Debt Ceiling Apocalypse Recommendation: The Road Warrior

As the United States lurches closer and closer to defaulting on its financial obligations, various scenarios about what will occur abound.  One of the more common words that I have heard associated with any potential default that results from a failure to raise the debt ceiling limit is “apocalypse,” an event that will horribly and drastically change life as we have come to know it.  To prep for this rather unpleasant event, it might be best to find postapocalyptic advice from one of cinema’s best postapocalyptic offerings: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.

Set in an Australian wasteland after war and greed has ravaged human civilization, The Road Warrior centers around the ex-cop loner, Max (Mel Gibson), who helps one of the last decent pockets of humanity flee from the brutality and thievery of a marauding, murderous gang. Much like a Clint Eastwood figure, Max sees himself as an outsider who could care less about the struggles of others, yet he possess just enough compassion that he decides to sacrifice himself for the betterment of humankind. 

What we learn about post-apocalyptic life from The Road Warrior is that while we may have to steal food from dogs, live in dingy, dust-ridden outposts, and empty our souls of humanity, we will be blessed with a plentiful amount of leather bondage outfits.  It is good to know that quality leather craftsmanship will not vanish with the rest of civilization.  I can only assume that if leather and chains could be converted to food and fuel, the apocalyptic nightmare could have been avoided. 

We also learn that representative leaders will no longer be freely elected by democratic means (and, honestly, how well is that really working out for us).  Rather, those with the most awesome, singular nicknames will be appointed president/ruler/king/overlord. I mean, how would “The Humungus” rise to power and . . . oh, wait, that’s why he was called “The Humungus.”  Never mind.

Aside from providing lessons about leather bondage and choosing nicknames that serve as double entendres, The Road Warrior also provides a pretty decent movie.  At times it looks like a kitschy B-flick, but it is not.  At other times it looks like a standard action movie with car chases, but it is not quite that either.  Instead, it sits rather perfectly balanced between those two poles, and it does so without any self-referential awareness of its own genres, simultaneously looking slick and DIY.

Directed by George Miller, who also directed the other installments of the Mad Max trilogy, The Road Warrior was never a contender for Best Direction, but it is clean and professional, clearly better than a B-flick.  Miller also displays some patience with the scenes and the actors.  While not as deliberate in its pace as the original Mad Max, The Road Warrior never rushes through sequences or scenes.  Miller is even paradoxically deliberate in his filming of the most rushed and frantic chase scenes.  The scene below, which effectively ends the film, is my favorite car chase scene of all time, and it truly represents a perfect culmination of the 1970s style car chases that were a staple of action films.  Prior to CGI, films had to use actual people and objects.  Filming live action car chases with actors jumping and moving around is, in its own way, more impressive than filming computer graphics.

After watching this clip, I am actually reminded, just a bit, of some of Sam Peckinpah’s greatest action sequences. The violence of the scene is balanced nicely with the delicateness of the editing.  The overhead shots are terrific.

Aside from the final chase sequence, the most memorable part of the film is the star (the film’s only star), Gibson.  After re-watching The Road Warrior, it is difficult to fathom what has become of the once hunky Australian.  His Mad Max character foretells some of his later characters who are driven by loss and revenge, but unlike them, this one does not become overly saturated in bitterness and violence.  Gibson’s Max still has the wonderful ability to appear older and weather-beaten; he is a man who has shouldered the weight of the world.  However, he can still flash a gorgeous, youthful smile.  He can still be attractive.  Gibson also keeps a steady, even voice, something he has rarely done in past ten or twenty years.  Gibson’s wounded male protagonists either shout or speak in that type of husky, hushed tone that indicates that actor is trying much too hard.  Gibson never had a great delivery.  Instead, he earned his stripes with  his eyes, a devilishly handsome smile, and a well proportioned gait, all of which serve him well in The Road Warrior.

If the House Republicans throw the United States into an economic cataclysm that brings downfall of civilization as we know it, remember to stock up on a lot of leather and S&M gear; you would not want to feel under-dressed at a post-apocalyptic party.


About Todd Hunter Starkweather

Todd Starkweather is an Assistant Professor of English at South University-Richmond. He has a PhD in English Literature from the University of Illinois-Chicago; his interests include film, Victorian studies, sport, and post-colonialism.
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