Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Directed by George Miller
For breakfast lunch: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw
Yes, I like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, more than Mad Max in fact. It’s fun, it has a sense of humor, and the action is enjoyable. Come on, who doesn’t love Master Blaster or Tina Turner?! After our hero’s truck and camels are stolen in the middle of the desert, he ends up at the human outpost called Bartertown. It’s a seedy place where the surface is run by Aunty Entity and the methane refinery underneath is run by Master Blaster. Max unknowingly helps Aunty overthrow Master Blaster allowing her to take over the whole of Bartertown and is once again left for dead in the desert. It’s here where the film seems to take a slight detour.
Max ends up in this oasis community filled with children who survived a plane crash some years ago. They desperately cling to any memories they have of civilization and they believe that Max is their long lost savior “Captain Morgan” who has come to take them home. It’s honestly not as bad as it sounds, it’s a little on the lighthearted side, but the first two films aren’t exactly something I take seriously. Besides, a lot of films took a turn for the childish in the ’80s (I’m looking at you Return of the Jedi and Temple of Doom), so it’s no surprise that this series followed suit, especially after the success of The Road Warrior and that freaky little kid.
Our reluctant hero and savior does end up helping these children and righting his wrongs at Bartertown in the process. It wraps things up neatly, but still leaves Max’s future to ambiguity as it shows him wandering alone through the desert with his symbolic staff. Maybe not the best they could have done to cap off the series, but it works for me.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
For breakfast: French Toast
Well, this is a definite improvement from the disappointment that was Escape From the Planet of the Apes, but I don’t know that that really says much. 20 years have passed and the plague has wiped out the cat and dog populations, just like Cornelius and Zira warned. Humans initially adopted apes as their new friends, but when they realized that the apes could be taught, they quickly turned them into slaves. Caesar, baby Milo all grown up, finds himself in the ape conditioning facility and his anger towards the humans builds. When a tragedy pushes him over the edge, he organizes the apes and leads the revolt to take back the planet.
While the film certainly follows the storyline of the series, I find myself disconnected by the implausability of it all. I have no problem with a planet inhabited by apes, a super-intelligent race of humans that worship a bomb, or even the apes in modern day New York; but the 20 year jump that has humans happily enslaving primates in an almost fascist society is a little bit too much for me. On the other hand, it does help to justify the apes’ treatment of humans in the future, which I always felt was a tad excessive, so I can’t fault it for that. I just can’t help but feel that most of the social relevence has been lost over the years.
Mad Max (1979)
Directed by George Miller
For breakfast: Bacon, Eggs, & English Muffins
I did things sort of backwards. I saw Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome first when I was a kid, then some years later I got around to The Road Warrior. It’s only recently that I saw the film that started it all and after watching it again I feel even more strongly about the problems I have with it. Mainly the fact that it’s just plain not interesting for the first 3/4 of the movie. It basically serves as a set up for the character of Max going into the far superior sequel. Such a setup is pretty unnecessary for the series since it doesn’t offer any more depth into the post-apocalyptic world and all of Max’s backstory is frankly kind of boring.
Personally I appreciate the vagueness of the history of this world, and while you do get more information in the other films, they don’t feel the need to spell it out for you. This is one of those instances where I’m definitely more appreciative of what the filmmakers were able to accomplish on such little money than I am with the film itself. Besides, without it we wouldn’t have an awesome sequel or a cheesy but fun sequel to the sequel (with Tina Turner!).
Directed by David Lynch
For breakfast: Biscuits and Gravy
David Lynch’s Dune is an ambitious yet flawed adaptation of the classic book. Thankfully I’ve never finished reading said book, so I don’t really notice the supposed shortcomings of the film in comparison. If you come at this from the perspective of it being a David Lynch film I think you will appreciate it more than as a serious adaptation of Herbert’s novel. (Just like Superman III is actually a fun and entertaining Richard Pryor movie that just happens to have Supes in it.) For me this is Lynch staying true to form with his surreal, nightmarish imagery and his grotesque characters. The sets are amazing and the transfer on the HD DVD really brings out the intricacies and detail of the design. My biggest problem is that it was made during the infancy of computerized special effects, so it utilizes the technology before it was really up to par. There aren’t many scenes that use these effects, but the ones that do are distracting. The miniatures and rear projection (blue screen?) look far better and fit in with the rest of the film.
Lynch’s go to guy of the ’80s, Kyle MacLachlan, does a solid job as Paul Atreides as he is faced with his destiny as the messiah. The supporting cast is worth mentioning as well and includes a lot of familiar faces (Sting, Sean Young, Patrick Stewart, Jurgen Prochnow, Virginia Madsen, and the great Max von Sydow among others). Maybe it’s just me, but von Sydow’s mere presence tends to immediately improve the quality of a film, just look at Flash Gordon. Kenneth McMillan is vile and disgusting as the villain Baron Harkonnen which contrasts well with the elegance of the Atreides and the Emperor. While there are noticeable segments where the film obviously skips a lot of ground covered by the book (like an entire two year war), it still works for the film but is nonetheless a little humorous. The fact that the music was scored by Toto is pure awesome, even if they do get a little overzealous with the rock guitar. As much as I love Lynch and his vision of Dune, it would have been amazing to see Jodorowsky realize his 10 hour epic with Salvador Dali as the Emperor, Pink Floyd providing the score, H.R. Giger designing, and Dan O’Bannon heading the special effects. Now that would have been something.
Directed by Andrew Stanton
For breakfast: Pete’s Kitchen
I wasn’t as enamored with this as everyone else when I first saw it in the theater. I thought it was a cute and touching film that was beautifully animated and a great first half. The heavy handedness that follows is frustrating because everything leading up to that point is pitch perfect. WALL·E has the charm and quirk of Chaplin and Stanton gives his vision of the future a nice touch of classic Hollywood. Unfortunately this all starts to get lost in the message they feel the need to pound into the viewer.
I feel pretty much the same after watching it again. However, this time I was able to ignore those problems and see some of the subtleties that are in there. It also helps that it looks stunning on what is one of the best Blu-ray presentations I’ve seen. The animation is so detailed and emotional that it really brings the environment and characters (the robots anyway) to life. It’s still in my top 10 of the year, but I don’t think certain things will ever stop bugging me.