Karen: I hadn't even seen Mad Max, even heard of it, when I went to see some weird-looking film called The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2 everywhere but the US) at our local theater in the early summer of 1982. There was this post-apocalyptic, punk vibe to the theater poster that seemed pretty cool. So I went in, knowing next to nothing about it. Then my brain was put in a blender for an hour and a half as all Hell was unleashed. It was truly a revelatory experience, so much so, that I went back to see it over and over again. I soon found a video store in town with a copy of Mad Max and me and my friends rented that repeatedly. We just couldn't get enough of Max and his decimated world.
Karen: The idea of the world coming to an end was not so far-fetched for those of us kids living in the early 80s. After all, it was still the Cold War era, and we'd grown up with the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain as facts of life. My friends and I had been born a year or two late for the Cuban Missile Crisis, but the fear of an atomic war was always with us. I think that's true for all of us born during that era, but the threat of nuclear war was particularly acute for us, as we lived next to an Air Force missile base. We grew up hearing repeatedly about what would happen in an all-out nuclear blitz, with some people sounding almost gleeful about it. Although by '82, we were thinking less perhaps of the 'scorched Earth' vision of Dr. Strangelove that our parents and older siblings knew and more of a gradual decay of civilization as we knew it. We were already seeing signs of it all over the place - we'd had energy crises, a recession, job losses, a nuclear meltdown at Three-Mile Island -heck, if you want to know what was going on, just listen to London Calling by the Clash. And still we worried about our leaders pushing those hot buttons, and speeding things up. That's the the picture The Road Warrior painted for us: society had not been wiped out in a cascade of bombs, but had ground to a halt. The film was so beautifully shot that it also made the end of the world look terrible and yet strangely glorious. And exciting -if you had a car with some juice in it.
Karen: There is a new Mad Max film out now, the first without Gibson. Mad Max:Fury Road, stars Tom Hardy as Max, and seems to fit somewhere in between Mad Max and The Road Warrior (at least, Max still seems to have his Interceptor). Based on trailers, it looks like it has even more spectacular car crashes and stunts than its predecessors, which would seem impossible, but of course anything is possible with CGI. But I wonder if a post-apocalyptic film like this -a film based in a world that has been devastated not by a zombie plague or super-virus but by the very old-sounding threat of global war - can have as much visceral impact as the original Max films once did. I don't think too many people, especially the 16-25 age group, which I am sure the studio wants to pull in for this film, worry too much about a true end of the world. Sure, they probably worry about things that could impact them: economic downturns, natural disasters, maybe the threat of terrorist attacks. But the actual collapse of society? That's got to seem about as realistic today as the plot of the new Jurassic Park movie. So what was once an edgy, almost too-close to reality idea is now just another fantasy for summer. Maybe that's a good thing. But I remember when The Road Warrior was kind of scary and a little thought-provoking. Just like the Clash. But they live now...only in my memories.