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Mad Max Anthology (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film: Mad Max
The Film: Road Warrior
The Film: Beyond Thunderdome
The Film: Fury Road
The Video (Overall): Mad Max
The Video (Overall): Road Warrior
The Video (Overall): Beyond Thunderdome
The Video (Overall): Fury Road
HDR Effect: Mad Max
HDR Effect: Road Warrior
HDR Effect: Beyond Thunderdome
HDR Effect: Fury Road
The Audio: Mad Max
The Audio: Road Warrior
The Audio: Beyond Thunderdome
The Audio: Fury Road
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

George Miller's high octane dystopian franchise gets a great visual upgrade to 4K.

George Miller’s (Happy Feet) Australian sci-fi icon Mad Max started with the under the radar, small budget film by the same name that introduced its American-born star Mel Gibson to the world. A gritty, near-future, dystopian action flick set in the Australian outback about a law enforcer with frenzied car chases, and practical visual effects, the film not only changed the perception of the Australian film industry, it changed Hollywood. When Max Rockatansky (Gibson), kills an escaped prisoner called Nightrider, he comes up against a gang of ruthless bikers who terrorize his friends and his family. It sets him off on a violent path of revenge – and Mad Max is born. Miller brilliantly uses the barren and bleak landscape of the outback to portray a post-apocalyptic dystopian future and the car chases are a must for gearheads. The film was a big hit in Australia, but a dumbed-down, North American English dub that even replaced the voice of American-born Gibson crippled it in the American market.

Mad Max 2 AKA The Road Warrior is the film that cemented the Mad Max franchise as a worldwide phenomenon. Originally named Mad Max 2, but renamed The Road Warrior for the U.S. market, since virtually no one outside of Australia was familiar with the original, George Miller tackled the film almost as if it weren’t even a sequel. Vaster in its scope, with audacious costumes, even faster action sequences, and more outrageous villains, this one finds Max in the vast post-nuclear wasteland helping a gasoline-rich way station fend off a band of violent bandits out for blood. One need not have seen the original film to get lost in this world of strange, over-the-top characters, and Gibson as Max Rockatansky is just as cool, cynical, and detached as ever.

Finally, we get to 1985, and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. By this time, the franchise was an established box office smash, guaranteed to fill cinemas, and it was on a steady clip of outdoing the previous film in scale. Beyond Thunderdome includes Tina Turner (who was on top of the world in the 80s, at the height of her comeback) as a massive post-apocalyptic city’s tyrannical leader. After a fight to the death in the town’s coliseum-like Thunderdome doesn’t go as he arranged with the Queen, he is banished to the desert wasteland, where he is rescued by a tribe of feral children. The least effective and the most commercial of the three films, Beyond Thunderdome still has the signature look of the previous films in the series, but lacks a lot of the intensity, and many of the characters are too much like comic book sketches, rather than iconic villains. Turner does her best but lacks the acting chops to pull off her role.

It took writer/director George Miller a decade to finally get this reboot of the post-apocalyptic action franchise Mad Max onto the big the screen, and it was more than worth waiting for.

The fourth in the series, Mad Max: Fury Road is a kinetic amusement park ride that does away with much of the exposition in favor of constant motion and wild action. After a brief prologue with Max (Tom Hardy, Locke, The Dark Night Rises) explaining how the world was devastated by a Nuclear disaster and become a vast desert wasteland, with warring factions at odds in the fight over water, fuels, and food, we are quickly taken into the action. Max is captured by a group of albino mutants known as War Boys, servants of the despotic King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Taken back to Immortan Joe’s camp, The Citadel, Max is labelled a universal blood donor and hooked up as a “blood bag” for a half-dying War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Meanwhile, the hardened war machine driver Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Prometheus), one of Immortan’s trusted lieutenants, is being sent on a mission to a nearby town for much-needed fuel and food.

Unbeknownst to Immortan, however, Furiosa has smuggled out his five young wives and plans to leave the Citadel with them for good. The five wives, Toast the Knowing (Zoë Kravitz), The Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), Capable (Riley Keough), The Dag (Abbey Lee), and Cheedo the Fragile (Courtney Eaton) – who had been held by Immortan as sex slaves, kept away from the outside world, but also treated to the best food, water, and shelter in is hope of having a disease-free male heir – have no desire to return to the Citadel, and also want Immortan dead. If any of them return, they will be raped and killed for betraying him. A chase ensues, and once he gets free from Nux, Max joins Furiosa and the five wives in their daring race across the wastelands to get away from Immortan.

Again, the plot does take a backseat to the chaotic action and almost lunacy that is this film, but there is so much to take in here, it doesn’t quite matter. Miller’s world is extremely detailed and vast. There’s also definite undercurrent of feminism running throughout the film, such as the emphasis on the importance of “mother’s milk,” the search for independence of the five wives, and the “many mothers” of Furiosa’s place of birth. But also, the very fact that, although this is nominally a Mad Max film, it is Charlize Theron as the wholly independent, badass Furiosa that steals the whole film from the somewhat reserved Tom Hardy.

These things, and the insanity of the production designs, things out of place like a rock guitarist leading the charge of the War Boys or aerial acrobatics like a post-apocalyptic Cirque du Soleil during the chase sequences that just get your blood pumping make this a spectacle like no other.

The Video

Each film is framed at 2.40:1 and mastered in HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) with HDR10. Warner Bros.  says The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome are from scans of the original camera negatives with the 4K UHD remasters supervised by the mastering team at Motion Picture Imaging (MPI).

Mad Max has a MaxLL of 3963 nits and a MaxFALL of 168 nits. It has been previously available in 4K digitally and on disc from Kino Lorber. The image is a wonderful upgrade from the previous Blu-ray release, with tighter grain structure, more extended details, and good shadow details that offer a three-dimensional appearance in the darker scenes. The earth tones and primaries of the cars from the wide color gamut with better gradations so their appearance is less monotone and pop more against the backgrounds.

The Road Warrior has a MaxLL of 940 and MaxFALL of 169. With a larger budget and bigger look than the first film, this one stands out even more on 4K than the original film in this franchise and the desert settings gain a lot from the HDR’s wide color gamut, offering up a more dimensional palette versus the flatter appearance of the original Blu-ray release. Thunderdome (MaxLL 1186/MaxFALL 161) has a similar look to The Road Warrior and a grander production scale again. It has fine grain structure and natural flesh tones with solid black levels.

In all three of the original trilogy there are spots where some heightened grain is apparent, this is likely a consequence of the in-camera effects and the dupe process of the times, not because of errors in the encodement or transfer. Overall, these look great, which brings us to Fury Road (MaxLL 9919/MaxFALL 3242). It was shot at 2.8K and uses a 2K digital intermediate. Despite not being native 4K, this still stands as one of the best early reference 4K UHD disc releases out there, with spectacular specular highlights in the various flames, even more so than the previous three films here, which also have some beautiful highlights. The colors in Fury Road really ‘pop’ and the detail is downright three-dimensional.

The Audio

Audio for all films except Mad Max is Dolby Atmos, with Mad Max maintaining its original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The mastering for the Atmos mixes is a solid upgrade over the Blu-rays’ 5.1, as the low-end has better oomph and the high frequencies are scaled back just a bit and are therefore less fatiguing on the ears. Road Warrior has the best mix out of the three classic films, with good spread of sounds across the front and atmospherics in the surrounds and heights with some occasional discrete effects hitting the surrounds and height channels, and some overhead movement. Thunderdome comes in a close second but is a little bit less active and leans more toward atmospherics, however it also seems to present the score more beautifully in the soundstage than either of the first two films. The 5.1 mix for the first film I found to sound a bit cluttered and sometimes unintelligible, but that is more a consequence of the low budget and technology of the time than the mix. The biggest issue out of these three mixes is that Road Warrior suffers clipping/distortion in the dialogue in certain areas that is not present on the Blu-ray. You can check this if you go to approximately the 00:54:00 mark through 00:58:00 on the 4K disc and check it against the Blu-ray.

Fury Road still stands out as the absolute reference of the bunch for obvious reasons. Right from the beginning, with Max’s stentorian voice in the center and other voices panned through the room, you know you’re in for a ride. It has big terrestrial bass and lots of dynamic range.

The Supplements

Movies Anywhere digital codes for each film are provided, but the lack of major bonus features beyond one audio commentary and a couple of archival port-overs is disappointing.

The Road Warrior:

  • Introduction by Leonard Maltin (1080p; 00:03:35)
  • Road War: The Making of The Road Warrior (1080p; 00:48:53)
  • Commentary by George Miller and Dean Semler

The Final Assessment

A fantastic upgrade for this set apart from one glaring audio defect in one spot.

Mad Max Anthology is out on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray November 16, 2021 from Warner Bros.


  • Rating Certificate: R | PG-13
  • Studios & Distributors: Kennedy Miller Productions | Mad Max Films | Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
  • Director: George Miller
  •  Street Date: 16 November 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: HDR10
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | English Dolby Atmos
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George Miller's high octane dystopian franchise gets a great visual upgrade to 4K.Mad Max Anthology (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)
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