Filmsite Movie Review
The Road Warrior (1982) (aka Mad Max 2 (1981))
Pages: (1) (2)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Max's Return of the Big Rig to the Compound:

That night, Max stealthily crept away on foot from the compound with his dog - but stumbled in the darkness, and the noise alerted the Marauders in an encampment nearby. Fortuitously, the Feral Kid - who was trailing Max - perfectly imitated the call of a coyote and calmed the suspicions of one gang member.

Max continued on and by dawn had reached the cliffside promontory with five gallons of diesel fuel and some high-octane gasoline, carried in four jerry cans hoisted and evenly suspended across his shoulders on a pole. He discovered that his prisoner, the shackled Gyro Captain, had disappeared, but found him closeby dragging the heavy wooden log that he was attached to. In place of the log, the Gyro Captain was given the gas cans to carry.

During the trek, the Gyro Captain could be heard muttering (almost unintelligibly) in a one-sided conversation with himself about past civilized comforts before dystopic disorder took over:

"You know what I miss most of all? Clean women. Nail polish, perfume, the smell of bicycle seats, cocktails...desserts, lingerie. Oh, remember lingerie?"

After arriving at the copter, Gyro noticed that one of his trained lethal snakes had struck again and he gloated over a dead man's corpse - and then declared he would cook the dead snake for a nutritious dinner - much healthier than Max's dog food:

"I knew it, I knew it would work. Lethal! Lethal these snakes. Born killers....(To Max's dog) It's my snake! I trained it. I'm gonna eat it! So find your own! Get! Get out of it! (To Max) I got a recipe for snake. Delicious. Fricassee of reptile....Better than your dog food!...Pure protein, minerals, vitamins. A man's gotta look after himself. Healthy mind, healthy body, dog....You are what you eat, I reckon."

Quizzically, he insulted the Road Warrior (and his dog) for their appearance: "You two oughta take a look in the mirror some time. No style, no taste." Meanwhile, Max was scavenging through the dead man's pants, finding two items:

  • a single dice (a symbol of chance or luck)
  • a necklace constructed of spark plugs and bone
  • a shot-gun shell

Max discarded the first two items and kept the shell. Then, the two flew in the copter to the battered big rig-truck - to fill it - before Max drove the truck back to the compound. The still-shackled Gyro Captain wondered if he would be left to die in the outback: "What about me? You're not gonna leave me here, are ya?"; Max tossed him the keys: "Do what you want," and then drove away in the big rig - outfitted with a massive cowcatcher mounted on its front grill. As he pulled away and disappeared into the distance, the Gyro Captain suggested that they could work together:

"We're partners! You and me, we're partners! Partners!"

The Gyro Captain proved himself when he followed after max in the copter and helped to create a diversion during their return, when Max was being pursued by Wez and other Marauders. Max was able to successfully steer the truck, driving at full-throttle, through the gang's camp, even plowing through a tent where two lovers (Anne Jones and James McCardell) were in the midst of sexual intercourse. The Gyro Captain helped by dropping a snake onto one member of Humungus' gang from his Gyro-copter. However, the big-rig was substantially crippled and barely made it back inside the compound, with blown tires and a damaged radiator (due to Humungus' revolver blast). (Later, it was determined by the Mechanic that the truck needed major repairs - a cracked timing case cover, broken teeth off the timing gear, a damaged radiator core, a cracked water pump, and a fractured injector line.)

Wez was able to wrestle with Max in the cab, and briefly entered into the compound on the back of the rig where he caused tremendous havoc (and brutally murdered one of the colonists after a vicious head-butt), while the rest of the gang tried but failed to break through the gate (a flame-thrower incinerated a pink 1959 DeSoto). During the conflict and defense of the gate, Papagallo (while manning a flame-thrower) was wounded - shot with a crossbow-arrow in the leg. After the gyrocopter landed in the midst of the colony, the Gyro Captain was regarded as a hero, and he took advantage of his newfound status by befriending a pretty young blonde, blue-eyed girl (Arkie Whiteley). However, he cautioned others to not touch his copter: ("It's a precision instrument") and shooed away the Feral Kid who noticed the resemblance between the copter blade and his own boomerang. Again, the Feral Kid attempted to follow and walk in Max's heroic footsteps. Max shied away from the glorified attention and asserted that he had no further interest in helping the colonists: "I'm leaving."

Humungus was incensed by the colonists' resistance. As he mumbled incomprehensibly and swore to himself in the darkness, he retaliated by torturing and killing their hostages by crucifying them and lighting them on fire within view of the compound. He announced he would seek revenge:

"You have defied me! You will know the vengeance of The Lord Humungus! I promise you, nobody, nobody gets out of here alive!"

Then he ranted and raved during the nightmarish torture scene, until dawn approached.

[Note: It was thought that he was reciting from memory a 18th century poem by German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, entitled "Der Erlkönig," about a dying son as his father raced him to the doctor in a horse and carriage. The son complained about the attack of unseen forces before expiring.]

As preparations were made for the morning's departure, the Gyro Captain and the young girl snuck away to his gyrocopter to escape together, but at the last minute, the female turned back and became overwrought with fear - she decided that she couldn't abandon and desert her colonist family: "It just seems really wrong sneaking away like this....This is my family. .l'm not gonna leave these people. I'm staying. I'm sorry."

Pappagallo's Confrontation with Mad Max:

On the other hand by contrast, Max was anxious to leave. Pappagallo approached Max with another proposition: "Look, I don't have time for long speeches, I want you to drive the tanker." The psychologically-scarred Max refused to drive the truck to the coast: "I'm sorry. We had a contract. I kept my part of the bargain." He then claimed: "Got all I need here," prompting a serious discussion between the two of them about their contrasting futures. Pappagallo tried to dissuade him:

"You don't have a future. I could offer you that. Rebuild our lives. Max, buy a ticket for 2,000 miles."

Curmedgeon displayed a multi-paneled set of post-cards: "You have to come, sonny. This is where we're going. Paradise! 2,000 miles from here. Fresh water, plenty of sunshine. Nothing to do but breed."

Pappagallo asked what Max truly wanted in life, why he wouldn't drive the tanker, and why he was so nihilistic and wounded:

"What is it with you, huh? What are ya looking for? C'mon, Max, everyone's lookin' for something. You happy out there, are you? Eh? Wandering, one day blurring into another? You're a scavenger, Max. You're a maggot. Do you know that? You're livin' off the corpse of the old world. Tell me your story, Max. C'mon. Tell me your story. What burned you out, huh? Kill one man too many? See too many people die? Lose some family?"

(Max flashed an angry glare)

"Oh, so that's it. You lost some family. That make you something special, does it? Hey? Listen to me. (Max punched him) Do you think you're the only one that's suffered? We've all been through it in here, but we haven't given up. We're still human beings, with dignity. But you, you're out there with the garbage. You're NOTHING!"

The Destruction of Max's Interceptor:

Satisfied with his car now filled with petrol ("juice"), Max deserted the colony and drove away from the compound in his Interceptor, but was soon overtaken by Wez (and fellow gang members). Wez was driving Humungus' custom-made, nitrous oxide-equipped car with super-charged power. Wez struck Max's windshield with a piece of pipe, cracked it and limited visibility, and caused Max's vehicle to overturn and roll off the road down an embankment.

Max survived although he was seriously injured, battered, and bloody, and he was able to crawl away and hide behind a nearby rock. As Toadie attempted to siphon gas from his vehicle, another warrior gang member killed Max's dog with a cross-bow arrow and was threatening to kill Max, just as the car's booby-trapped tank exploded. The massive fireball killed Toadie and the gang member who had killed the dog. Assuming that Max was dead, Wez left the crash site: ("It's all over, let's go").

The smoke alerted the Gyro Captain who retrieved the semi-conscious, gravely-wounded Max and brought him back to the compound in the gyro-copter - obviously saving his life.

The Colonists' Escape Plan - Max Volunteered to Drive the Big Rig:

Pappagallo announced the detailed escape plan to the colonists - he would drive the repaired big-rig truck pulling the fuel tanker as a diversion, while the other settlers fled the compound (rigged with explosives) in the opposite direction in a ramshackle convoy (including the school bus and other vehicles). Everyone would rendezvous or converge together at sunset:

"Once you're outside there, split up and go as hard as you can. Now, 200 miles to the north, there's a place with a bridge called Powder River. That's our rendezvous. Give us till sunset. If we haven't made it by then, keep going."

In the next moment, the semi-recovered, still-wounded, bruised and swollen-faced Max stumbled out of the infirmary and with a stunning change of heart, simply announced to everyone:

"If it's all the same to you, I'll drive that tanker...No deals, I want to drive the truck."

Pappagallo asked why he had changed his mind, and Max enigmatically answered: "Believe me, I haven't got a choice." Clearly, Max believed he had no other alternative after losing two prized possessions: his Interceptor and his dog. Zetta (William Zappa) exclaimed: "And how do you think you'll do it? I mean, look at ya. You couldn't even drive a wheelchair!" Pappagallo balked and added: "You should look at yourself, Max: You're a mess," but Max insisted: "Come on, cut the crap! I'm the best chance you've got." Max was handed his sawed-off shotgun and a few shells of ammunition wrapped in a bag - rarely available.

The Film's Centerpiece - The Chase From the Colony:

In the film's exhilarating and fast-paced chase finale (about 13 minutes in length) - an escape attempt, a wounded Max climbed into the cab to drive the semi-trailer Mack truck (pulling the fuel-oil tanker guarded by the Warrior Woman and the Mechanic), with the Feral Kid (who hopped on at the last second) hovering around and inside the cab to be with his hero - Max. Gyro provided air support and Pappagallo drove a souped-up escort vehicle.

[Note: At the time of the film's making, a conglomerate of seven dominant oil companies (Exxon, Chevron, BP, Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Gulf Oil and Texas), was dubbed "The Seven Sisters." A prominent '7 Sisters Petroleum' logo (in red, white, and blue colors) was clearly emblazoned along the length of the oil tanker.]

Immediately outside the gate, Max's weaponry-counterpart Humungus opened up an ornamental gun case and removed a rare weapon from the red felt-lined chest - a scoped, Smith & Wesson .44 caliber Model 29 revolver with a scope and an 8" barrel. [Note: Inside the case was a WWI-era photo of a British military couple, with two silver service medals, two Commonwealth service stars, a large Prussian Totenkopf (skull and crossbones), an Australian Military Forces uniform insignia, and many missing bullets.] He fired at the front grill of the oncoming MACK truck, but the bullets were now ineffective against the metal-plated, protected radiator.

During the sequence on the road outside the compound, Max was pursued and viciously attacked at breakneck speed by a convoy of bizarre vehicles, souped-up cars and motorcycles, and the savage band of punkish desert vandals wearing warpaint.

[Note: The sequence was reminiscent of the chase finale in the classic western Stagecoach (1939) - a pursuit of passengers in a stagecoach by a warring group of Indians.]

The nomadic warriors flung grappling hooks at the truck, and shot arrows from crossbows at it while leaping from vehicle to vehicle, blew some of the tires, while Gyro's fire-bombing gyroplane was hovering above the action with Molotov cocktails. There were numerous crashes and deaths, including Wez's murder of the Warrior Woman with a high-powered, mounted pneumatic-dart weapon/gun. Humungus also killed Pappagallo with a trident-pronged spear hurled into his back, and the leader's car slowly veered off course in a cloud of dust.

In the climax of the chase sequence, Max found himself unable to load his shotgun when the shells went flying. He turned his Mack tanker truck around, and it crashed head-on (similar to medieval jousting) into Lord Humungus' vehicle coming from the other direction -- the collision (while killing Humungus) also simultaneously killed Wez who was clinging to the front fender of the tanker and was smashed between the two vehicles. When Max lost control, the truck and tanker veered down a slight embankment, rolled over onto its side, and plowed into the red earth - miraculously, the Feral Kid and Max survived together as battle companions. While providing air support, the Gyro Captain was shot down and crashed - but also lived. The few remaining bikers left the scene.

The Film's Major Plot Twist:

After the massive destruction of the truck and tanker, in the film's major plot twist, it was revealed that the 40-foot tanker truck - allegedly filled with refined petroleum fuel ("precious juice") that was driven by Max in a breakout drive - had been a decoy as a diversionary tactic and hoax. Unbeknownst to him, his fuel tanker was filled with reddish sand. The gasoline had secretly been hidden in large drums stored in the school bus (and possibly other vehicles in the caravan of colonists), allowing the small band of settlers to ultimately escape to the northern coast (2,000 miles away) in a convoy. The fuel tanker began leaking its cargo - not volatile fuel but sand, and Max held out his hand to catch some of the red dirt.

The Epilogue:

The epilogue was conveyed by the same voice-over from the film's opening (from the Feral Kid, now a grown adult). The Gyro Captain (who succeeded Pappagallo) went North with the settlers as their new leader, and the Feral Kid (the Narrator) with his bladed boomerang eventually became the Chief of the Great Northern Tribe when the Gyro Captain died. The colonists had survived their journey to safety.

The last image of the film (the lone, brooding, and dispirited Road Warrior) was a mirror-image of the opening image - he was seen by the side of the road, next to Pappagallo's vehicle (Max's future vehicle for transport?), watching the colonists drive away to begin a new civilization elsewhere - against a colorful sunset-sky. Obviously, he had been deceived and used as a decoy. A puzzling question remained - did Max refuse an offer to join the colonists, or was he simply left behind?:

"And so began the journey north to safety to our place in the sun. Among us we found a new leader: the man who came from the sky, the Gyro Captain. And just as Pappagallo had planned, we traveled far beyond the reach of men on machines. The juice, the precious juice, was hidden in the vehicles. As for me, I grew to manhood and in the fullness of time, I became the leader the Chief of the Great Northern Tribe. And the Road Warrior? That was the last we ever saw of him. He lives now only in my memories."

Previous Page