Max Rockatansky aka Mad Max

With Mad Max we move to the darker region. You could easily argue that most every anti-hero worth this title abides in the shadow land of the human psyche but it is even more so with Max Rockatansky.

He lost his family, his identity, he even lost his name. He became the Road Warrior, Mad Max.

Few characters have such a turbulent and painful history as Max.

Part One shows us the making of Max. A cop in the post-apocalyptic Australian Outback. Consummate driver with a knack for chasing road gangs in his V8 interceptor. Happily wed and a father of one.

Through a chain of events he is confronted with the death of his partner. His reaction to the that experience is a telling one. In a dialog with his wife Max says:" I can't get it clear in my head... I am trying to put sense to it, when I know there isn't any." That is the reaction of any man to violence and aggression. Try as you may, you just can't make any sense of it.

In the end ensuing showdown with a local gang of biker thugs Max loses his family. Crazed with anguish he embarks on a swift and bloody retribution. He tracks down and kills every gang member. And with every killing he loses a piece of his humanity.

When finally the last gang member lies at his feet begging for mercy Max presents him with a gruesome choice worthy of a Jacobean tragedy of revenge.

Max chains him to a car which he rigged to explode and gives him a hacksaw. Either he will saw through the hand-cuff, which will take some doing, or he will saw through the ankle, which will arguably take less time and improve his odds.

Part Two shows us how the desolate and hollow Max regains his humanity. But before he succeeds in that he will have to confront himself, the truth about himself.

One of the characters in Part Two gives us a scathing, albeit incomplete, description of Mad Max which ends with the crushing punchline: "You're out there with the garbage. You are nothing."

From that to salvation Max comes through pain and suffering. It is deeply ironic that a man who has lost everything and has severed his ties with mankind should have to go through it all again to get his second chance.

There is something deeply Christ-like in Mad Max's character. Yet one must be careful here. Max's actions remain profoundly ambiguous. He never embraces the truth of "turning the other cheek". The world he lives in is much too corrupt and harsh for that.

But that is not his goal anyway. He is not in a pursuit of absolution, but escape from the past, and revenge. All Max can hope for is that fleeting moment of fulfillment when clutching the wheel of a monster rig, eyes peeled to the dusty highway strewn with wrecked cars and broken bodies, he once again exacts retribution on all those who have hunted him down and hurt him. Max lives up to all our expectations in that climactic moment of the movie.

And yet in his victory is the seed of his defeat. You cannot sow the wind without reaping the whirlwind. Mad Max is stuck in his own grizzly role to the end. He can never leave the tragic path set for him. He can never rejoin the human society again. Or can he?

The follow-up provides an answer to that. Maybe not the one we expected and hoped for, yet a completely coherent answer nonetheless.

Interestingly, in the third part Max strongly resembles another Biblical character, not Christ anymore but Moses, someone who will but catch a glimpse of the promised land though he will never enter it. Somehow that seems to make much more sense than playing at the Christ-like figure.

The Old Testament morality is much more applicable to Max's actions and the harsh realities of the post-apocalyptic world than Christ's teachings. And Max's physique and clothes have gone through such change that the tattered garb he sports in the movie truly resembles the wooly coat of the Biblical fathers. Just as the staff he carries bears unmistakable reference to the shepherd's crozier.

That and the desert setting and the story of the band of abandoned children all point to the tale of Moses and the exodus.

Yet for all the religious symbolism the character still retains a lot of the old rough-and-ready Max Rockatansky. His trial by Thunderdome remains one of the most memorable action sequences ever. His top-notch driving reflexes are still impeccable as we see in one of the closing sequences when he selflessly rams his car into a posse made up of all kinds of vehicles. Or his tough guy's charm. Whenever Auntie Entity struts around the scene you feel there is some odd chemistry going on between the two. She so much as admits it herself at the end of the movie."Ain't we a pair, raggedy man?", she says mockingly to Max, now a broken and helpless enemy, alluding to their business arrangement and clearly reveals more of her innermost feelings than she may have intended to.

Max Rockatansky, great character for a coming-of-age boy that I was during the half-decade in which the Mad Max movies were released. He was the first movie character whose hardships confronted me with the brutality of violence and a deep harrowing sense of loss.

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