Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Movie Review: The Road Warrior

In 1981 Mel Gibson was not associated with Jesus or “sugar tits” because no one knew who he was and gas prices hit a high of $1.35 (”which, in today's dollars, comes out to $3.10.” according to CNN This was the year of “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.”

Enzian Theater couldn’t have picked a better Cult Classic for our fuel-flummoxed time than this movie. Set in a bleak future where global warming clearly has a chokehold on the planet (though it’s never mentioned), gasoline is so scarce that nobody can get hold of it except the gangs. And when they get it where do they go? To terrorize people and steal their gas.

See what happens when you don’t listen to Al Gore and invest in alternative fuel technologies? You end up getting hunted by homoerotic bikers in the dessert. Now go buy a Prius (and get me one while you’re up).

This was my first viewing of Road Warrior, which is largely about one of those bad-ass gangs trying to get a gas reserve away from a group of new wave hippies aided by Mel Gibson - did you catch that? The hippie-ish commune-dwellers are the guardians of the fossil fuel in this movie. Evidently riding your stupid bike everywhere doesn’t sound so great when it’s really hot and you’re getting shot at by guys with crossbows. So the good guys defend the fuel with their lives. You can tell they are the good guys because they wear lighter colors, honor their agreements and harbor a feral child, a little boy in a big Jessica Hahn wig who throws the meanest boomerang the world has ever seen.

The evil marauders, conversely, are conspicuous due to their bondage wear: leashes, leather masks and harnesses give their tribe the look of either a biker camp or the Mr. Australia Leather competition. The gangs’ leader is a prime example: from the neck brace up he’s Halloween’s Jason; from the neck down he’s kind of like King Leonidis from The 300, the most homoerotic film since “Harald and Koomar go to the Broadway Baths.”

The biker who hates Mel Gibson the most (and he never even saw The Passion of That One Guy) is a burley bastard in assless chaps, a Manic Panic mowhawk and more feathers than Phyllis Diller. His most striking accessory, though, is what appears to be his glam-rock rent boy, a glum blonde who shadows him everywhere. It seems pretty clear they’re an item, though it’s never stated, interesting, because 1981 also saw the debut of “Love, Sidney,” a sitcom notorious for having the first gay lead but never identifying him as gay. So it wasn’t a time of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” - more a time of “Don’t tell but hint like you’re playing Olympic-level Charades.”

No doubt about it - between the crimped hair, stylish leather, the homoerotica and the dumpster-chic that prefigured grunge by 10 years and Kevin Federline by 25, this was one fashion-forward movie and I’m not the only one who noticed. Entertainment Weekly said that “film fashion would never be the same” after this; nor would our vision of the future. In the Logan’s Run / Sleeper / Jetsons vision of the 60’s and early 70’s, the future was spic-and-span, silver and white, sleek and shiny. Then along comes Alien (1979) and the Mad Max films. In a flash the future turned gritty, grotty, dirty, shabby, haphazard, mismatched, aggressive and dangerous no matter how young you were. The world of tomorrow was suddenly ugly and so was everyone in it.

And the coolest thing? After all that vision, progression and creative outerwear the whole damn movie is really about car chases.

But they’re great car chases! I don’t even like that kind of thing and when I left I wished I was driving a couple of Hummers glued together instead of my little Honda, just so I could feel butch. This is pre-CGI, too - you can watch the crashes, the guys getting squished between cars and sliding under trucks and think “how did they do that?” With CGI you know how they did it: they moved a mouse. With the Road Warrior it’s fun to wonder.

Anyway, if you’ve never seen it - or if you have and need a re-view - this is a perfect to watch the The Road Warrior and see how much wit, flair and cultural impact an action picture can have. And if our gas situation is ever going to get bad enough to involve crossbows.

Enzian is doing great with their Cult Classics and I think I know why - people are so broke these days they’re leery of spending money on new movies. With the Cult Classics a) they’re only $5 and b) people already know the movie is good and c) it's really, really fun to see old stuff, especially if it's new to you, on a big screen. So they’re ponying up like crazy. The theater has even extended the Cult Classics to twice a month. Next week - that’s June 3 - they’re showing Rock and Roll High School which means we’re probably in for another lesson in the history of style. C’mon -who didn’t learn something from the those Ramone’s haircuts? Where do you think Toni Tenille got the idea?

1 comment:

chas_m said...

I can't believe nobody's commented on this so I will.

Speaking of "I can't believe," I can't believe it's not butter.

Wait, no. I can't believe you've never seen this movie before. It SET UP the 80s, and the 80s dutifully fulfilled its mandate, becoming a sad parody/fusion of punk and disco/gay fashion.

Spiky hair, assless chaps and feather boas? My gawd, woman, I was wearing that TO SCHOOL by 1984!! :)

Anyway, kudos to the Enzian for finally listening to me. Hell yes I'm taking credit -- I begged those fuckers to do screenings of old classics and they wouldn't listen for the first 10 years. When they finally get around to trying it (especially thanks to their careful taste in selecting films that fit the Florida mindset), they're so popular Matt Curtis has to bribe the fire marshal to look the other way. Hmmph.