Friday, January 16, 2009

Deconstructing The Road Warrior

These are critical points I have about The Road Warrior:

  • How would Wez acquire American football shoulder pads? Unless they are lacrosse pads, perhaps?
  • The old, bearded guy (Curmudgeon is his name?) in the compound is interesting--he can be seen as a time determiner, if he is a World War II veteran, as he appears to be, based on his medals, helmet, and coat. this film then is set in 1990s, 1980s, ~?
  • There is an interesting binary/bipolar opposition established when Wez shoots the rabbit with is wrist-crossbow. None of the war dogs (bad guys) retrieve the dead animal, which would have been more than a decent meal. The bad guys only abuse/exploit nature for their own sadistic and cruel means. This is in contrast to the ways the good guys herd their pigs and chickens, taking care of nature and using natural resources well (animals to eat, fuel to travel to a better place). The good guys protect the fuel because they need it to travel to utopia (compared to the wasteland). The bad guys want the fuel to be able to do more bad things. Undeniably, this action film becomes didactic with the right lens. It makes assertions about how nature ought to be treated. Natural-unnatural, good-evil, white-black binaries
  • Age = wisdom, sometimes or usually. Why are there no old members in the gang led by Humungus? Because they do not value wisdom; they value physical brutality. All the old people in the film have the wisdom to join with Papagallo. Or Papagallo has the wisdom to value them. And why are there no children, though there are women, among Humungus's gang members? Is it like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, in which the babies are made, then eaten? Or maybe the women are "barren" and cannot produce children. Spooky.
  • It's essential that Vernon Wells as Wez is not as muscular as the Toronto Blue Jays outfielder (same name, different guy, obviously). The Australian Vernon Wells could have lifted weights for months in preparation, but then he would have looked too much like Humungus. Humungus needs to be vastly more physically powerful--and is. So, George Miller was proper in making sure Vernon Wells did not lift weights like Kjell Nilsson, who played Humungus. (Humungus is extremely powerful, obviously, especially when he throws his trident at high speeds into Papagallo's shoulder/back--that would take amazing leverage and superhuman strength.)
  • Max is attractive to the warrior woman at the flamethrower because he is physically more attractive and masculine than the other men in the compound; Max would be a great protector and provider. The warrior woman is tough, tall, even masculine, so she simply cannot be with any of the other good guys, who are noticeably dweeby. Old, fat, crippled, or wimpy; all except for Papagallo, who seems married--already taken by--to the utopic ideals of the community ("tribe" is not quite the word for them, somehow; should "tribe" only denote a "savage" bunch? American Indians were not all savage, but were/are called "tribes").
  • The school bus is an ingenious symbol. It separates good from evil as the barrier to the entrance to the good guys' compound. The apt message: without an education, you are banished--you cannot enter civilized discussion because you cannot contribute toward a good cause. The minions of Lord Humungus cannot conceive of a better place, so they want to get the fuel to have more fun, create more mayhem. (As a boy, I could not figure out why they had to have the fuel. I pondered, couldn't they combine forces to get to paradise together? Then I learned how humanity operates. We don't get along like that.)
  • The masks are not on all the bad guys, just on the less significant. George Miller has expertly made sure we do not get to see all the faces of the war dogs. We should not identify too closely with the villains. Their faces help us identify with them. Because we do not see many of their faces, they become "Cop Guy," "Arrow Gun Guy," or "Goateed Mohawk Guy." We do see the faces of Wez, his blond boyfriend, and, though he has a peculiar hat on, The Toadie. We see Toadie's face because he is a prominent actor (the credits list him highly, though he is not a primary character). He has also maintained a little humanity, it seems. Toadie seems to have said, "Can't beat 'em, then join 'em." We need to see Wez's face to witness the rage he possesses; we need to see the boyfriend's face to share the poignant loss Wez feels we need to see the Toadie's face, because he is the one articulate, amusing one left (he is just surviving as a parasite and is never brutal like the rest; and he feels bad to have to punch the screaming good guy, who is strapped to Lord Humungus's vehicle). We also need to see the face of the rapist, who is hanging around the pillage site. No cannibalism is shown in the film, unless this is the reason the rapist remains at the scene alone. Similarly, George Lucas, another great filmmaker, made all the bad guys of Star Wars faceless, even soulless, so movie-goers would go/root against these stormtroopers. It was never a big deal or loss when a stormtrooper was killed, because he/she/it did not have a face. No face takes away the humanness, gender, and other qualities that make us sympathize. Lucas went so far as to make the bad guys clones, then robots--both things humanity has been conditioned to be leary and afraid of. Back to the task: in The Road Warrior, we do not sympathize with the villains, because they do not deserve our sympathy.
  • When Max is returning to the compound with the Mack truck, a couple has a tarp ripped off them as they are being intimate. It is fascinating that these beasts, led by Humungus, still have the decency to need or seek privacy. They are hanging on to a few moral threads. This scene is a revealing one, and it surely did not discourage male viewers from rewatching this film.
  • A point of contention for me has been why the Gyrocaptain calls Max "dishonest" and "low" once he sees Max has never had a functional sawed-off shotgun, because the shells he's been using are, well, shot (or dysfunctionally too old). Most of Max's work with this "dishonest" shotgun has been for "good." He needs the shotgun to thwart Wez in the beginning of the film. Without the shotgun, he does not hold the Gyrocaptain hostage in the back of his car (with Max's dog's help). Without the shotgun, Max does not find the compound that needs him so desperately. Max needs the compound too, to remind him of what is wholesome and decent, though Max is so emotionally barren, he cannot ever fully attach--not to a woman (Warrior Woman), a child (Feral Kid), a peer/friend (Papagallo), a mentor (old WWII guy), a colleague (Mechanic).
  • Interesting that the bad guys are not quite kamikazes. If they were, they could easily get into and conquer the compound.
  • Why hasn't the Gyro Captain joined the compound prior to the film's action? He knows where it is and could fly over the marauders. They have females, which certainly attracts his interest. (He is the lone "family man" left. In Beyond Thunderdome, he has a son, if Bruce Spence's character is the same guy, which, thinking about it, could not possibly be. The Gyro Captain would recognize Max and they would "team up" again, right?)
  • Why does Wez speak a lot when Max crashes? He leaves Max without torturing him? He does not do other bad things to him? One would think that Max has done enough to antagonize Wez, so that Wez would want to exact as much "revenge" on Max as Max could handle before dying. Maybe Wez has been satisfied by being allowed a lot of carnage in the earlier torture scenes?
  • Also, why do the bad guys not persist when the semi crashes? There are enough of them that they could defeat Max and the Feral Kid, easily. Maybe they honor and respect Max enough to let him live? Maybe they are so dejected and lost without Lord Humungus that they "scurry back into their holes" like the vermin they are. They fear and need Humungus to be even a little bit potent.
  • Did Max actually think that there was gasoline in the tanker? He feels the sand pouring out for a long while, which functions to show the viewer what is going on, but also shows Max's lack of awareness. His near-death experience obviously left him relatively witless for a while. These are my musings so far, with the time I have.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Liticism's Purpose

This site will collect what I want to do in class, immediately or eventually. I know criticism of cinema would work well, to replace Pygmalion and Othello: The Moor of Venice. More will be invested by the students if I make these adaptations, undoubtedly. (I also want to connect to a lot extremely scholarly topics, so the motivated of my students can stretch their neurons if they have time.)