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Exterminators of the Year 3000 Review

February 8, 2016

I don’t think I’m blowing too many minds when I repeat information online that this Italian-Spanish co-production is a Mad Max 2 derivative. Thanks to the glut of independent companies releasing cheap films from yesteryear to home video, it’s easy to spot these cinematic wannabes and have a quick laugh. Whether these laughs last the running time of the film is all up to the viewer. Exterminators of the Year 3000‘s director Carnimeo is known more for his spaghetti westerns and sex comedies and he clearly finds himself struggling with a sci-fi action film. It has even less of a unique personality than Enzo G. Castellari’s 1980s attempts. Among the characters here, we have a complete rip-off of Wez from Mad Max 2 named Crazy Bull (played by Fernando Bilbao) and Robert Iannucci as Alien, who resembles Mad Max only in uniform. Alien lacks the character arc of Max and seemingly just drives around as a lone wolf, jumping from being a villain to hero every other scene.

I mean, it’s not hard to spot the similarities. Even in Spain, the film’s poster even says, “Hey audience! It’s like Mad Max!”

Exterminators of the Year 3000 Spanish poster
Spanish film poster is at least not trying to bullshit us about the films origin

The script, by Lucio Fulci regulars Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti, fills the film with bizarre dialogue. The writers get pretty phoney here with lines from Crazy Bull referring to the crew as a bunch of “mother-grabbers”. Far too much of the script sets up problems that are resolved way too quickly to make any impact or are solved in lame ways by cheap sci-fi toys. Got a locked door? Why kick it down when you can just use my device that plays an annoying high-pitched sound effect that inexplicably unlocks things. The screenwriters are also aware that it’s an Italian production, so it’s not above showing children getting maimed. One of the more bizarre scenes in the film features a young boy (with the surprisingly un-Mad Maxish name of “Tommy”) has his arm ripped straight off by bikers. But don’t worry folks – it’s revealed to be a robotic arm (!) and is partially repaired by Alien, who puts it back together with duct tape(!?)
The only slightly original villain comes from singer and model Beryl Cunningham, in her final film role. Her weapon of choice is a glove with surprise spiked knuckles that shoot out whenever a camera zooms in on it. She wears this glorified switchblade glove along with a spiked leather bodysuit. . Seeing Cunningham in the suit makes one wonder if the role was intended for someone else, as the suit doesn’t appear to fit! Even a pinch saggy, Cunningham appears to be in great shape here and you think an exploitative film would want to make the most of this.

exterminators-3000-skeleton

One of the few unique action scenes. I dig the Skull rollin’

The action scenes are just as delightfully stolen from Mad Max 2. Did you ever not want to sit through the entirety of that film to get the final chase? No worries, Exterminators of the Year 3000 gives it to you during the second big action scene. Outside a few Castellari styled slow motions shots, we get some very obvious issues such as the cars moving far too slowly to represent any real chase (imagine a slight traffic delay around your local highway during rush hour) or any shot from the inside of a vehicle where it’s way too easy the spot that vehicles are not in motion. Later scenes involve vehicles surrounding their captives in a circle which resembles a demolition derby. This type of capture would make sense on horseback, but I gather that Carnimeo perhaps only had a budget to destroy a select few cars.

As is the trend since the release of Drive, is that every single film is getting it’s score re-released. Even Exterminators of the Year 3000! There are several samples here that include the sillier dialouge from the film. Reminds me of the Diabolik bootleg soundtrack in that sense.

I’m afraid this isn’t too great of a soundtrack, probably just due to the limitations in both time and budget to record it. At least it doesn’t go the Sammo Hung route and just steal the score from Halloween and Rambo.

So we have a generic film without much to recommend outside a few goofy scenes and to see the extent to which filmmakers go in ripping off Mad Max 2. After my viewing of Exterminators, I began questioning the criticism of being “original” in film. What makes a rip-off an instant write-off while sequels are “highly anticipated”? Let’s imagine it’s an alternative universe where the producers of this film somehow get the rights to Mad Max franchise and would officially make this the third film in the series. Would it still be a rip-off? No one from the original film is involved, but would they be less criticized if we didn’t know the production history? Let’s look at Aliens by James Cameron. What if Cameron didn’t get the rights from Walter Hill and the other producers of Alien to continue the next picture, but he made his own Alien-killers-from-space film. Would people bash it by saying “Hmm. Clearly taken bits and pieces from Alien” or would would they give it a free pass as they do now because it’s an officially sanctioned follow-up?

In the case of Exterminators of the Year 3000, it’s problem is not that it took from the Mad Max series, but that it’s mostly poor action, bizarre acting and delivers less quality than we have been set-up with in the Future Barbarian genre. So I encourage viewers to not pass off on films if they appear to be derivative. I hope to one day find the Mad Max film that trumps some

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Mad Max: Fury Road Review

May 14, 2015

When Mad Max 2 was released in the early 80s, it followed an already good film by making it bigger and better, expanding the universe and everything that made the original a blast by tenfold. That’s what I desire from a sequel that has to make existing characters do something more than go through the same motions again – they need a grander task and adventure than the first film. This has been seen with other science fiction franchises, going as far back as Frankenstein (1931) to Bride of Frankenstein and Star Wars to The Empire Strikes Back and for me, Alien and Aliens. I’m happy to say we have it again in Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s not quite the quantum leap from the first film to the second, but it’s satisfied the thirst that Beyond Thunderdome did not quench many moons ago.

In short, Fury Road is all you could realistically want from a Mad Max movie in the age of digital film. If you demand the rough physicality of cars speeding along from the original film, you are on the wrong track, as the cars are at least 7 times more bulky now. If you demand a modernized version of Mad Max 2, you are getting much warmer. We get nice nods to the series and other films of its ilk from the past, But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get into plot.

Fury Road takes place well beyond thunderdome, where we find Max quickly imprisoned by a new gang called the War Boys who number in the hundreds. These black metal-esque looking scrawny drones look like a hybrid between the slaves in the Smashing Pumpkins video for “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and their lead singer Billy Corgan in the “Ava Adore” video. That’s not the only connection to rock music, as Max resembles Rob Zombie early in the picture, and later, freaks in the film appear to be long lost members of Slipknot. I’m not even going to go into detail about the vehicle that includes a thrash metal guitar player to rally the troops. Anyhow! The pale-faced goons are lead by Immortan Joe played by Hugh Keays-Byrne. Keays-Byrne is the only prominent cast member returning from the previous films, playing Toecutter in ”Mad Max”. This reappearance confuses me a bit, so I’m going to casually go back and forth, referring to him as both Immortan Joe and Ghost of Toecutter.

toecutter-immortanjoe
Ghost of Toecutter!

Immortan Joe rules his fortress from the cliffs, where he commands the War Boys who number in the hundreds. Immortan Joe enlists the next best new character in film, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), to gather more supplies from neighboring towns. Unbeknownst to him, Furiosa has taken some hostages and has her own plan to escape from his rule. After a wild chase that sees a return of the cars from The Cars that Ate Paris (1974), Max manages to meet up with Furiosa and the two make an uneasy truce to get them away from Ghost of Toecutter Immortan Joe who is in hot pursuit. Even worse for Max and crew is that Immortan Joe has teamed with other gang leaders, with appropriate Mad-Max names like The Bullet Farmer and The People Eater. We’ve seen these characters in earlier art design for the film, and I’m happy to state that they not only look the part, but the acting is sharp and without a bad performance throughout. Each character gives just the right amount of camp and comic-book intensity to their respective roles that it would be more silly if these people were not driving spike-covered monster trucks.

Fury-road-cars-that-ate-paris
The Cars that Ate Paris live again!

Speaking of looks, if there is one thing that remains in memory from Mad Max 2 or Fury Road, it’s the art direction. Fury Road introduces a new vehicle or two per chase sequence. Each one looks like it was constructed from things we might see in a scrap yard in real life, but with an over-the-top makeover that would make the average monster truck driver drool. Even greater is that these vehicles are all real, not computer-generated blobs that perform impossible physics. I wish I could comment more on the look of the scenery and vehicles, but I viewed the film at a pre-screening event which was shown in 3D. Fury Road was post-converted into 3D and makes some visuals feel unusually out of place, such as muzzle flare effects and the occasional burst of flames. This ain’t Avatar, Gravity, or even Jackass 3D. Don’t see it in 3D!

Is the film flawless? Not really. Longtime purists of the series might call foul on Tom Hardy’s lack of screen time to show off the Mad Max character. Mel Gibson’s role of Max in the earlier films was always the stand-out performance, probably because he’s the only character who isn’t given any goofy faces to make.

goofy-reactions-Mad-MaxGoofy reaction shots are sadly(?) missing in Fury Road

I’ve really enjoyed Tom Hardy in some previous films like Bronson and Lawless , but he is not given as much time for us to delve into the Mad Max character, and almost feels like the side-kick in his own film. Thankfully, the new character is just as tough and wild as Furiosa, and gets her own Mad Max-esque storyline of loss. I can understand a fan’s disappointment with not seeing as much Max in a film called Mad Max, his name is in the title after all! Personally, I’m much more happy to see a new character rather than see Max go through the same problems for a third or fourth time. My only gripe about Furiosa is that her reaction to her group of young friends did not hit me quite as hard as lesser events in the film, such as Max’s annoyance at seeing others driving his car, or even Immortan Joe quickly turning his car to avoid crashing into one of his wives. Not that all important scenes with her lack an emotional tug, but each one should hit hard, especially for a character so prominent.

The final, major issue I have with the film is not one I’ve read in any early reviews; it involves how the film was shot. The original films have a rough and raw feel that actual film gives to a movie. We can tell there is a lot of digital tinkering going on in this picture with the hot orange scenes within the desert and the dark blues of the day-for-night shots, which reminded me more of the tinted scenes from Murnau’s Nosferatu than anything resembling a scene shot at night. Not sure what was on Miller’s mind with this stuff.

Fury Road should sucker-punch audiences who regularly devour the Disney-Marvel flicks or the Fast and the Furious franchise, and definitely feel more than satisfying for people who’ve waited for this film for over a decade. All I desired was a film that felt like it was made by the maniacs who made the first two films, and I received my healthy dose of the bizarre, perverse, and generously entertaining Mad Max world. Not unlike The Littlest Hobo, Max is shown leaving his accomplices after coming to their aid at the end. I look forward to see where he travels and who he meets next. (Mad Max that is, not the Littlest Hobo).

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