Four decades later, George Miller's Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior remains a super-charged suicide machine, splattering the silver screen with bloody vengeance, modified-car mayhem, and a bleak vision of a post-apocalyptic future. Celebrating its 40th Anniversary, the beloved post-apocalyptic actioner hits the Ultra HD road, driven by a jaw-droppingly gorgeous 4K video presentation, a souped-up Dolby Atmos track and one new retrospective worth checking out. In the end, this UHD edition is a most definitely Highly Recommended addition to the library.
After the success of the first movie, George Miller continued his dystopian vision of humanity's western-themed future in Mad Max 2, which was retitled The Road Warrior in the U.S. so as not to cause confusion during its original theatrical run. Picking up some years after the events of the first movie, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) wanders the desert landscapes of Australia in his modified Ford Falcon XB GT, battling other ruthless road bandits in search of gasoline. The experience of losing his family and best friend has hardened our former MFP officer. He's become a callous survivalist, resorting to kidnapping and shrewd dealings, as in the case of the kooky, somewhat off-kilter Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), who eventually surprises as a resourceful ally in Max's yet-unrealized quest for redemption and purpose.
Since last we saw, society has degraded and spiraled into an anarchic existence of foragers due to civilization's dependency on the now extremely-rare fossil fuels. The battle between a small band of settlers led by an idealistic Pappagallo (Michael Preston) safeguarding one of the few remaining oil refineries and a large gang of vicious marauders led by the captivatingly memorable "The Humungus" (Swedish Olympic weightlifter Kjell Nilsson) best encompasses this struggle for maintaining some semblance of social order versus reverting to animal-like indifference and brutish savagery. The settlers' goal is to gather enough gasoline for their travel north, but the Humungus and his cruel, Mohawk-haired dog of war Wez (Vernon Wells) deny them safe passage. Another interesting comparison worth noting is the settlers' family-sized vehicles which are arguably more fuel-efficient as opposed to the gang's gas-guzzlers.
The plot's western frontier theme is brought to a head when Gibson's seemingly cold-hearted and detached Max is soon tasked with sticking his neck out for the safety of the settlers. Taking a page directly from Italian westerns, Miller has his morally-ambiguous, ronin-type protagonist journey through his self-defined sense of ethics, justice and rugged individualism. After a gravely severe beating, Max soon becomes the reluctant archetypal hero worth celebrating and admiring, discovering that doing something for the greater good doesn't imply abandoning one's true self. A bit more polished and refined than its predecessor, Mad Max 2 is a wildly imaginative epic of thrills-a-minute action spectacular, long before CGI became commonplace. Forty years later, Max continues to rule the post-apocalyptic road as the definitive "Road Warrior."
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Warner Home Video brings George Miller's Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a Digital Copy code. When redeeming said code, users are granted access to the 4K UHD version in Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 copy, and both are housed inside the standard black, eco-elite keepcase with a glossy slipcover and new artwork. At startup, the disc goes straight to a silent, static menu screen with the new artwork and the usual options along the bottom.
UPDATE 12/3/2021: Here are the instructions for the disc replacement program for this solo release of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and the Mad Max Anthology sets per WB's official statement on the matter:
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has taken immediate steps to correct the unintentional audio file error on Mad Max 2 The Road Warrior and Mad Max Anthology 4K UHD products. The company has recalled all inventory currently in stores and the manufacturing of new discs has begun. Replacement discs will be made available for consumers who purchased the affected product. Due to concurrent supply chain delays, replacement product will become available in mid-January. For more information and to receive a replacement disc, please contact customer support at [email protected].
The classic post-apocalyptic actioner hits the Ultra HD road, driven by a jaw-droppingly gorgeous HEVC H.265 encode, which was struck from a brand-new restoration and remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives. Overall definition and resolution is miles ahead of its Blu-ray predecessor, looking significantly sharper for a majority of the runtime while exposing the discrete details, minute scratches and tiniest spots of rust in all the vehicles. We can plainly make out the individual pebbles of the desert roads and ground, the small fissures in the rock formations and all the minute cracks in Max's leather jacket.
Of course, the native 4K transfer does come with its fair share of blurriness and a few out-of-focus shots, which seem to stand out more at higher resolution, but they are easily forgiven as inherent to the original photography and the condition of the elements. Of bigger concern are the few nighttime sequences where the grain is suddenly heavier and more pronounced due to the low-lighting conditions, namely the scene of Max sneaking out the compound to his Ford Falcon in the middle of the night. As part of the restoration effort, it appears digital noise reduction (DNR) was applied to the scene and excessively so. The scene now appears much-too smooth, sterile and somewhat flat, which when combined with the aforementioned inherent softness of the photography, also makes the action seem rather waxen. Thankfully, this is neither a problem with the rest of the video nor as egregious in other nighttime scenes, but it's bad enough to bring the overall quality down a few notches.
Otherwise, the encode is really phenomenal, and the source appears to be in excellent condition, maintaining vivid, spot-on contrast balance and radiant, pitch-perfect whites. This is best appreciated in the daylight sequences with the people of the compound where we can distinctly make out the different shades in their outfits and plainly see into the far distance of the desert landscapes. Meanwhile, the crisp, resplendent specular highlights furnish the many metallic surfaces, from the vehicles and machinery of the compound to Humungus's mask and Feral Kid's boomerang, with a realistic sheen. At the same time, they supply the fluffy clouds in the sky with a beaming glow and a tight, narrow bloom in the headlights without ruining or engulfing the finer details. There are even several looking-out-the-window moments worth appreciating throughout, particularly some of the extreme wide shots of the landscape.
The HDR10 presentation also enjoys remarkably improved brightness levels, bathing much of the action in rich, ebony blacks that range from the faded, charcoal-shade of Max's jacket to the matte-black and obsidian paint jobs of several vehicles. Delineation within the velvety, inky shadows remains a bit average but slightly stronger than before, maintaining relatively good visibility within the darkest, murkiest moments. Arguably, the biggest and most appreciable improvement is the color palette, especially the primaries showering the daylight exteriors in spirited cerulean blue skies and sumptuous crimson reds in either the blood or some articles of clothing.
Likewise, secondary hues are far more full-bodied and animated than its HD SDR counterpart, such as the Gyro Captain's fuschia pink sneakers, the lilac purple scarves of a couple people from the compound, the rich fiery orange plumes of the massive explosion and the deeper, rosewood-reddish tones of the desert. Facial complexions also appear healthier and more natural to the extreme hot climate, giving the cast a more appealing sunburnt and peachy quality while still revealing individual pores, wrinkles and tiny negligible blemishes. Overall, this is the best the classic actioner has ever looked in any format. (HDR10 Video Rating: 88/100)
[Note: This portion of the review reflects our thoughts on the new Atmos audio track only]
The sequel roars into home theaters fueled by a high-octane, terrifically satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack that just outpaces its DTS-HD Master Audio predecessor. The upgrade is not exactly a leaps and bounds improvement, particularly in the surround or ceiling channels, but the front-heavy presentation now enjoys a wider and fuller sense of presence without feeling artificial or forced.
Imaging feels splendidly broad and spacious as various noises in the background, especially the revving engines racing across the desert in the distance, effortlessly travel between the three channels and into the off-screen space with some echoing effect in the top heights, creating a lively and engaging half-dome soundstage. An impressive mid-range maintains exceptional definition and separation even during the loudest segments, allowing for the metal-on-metal mayhem to come off clean and distinct. Brian May's score also benefits from the upgrade with better depth and warmth in the orchestration. All the while, the dialogue is excellently prioritized and precise in the center while the low end adds a heftier, more palpable weight to the explosive visuals, especially in the booming roar of the grossly modified, high-powered engines.
On the whole, much of the design's presence is maintained across the screen with the surround and ceiling channels being relatively silent, but a few atmospherics occasionally bleed into the sides and overheads with appreciable directionality. If it's not the echo from the loud engines or vehicles racing from one side of the room to the other during a few action sequences, then it's the debris from the car crashes or the explosion of the compound flying in every direction and blades of the Gyro Captain's rapidly turning directly above the listening area. Such minor moments nicely expand the soundfield and make for a fantastic listening experience to a beloved entry in the series. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 82/100)
For this UHD edition, the same set of bonuses are ported over and shared with the accompanying Blu-ray disc, but Warner Bros. now throws in a retrospective to tempt fans.
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior roared into cinemas like a fuel-injected suicide machine, splattering the silver screen with bloody vengeance, modified-car mayhem, and a bleak vision of a post-apocalyptic future. Super-charged and revving with wild stunt spectaculars, George Miller continued the lone adventures of a now-apathetic road warrior with a sequel that satisfies audiences' lust for action and adventure with a hero we will gladly cheer for. Celebrating its 40th Anniversary, the beloved post-apocalyptic actioner hits the 4K Ultra HD road, driven by a jaw-droppingly gorgeous HDR10 video presentation and an excellent, souped-up Dolby Atmos soundtrack, giving fans a fantastic upgrade over previous HD SDR models. With one new bonus thrown into the mix, this UHD edition is a most definitely highly recommended addition to the library.
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