Cult Classics: Wheels of Fire

Following the success of Mad Max 2 was a handful of post-apocalyptic B-movies. Among those was Wheels of Fire (also known as Pyro, Vindicator, and Desert Warrior), a surprisingly decent take on the post-apocalyptic genre which takes a lot of inspiration from the perfectly hammy Warriors of the Wasteland. Despite some mediocre cinematography and acting, Wheels of Fire proved to be a fast paced, action packed, and overall interesting movie. If you follow our cult classics section regularly, you know how this works by now, we’re going to break the movie into four parts.

  1. The plot
  2. Interesting concepts
  3. Cinematography
  4. The ending

The Plot: First of all, this story is massive. Warriors of the Wasteland was just as long, but most of the movie was overextended fight scenes. Wheels of Fire always has something new happening. The scale is massive and so is the synopsis.

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Our story begins with typical not-Mad-Max archetype, Trace, entering a merchant village. Here we’re introduced to his younger sister, Arlie, and her annoying, controlling boyfriend. In the first five minutes, Arlie’s boyfriend fights in a gladiatorial arena where contestants wear car keys around their necks and beat each other with PVC pipes. Don’t think about it too much. It doesn’t matter. Continue reading

Smegma Crazies, Gayboys, and The Golden Youth

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On the surface, The Road Warrior is a fine action movie that defined the post-apocalyptic genre and put everyone involved on the map. If we put aside the action and go a little deeper, we start to see some interesting clues about the Humungus tribe. As we already saw with Lord Humungus and especially Fury Road, George Miller loves adding cryptic details into his films. Perhaps the most discussed and yet mysterious of these details revolves around the Humungus tribe’s not-so-subtle homoeroticism.

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The Little Details That Make Mad Max Great

The Mad Max game (2015) is loaded with small details that make the world feel like a living breathing entity. The wasteland is full of lore and history which shows in every area. Everything in the environment was placed with gentle care. Quest items are hinted at through decorations in the world. To illustrate this, I’ve collected the top five small details that make Mad Max great.

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  1. Thrall Rustlers: Slavery plays a big part in the wasteland. A handful of main characters are slaves. Nearly every camp has slave cages. The player hears a lot of discussion about the slave trade, yet there aren’t slave caravans or opportunities to free slaves in the game. What there is however, is a very interesting idea.
    They only appear in one mission before Max wipes them out, but the Thrall Rustlers have a very cool concept. A slaving guild that only kidnaps people with strange deformities or useful skills. Had this been developed a bit more, this could have been an impressive faction.
    For the Thrall Rustlers quest, I would have enjoyed seeing Max use Chumbucket as bait (since he is a renowned mechanic with a deformity), then follow the slavers to their hideout. This would also better establish the relationship between Max and Chum. There was a lot of opportunity in this quest for something really interesting, if only it had been given an extra push.

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Show, Don’t Tell: Scarcity in Mad Max

Resource management is nothing new to video games. Survival games and RPGs have had players carefully manage their supplies for over a decade. However, Mad Max (2015) took that concept and ran it in a completely new direction. In the Mad Max franchise, the oceans have dried up, crops have withered, and the great machine of society has sputtered until it finally ground to a halt. The future belongs to those who control the last precious drops of water and guzzolene. By giving glimpses of a backstory and making resource management an integral part of the gameplay, Mad Max makes players fear scarcity both in the game and reality.

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In Mad Max, the player can only be healed by drinking water or eating food. Water is kept in an accessible canteen, but food can only be used once and always consists of either wild animals, canned dog food, or corpse maggots. Since the local warlord has deployed hundreds of his men into the dried seabed, Max will need to heal quite often. This gives the player a sense of risk over reward: they could waste their precious water to heal or they could explore the enemy camp a bit longer and hope they find some food before a murderous war-boy finds them. Continue reading

The Complexity of Lord Humungus

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 The Lord Humungus is a perfect example of how an outwardly one-dimensional villain can become human through small details. Looking at The Road Warrior’s script, one would get the impression that Lord Humungus is just a means of creating conflict, but the visual medium of film allows this character to become two dimensional. Cleverly, director George Miller planned for this from the beginning by writing backstories for each character in the Mad Max franchise. Continue reading

How Mad Max 2 Defined a Genre

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How can you talk about post-nuclear fiction without talking about Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior? Director George Miller set the tone of an entire genre with his high octane sequel, but the truth is that Mad Max 2 is not a post-nuclear film. The first two films showcased crumbling and inevitable downfall of society, but it was not until Beyond Thunderdome that the theme of post-nuclear survival came into play.

The original Mad Max chronicled the downfall of society. Gang members from the dying cities fled into the Australian outback, feasting on their fellow men while cops tried to uphold some semblance of law.  There was no mention of radiation, mutation, or fallout.  Likewise, the opening narration of Mad Max 2 did not include any mention of nuclear weapons either, but rather, “Without fuel they (the great tribes) were nothing. They build a house of straw. The thundering machine sputtered and stopped”.  Originally, the world of Mad Max was about an energy crises that caused all cities to stop and fall apart. The Road Warrior follows up on that, showing what happens after society has collapsed. Continue reading