Jungian Archetypes in 'The Road Warrior'

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Jungian Archetypes in 'The Road Warrior'

Post  JamesNaunton on Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:56 pm

At first glance George Millers sequel to ‘Mad Max’ may seem like an adrenaline powered action film, created for audiences to escape their average lives at the office to watch good and evil clash while cars explode and engines roar. While the movie was created for this purpose, it also has much more to say. It is about a man named Max who is haunted by his past, driving down an endless and empty road with nothing to do but survive. Finally he finds a group of people housing and defending fuel from a gang of wild marauders, and decides he wants some fuel for himself. After making a deal with the group defending the fuel, Max brings back a truck big enough to hold their oil so they can escape and leave the feud behind them. After many offers to drive the tanker, Max refuses and decides to leave, going back to driving alone. After an encounter with the marauders, Max is injured and upon being brought back to the fuel encampment, decides to drive the tanker. The film is about a characters transition from a lost wanderer, having trouble with human interaction, to finally integrating himself in to a society once again.

The biggest symbolic archetype in the film is the battle between Good and Evil. ‘The Road Warrior’ takes place in a world where society has broken down. Law no longer exists and the only way to survive is to fight. The film presents us with two tribes. One is a group of people who still see themselves as human beings and see violence as a last resort. On the other side of the coin we have the Marauders, who pulverize their victims and enjoy it. They are a group of people who believe that only the strongest can survive. The fact that their leader (Lord Humongous) is the biggest and strongest of the group, and uses his physical strength as a means of punishing his gang members, proves this. At the beginning of the film we are not sure where Max fits in. Looking at him it would be easy to say he is a Marauder, based on his appearance. Another fact that makes Max similar to some of the Marauders is that he too is an ex policemen. Unlike the Marauders however, Max rides alone and is definitely not wild enough to be one of them. The film is about Max’s choice between good and evil. He can become part of a group trying to rebuild a society where people are treated as equals, or choose a group who use their strength alone to crush everyone that stands in their way.

The most prominent situational archetype in ‘The Road Warrior’ would have to be Max’s unhealable wound. Though Max experiences many physical wounds in the film, his biggest wound would have to be his past. Losing his wife and child to a gang of thugs in ‘Mad Max’ (The first film of the trilogy) causes Max to become everything that he is. He is suddenly left alone and detaches himself from his emotions in order to keep himself from being hurt once again. This wound haunts Max all the time and is what keeps him from wanting to join the group defending the fuel. In essence ‘The Road Warrior’ is about Max breaking free of his past and finding a way to move on, and though he still chooses to ride alone at the end of the movie, Max was still able to find the human being in himself again.

A strong character archetype is presented by ‘Lord Humongous’ as ‘The Devil Figure’. Though Lord Humongous uses his strength to dominate his victims, he uses another tactic to try and get the fuel from the defending tribe. Lord Humongous makes a speech near the beginning of the film saying that there has been “Too much violence and pain” and offers his enemies “A safe passage through the wasteland” if they give up their fuel and “Walk away.” Though the leader of the group distrusts Lord Humongous, one women believes him and tries to convince the rest of the tribe that Lord Humongous is a reasonable man, and that the fighting must be left behind. Despite Lord Humongous’ claims of wanting peace, he takes back his offer as soon as Max returns to the camp with the tanker. Obviously the leader of the Marauders has no interest in peace between the two tribes. Peace would mean that his power as a leader would be diminished, and the fuel would have to be used to aid the weak as well as the strong. Promising the protagonists a passage to safety in exchange for what they need to survive is what makes Lord Humongous the perfect representation of the Devil archetype.

In essence ‘The Road Warrior’ is a film to be watched with popcorn, taking it’s viewers on a fast paced journey through a wasteland of gritty action and terrifying stunts. Though you can leave the film without giving it too much thought, it can be seen as a much deeper piece. It is about a character’s choice over good or evil. Good represented by a society trying to rebuild itself, and evil represented by the pure animal instinct of the marauders. It is about a wild Leader who has a dark past just like Max’s who chose to destroy the weak around him in order to find any amount of happiness he once had. Most of all it is about Maxs’ past that always eats at his heart, constantly making him wonder if there is a reason in living as he once did, before the fall of a society took everything he had from him.


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Post  Mr. C on Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:56 pm

James - thank you for tackling this film - it is one of my favourites. It's a shame there isn't more discussion on this topic so I'll add a couple of things. First of all - your analysis is great, couldn't agree more. I will also add the Water vs. Desert symbolic archetype. However, "water" is represented by the fuel which is also the bloodline for survival. And of course Max is the ultimate Outcast/Wanderer. Not only is The Road Warrior an exceptional film for Jungian analysis, it can also serve for Frye's literary theories and biblical allusions. Well done.
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