This is the one I’d seen, back when Alex Cox introduced it for Moviedrome. I remember enjoying it, but it’s action was much curtailed by the 4:3 crop—much of the exquisite choreography comes from the framing of cinematographer, Dean Semler.
More importantly, I didn’t particularly relate to Max, himself. He’s supposed to a cypher but, not having seen the first one, I found him too blank. Seeing it in the proper sequence really helped. The film is purposefully stripped down to the bone, with everything from its plot to its production design as sparse and barren as the outback landscape, and nowhere more so than the character of Max. It helps enormously, though, to know that he’s arrived at this point from somewhere.
I think the first film is nowhere near as good, and is a bit of a different beast from all the others, but it’s very much worth watching, if only to get the most out of this entry: the template and ideal for future episodes to aspire to.
It’s way ahead of its time, with outrageously exciting action chases, air-tight world-building, and great action-movie acting from Gibson and Bruce Spence. Gibson’s performance in particular has the confidence of an international superstar, rather than the embryonic potential on display in the original. Little wonder he went on to become MEL GIBSON, and that there was an appetite for yet more madness from Max.