, such as getting their fingers sliced off by a boomerang or simply slammed and splattered into a million pieces in a violent car smash up.

Warner Home Video is presenting the movie in a 1080p transfer on this release in its original 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The image is clean and clear throughout, without dirt, grain or speckles. The level of detail is good throughout, bringing out many of the subtle textures in the picture. Whether it's the san, the clothing or strands of hair in the eternally blowing wind, every little detail in the picture is reproduced with fine detail and sharp, defining edges. The colors are balanced and reproduce the film exactly the way it looked in theaters with strong hues and bold contrasts. Comparing the HD-DVD version and the Blu-Ray version of the movie, they look virtually identical and no differences can be spotted. In short, "The Road Warrior" has never looked better!

On this Blu-Ray disc we get a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track of the movie that is well-balanced. Bass roll-off is natural and never exaggerated while the production always has enough oompf to drive the explosive moments home but also to make sure the roar of the engines has plenty of bottom end.
Dialogue is well integrated and is presented as the original Australian language track. It is always understandable and never drowned out.

As an extra this release contains a new commentary track that has been recorded exclusively for the high definition HD-DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the film. It features director/co-writer George Miller and cinematographer Dean Semler as they discuss the making of the movie. It is a solid commentary track that contains a lot of valuable information about how the film came together and how its unique look has been achieved, among many other things.

An introduction by Leonard Maltin is also included, though I'm not sure why anyone would need that. Clearly an introduction by someone like George Miller or even Mel Gibson would have been a wonderful addition instead as I am not sure who really cares about what Leonard Maltin has to say about the movie. The movie's theatrical trailer is also included, though sadly only in 480p standard definition.

To me, "The Road Warrior" has always been the best out of all Mad Max films as a result of its visceral impact, the visuals and the characters. On this Blu-Ray version the film shines in all of its glory making it a high octane action ride that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats even after more than 25 years. Action fans have to add this disc to their collection.