All three of George Miller's Mad Max films are now on Blu-ray thanks to the release of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Concurrent with Warner Brothers' single-disc release of that title is this trilogy collection that includes the 2010 MGM Blu-ray of Mad Max, and the 2007 Warner Brothers Blu-ray of Mad Max 2 AKA The Road Warrior. The studio has also thrown in a sturdy collectible tin to commemorate the high octane road rage films that made Mel Gibson a star, though the packaging probably won't entice anyone but collectors and those buying the films for the first time.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 2.0 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: PG-13, R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min. / 1 Hr. 35 Min. / 1 Hr. 47 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/04/2013
With gas prices the way they’ve been for the last decade, Director George Miller's vision of a post-apocalyptic wasteland where people scavenge – if not kill – for fuel doesn't seem like such a leap. First presented in the 1979 film Mad Max, which also introduced the titular, now iconic hero played by Mel Gibson, the overall concept proved a hit in the director’s native country of Australia, but didn’t fare well in the States because of poor distribution. Its familiar, but engaging, story of a man fighting to protect his family against a gang of motorcycle-riding marauders would have no doubt appealed to American audiences, but their introduction to Max and his desolate world would largely come through the film’s sequel, Mad Max 2, otherwise known in the U.S. as The Road Warrior.
The Production Rating: 4/5
In Miller’s darker, more adrenaline-fueled followup, Max is wandering the arid wilderness with his only purpose being survival, the loss of his family having made him a “shell of a man.” Though it breezes through Max’s character-defining backstory, the prologue that acquaints viewers to the main character and the anarchic world he lives in helps the sequel feel more fully formed and tonally consistent than its predecessor, which often felt vague and underdeveloped about its political and social environment, which then trickled down to some uneven production design. Though both films could be criticized as thinly plotted excuses for elaborate car chase and stunt sequences, the second film follows a clear mythological archetype – the lone warrior who must regain his humanity in order to defeat a great evil – making it resonant in a way that the first film only achieved in its final moments.
The success of The Road Warrior in the U.S. and abroad led to the inevitable, more extravagant third film, the aptly titled and cartoonish Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Casting the electrifying Tina Turner as Aunty Entity, the ruthless leader of the desert community of Bartertown, the film is the most commercial in the trilogy, though it also has no shortage of the off kilter characters and straight-up weirdos that populated the other entries. Though less emotionally satisfying than the previous efforts, with a particularly aimless middle section that makes it feel like a whole other movie, Miller’s final contribution to the Mad Max trilogy ultimately proved entertaining enough...given adjusted expectations.
- Mad Max: 4/5
- The Road Warrior: 4.5/5
- Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: 3.5/5
In 2010, Matt Hough reviewed the Blu-ray release for Mad Max. In 2007, I reviewed The Road Warrior on HD-DVD. Not having a Blu-ray player at the time, the review of the Blu-ray edition went to then HTF Reviewer Pat Wahlquist.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
At the time both of us made note of an inconsistent picture that usually looked great and highly detailed in daylight scenes, but became a murky mess in nighttime environments. Though Pat didn’t care to issue numerical ratings, I assigned the video a “3,” considering the problems were most likely inherent to the source elements. Almost six years later, that’s still a pretty fair assessment, though over the years I’ve become even more forgiving of issues that aren’t ultimately related to the transfer. Consequently, I’d now give the video quality a half or even full point more.
Mad Max has a similar visual profile, though there’s nothing that ever goes quite as dark as Road Warrior’s notorious gascan scene. The first half of the film in particular has deep blacks, rich color (relative to the film stock and cinematography), and excellent detail in both wides and closeups. At about the halfway point some damage and murkiness show up, along with some fluctuating grain patterns, though in the grand scheme they’re pretty brief. Overall the transfer looks faithful to the condition of the source material, which is all we really ask for in the end.
For its debut on Blu-ray, Beyond Thunderdome thankfully follows a similar tack. As the highest budgeted production of the three, it’s clearly the most refined in its cinematography, though it never lacks for grit, and all of it is presented nicely with inky blacks, consistent contrast, and fine detail. Certainly, there are moments when things aren’t quite so good, but they're exceedingly rare and unlikely to draw legitimate complaints from viewers mindful of the film's vintage.
- Mad Max: 3.5/5
- The Road Warrior: 3.5/5
- Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: 4/5
For Mad Max, the center channel dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently clear and detailed, but the surround mix is a bit problematic with the not-so-subtle film score frequently stepping on the dialogue. Outside of those problems, surround effects – which are mostly directional because of the copious car chase sequences – sound balanced and seamless. LFE is noticeably lacking in a couple critical, explosive sequences, but the track has a decent depth and dynamic range throughout.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
In my first review of The Road Warior, I complained about the mix as well, where right and left channels didn’t seem well integrated with the center channel, and weren’t mixed for frequently shifting camera angles. There was also the issue of the score overpowering the dialogue, which was otherwise clear and intelligible (outside of the sometimes heavy Australian accents). Revisiting the film, now upgraded from lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital to lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, my impression remains relatively unchanged, the surround effects now sounding more balanced and seamless. As with the first film, LFE is also meager, if present at all, though bass extends to adequate depths, especially with the Interceptor vehicle's rumbling V6 engine.
Thunderdome has the most consistent mix of the three films, with crisp dialogue, seamless surround effects, and balanced support for the score that never drowns out voices. LFE is again absent, but low frequencies are present enough to give the audio respectable depth.
- Mad Max: 3/5
- The Road Warrior: 3.5/5
- Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: 4/5
With audio commentaries on the first two films, and a decent making-of featurette for Mad Max, the bonus material offers some decent paths behind the scenes. It’s just unfortunate more couldn't be culled for the third film.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
- Audio Commentary with Jon Dowding (art direction), David Eggby (cinematography), Chris Murray (special effects), and Tim Ridge (Mad Max superfan)
- Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon (25:35, SD): Making-of featurette produced in 2001.
- Theatrical Trailer 1 (1:53, HD)
- Theatrical Trailer 2 (2:09, HD)
- Trailers: Rollerball (2:24, HD), The Terminator (1:57, HD), Species (1:50, HD), Windtalkers (2:20, HD)
- Audio Commentary with Director George Miller and Cinematographer Dean Semler
- Introduction by Leonard Maltin (3:37, SD): The well-known TV critic offers a bit of backstory and perspective on the film.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:31, SD)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:29, SD)
Warner Home Video gathers George Miller's Mad Max films into one collectible, metal-encased package, offering overall solid high definition presentations for each movie, and decent bonus material for at least the first two films. The pre-existing releases of Mad Max and The Road Warrior, however, make this a package chiefly for collectors and/or first time buyers. Everyone else should just seek out the single disc release of Beyond Thunderdome to complete the trilogy.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Cameron Yee
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