Mad Max was kind of first in a lot of ways. 15 or so minutes in and you have no idea what's going on, it's just random people talking and you haven't met Max yet, and you really aren't sure what the movie is going to be about. The fact is that this movie doesn't look post-apocalyptic. There is no dialogue about an apocalypse, there are still society implementations in place, and Max himself is a police officer, police being the very symbol of society. I was watching it with my wife, and her pointing this out actually got me really confused, as I started to wonder if I rented the right movie.
The movie moves along at it's own pace, and it establishes the hell out of Max being a good family man, and the villain Toecutter being a depraved human being. I wonder if this movie was originally made to be post-apocalyptic at all- perhaps it was just supposed to be another place, another time. I feel like writers are blocked in a way by forcing themselves to say "well it has to take place on Earth and so therefore in order for this movie to happen it would have to happen after the apocalypse". Just have it take place somewhere else! Like in this movie, they never establish it is in fact post-apocalyptic, but people probably questioned, "well, where is the rest of the police force, why don't they call in the SWAT team or whatever Australia has?" and then the writers were forced to say that it was post-apocalypse.
Anyways, whatever. Mad Max is pretty slow. I realized that while watching it. 1 hour 33 minutes long and well over an hour is just Mad hanging out with his family, some pretty tame villainy on the part of Toecutter, and nothing much else. Then at about an hour and 5, Max's wife runs into Toecutter and gang, she pisses them off, and they begin to chase her. They follow her, kidnap her and Max's baby, and then eventually they run both of them over on their motorcycles. Then it's the story of Mad Max's revenge.
The movie was still revolutionary, it was the first true like post-apocalyptic wasteland type film (despite the fact there is no wasteland in the film). It was great in it's depiction of the depravity of mankind, and of the story of revenge. Max was a true revolutionary hero, a dark hero that was a cop gone bad but for the right reasons. The final 30 minutes is a great sequence and pretty unforgettable. The movie has great production value, amazing cinematography, and it all makes sense, that's the best part.
It's hard for me to agree upon a rating for this. It's not aged very well, especially that first hour where nothing happens. That was painful even for me. I watched this with my wife and we both admitted at certain parts that we weren't paying attention and didn't know what was going on. I feel like 45 minutes would've been more than enough honestly, 30 minutes is a long time to just have character establishment. But that was kind of the style at the time, and it's also not like the hour is wasted, it gives Max a fucking fantastic reason to later go crazy.
I guess I'm just going with 3.5 stars. I don't really know what else, it certainly doesn't deserve less than 3, but giving it 4 stars is hard. The movie has it's place, and it's not like the new one is better. The new one is the polar opposite of this one: all action no development. But like I said, this one over-explains some things like Max's relationship, and under-explains everything else, like the "wasteland" where he lives. Spend some of the time on what happened and why, and spend some time having Max chase the dudes that killed his wife, it doesn't need to end in a tiny 7 minute sequence where he gets all the baddies one after another.