Following the success of Mad Max 2 was a handful of post-apocalyptic B-movies. Among those was The New Barbarians (aka Warriors of the Wasteland), a dirt-cheap Italian knock off. Despite a slow start, this movie actually isn’t terrible, it just has low production values. However, I noticed a lot of similarities between this film and She Wolves of the Wasteland. Both have alternate titles. Both have promising, but underdeveloped plots and concepts. Both suffer from poor editing and a lack of closure. For that reason, let’s use a similar four points system as She Wolves, with one exception.
- The Plot
- Interesting concepts
The story begins nine years after the nuclear holocaust of 2010 (thanks, Obama). We open on a small caravan who has just discovered “The Signal,” a mythological radio frequency supposedly centered on Earth’s last city. Unfortunately, before the tribe can decipher the coordinates, they’re attacked by a rival tribe of motorized marauders called “The Templars” whose only goal is to destroy all human life…because reasons.
The Templars crush their enemies with a mixture of explosives and laser guns. At night, timid humans wrapped up in white rags scurry around the wreck, looting all they can. We never learn who these scavengers are, but they have a striking resemblance to the Buzzards from Mad Max: Fury Road. Before they can divvy up the loot, a muscle car with a glowing green roof roars out of the blackness. Enter our hero, Scorpion.
Scorpion deals with the buzzards and grabs some loot. Then he meets with his friendly wasteland mechanic, a 10-year-old boy. As soon as his car is fixed, Scorpion drives off to save a van under attack by the Templars. The only survivor is a mysterious, no-name woman. Scorpion confronts the Templar lieutenants, revealing to the audience that he is as an ex-Templar. With a little intimidation, Scorpion sends a message to One, the Templar leader.
Scorpion drives off with the woman, attempts to bandage her wound, and immediately has sex with her. Meanwhile the Templar lieutenants plan an ambush, disobeying One’s orders. The ambush turns into a counter-attack when Scorpion’s best frenemy Nadir fires on the Templars with exploding arrows.
Scorpion, the woman, and Nadir travel to a caravan of peaceful religious folks who have also found “The Signal.” The woman parts ways with our heroes, choosing to stay with the caravan. Scorpion drives off, only to be immediately captured by Templars and raped by One.
The Templars rally around the caravan, killing the entire tribe with ease. Survivors are lined up for execution. In the intervening minutes, Nadir rescues Scorpion from One’s camp and trains him with help from the child mechanic. After what seems like an eternity the three finally return to the religious caravan, rescue the survivors, and defeat the Templars.
Although Warriors of the Wasteland uses more sci-fi elements than Mad Max, there are only two truly interesting concepts in this film.
The Signal is a great idea. A legendary radio frequency that will lead those who find it to the last civilization on Earth. To complete the motif, the leader of tribe looking for the promised land is named Moses. The true nature of The Signal is left ambiguous. Both tribes who discover The Signal are immediately wiped out by the Templars. Interestingly, even the Templar lieutenants believe The Signal to be real.
Apparently the source of The Signal is only 10 miles from Moses’ camp, but we never learn what happens to it. At the end of the movie, Moses’ tribe of several dozen is reduced to three people. The movie ends on a low note; the audience never learns if The Signal actually leads to the promised land or if there is a last civilization at all. But the truth is, we aren’t here for the story, we’re here for the car chases!
Warriors of the Wasteland is clearly a Road Warrior knockoff, but it builds on car combat. Cars are armed with drills, flamethrowers, laser cannons, missiles, spinning blades to decapitate pedestrians, and laser cannons. Perhaps one of the best examples of car combat in Warriors when a Templar drills through an armored van, then uses a flamethrower to burn the driver from the inside out. Warrior’s car combat relies more on mechanical weapons while Mad Max (especially Fury Road) relies on projectile (thundersticks) and passive (kneecappers) weapons.
Editing: Each action scene in Warriors was filmed at three different speeds. Whereas Mad Max has fast paced action scenes where you can feel the wind, the danger, and the tension, Warriors of the Wasteland suffers from slower action. Many combat scenes are purposely slowed down, destroying any sense of tension. This is especially noticeable in the first battle, just five minutes into the movie, where it feels like the Templars are taking a leisurely Sunday drive in their sci-fi golf carts. Additionally, the majority of battle scenes have choppy editing which only serves to break the narrative flow.
The characters are totally hit or miss. For every interesting person in this movie, there are three with no characterization.
Scorpion can best be described as Not-Mad-Max. He’s a scavenger who shows up to loot a burning caravan. Other than that, he really has no character, he’s just a guy who knows how to fight. All we know is that he’s a reformed Templar lieutenant. The woman sleeps with him because he’s nice to her. The child mechanic helps him because he’s nice. Scorpion even refuses to attack fellow Templars because his real qualm is with One. While all of this sets up a noble and moral character in an ultra-violent world, the actual result is a boring lead.
I honestly could not tell you the woman’s name in this movie. Scorpion saves her, sleeps with her, and for the next 45 minutes she patiently waits in his car (even during action scenes) until finally deciding she should follow Moses’ tribe. Because the woman has no characterization or backstory, it’s clear the only reason she does this is so she can be captured for the finale, giving Scorpion additional motivation to defeat the Templars. Where was she going before Scorpion saved her? Who was she traveling with before they were attacked by Templars? It doesn’t matter. None of this matters.
One is fascinating in that he’s both a compelling villain and a terrible written character. He’s the leader of the Templars, but he spends most of his time standing around cursing Scorpion and preaching violence. In the beginning of the movie he rips a bible in half, saying “books started this whole apocalypse.” Maybe Warriors is a sequel to the Fahrenheit 451 movie?
One is a standard bad guy. He kills his own men when they disobey and he whispers to himself before getting into a shouting fit. He’s every 80s bad guy cliche wrapped up with a leather bondage bow. Whenever a fellow Templar asks One a question, the answer is always some variation of “kill them.”
There is, however, just a glimmer of extra characterization. During the previously mentioned rape scene, it’s established that all Templars are sodomized by One as an initiation ritual. That’s’ actually really interesting. One is the leader of a cult whose only goal is to exterminate all humans he pleasures himself in a way that cannot produce offspring. I explore this concept and other instances of homosexuality in post-apocalyptic raider in this article.
Nadir should have been the star of this movie. There’s are two posters for Warriors of the Wasteland. The first portrays Scorpion, Nadir, the child mechanic, and the woman standing on a mountain top. The other portrays a white Nadir accompanied by the woman.
Using his natural charisma, actor Fred Williamson creates a character who is funny, stern, and perfectly hammy. Williamson’s performance makes the character far more interesting than he actually is. Without the performance, Nadir is a barebones warrior who always appears just in time to save Scorpion from certain doom.
Although it suffers from slow pacing, Warriors of the Wasteland has some neat ideas. The film takes a few tentative steps toward expanding car combat and it features an interesting religious concept. Unfortunately, the film ends without any real resolution. Once the bad guys are dead, everyone gathers around Scorpion and the credits roll.