You know how all major video games launch with issues that have to be fixed after release? Well, sometimes it happens to home video releases as well. Case in point: the first 4K collection of the existing Mad Max films was released earlier this month, but has subsequently been recalled and is currently unavailable for purchase due to audio issues on the second film, The Road Warrior. While Warner Brothers formulates a replacement plan to make it right for owners of all copies already in the wild, let’s dive into the set as originally released. [Editor’s note: WBHE has released an official statement about their replacement plan, which is available at the bottom of this post.]
Max is a tough survivor in a post-apocalyptic hellscape where gangs of thugs roam the land in hellish vehicle convoys as they loot and pillage any remaining civilization they encounter. He lost his family to the gangs, so pledges his life to helping other innocents and sticking it to the baddies whenever he can. Played by Mel Gibson in the first three films and Tom Hardy in the fourth, he’s a man of action and very few words.
While both Mad Max and Mad Max: Fury Road have been released in 4K before, this is the first 4K arrival of the middle two films, The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. They will also be available as single discs once the recall is resolved. The image quality is superb on all four films, featuring scans from the original camera negatives and remastered for this release. With that said, the image quality varies between films based on the source material, with the scruffy low-budget original still looking more like a ‘70s TV movie than a cinema classic, and the fourth film taking full advantage of modern image excellence.
The original film utilizes DTS-HD Master Audio, while the subsequent films are presented in Dolby Atmos True-HD. Therein lies the problem for the second film, since the mastering for Atmos led to the studio going overboard with new LFE and other redone/altered sound effects, changes that were then apparently downmixed to make the included 5.1 and 2.0 tracks in error instead of preserving the advertised original soundtracks for those options. In my experience, it’s more an annoyance for purists than a real deal breaker, but kudos to Warner Brothers for at least pulling the product from the market while they evaluate the best path forward.
The packaging for this release is subpar, with the four 4K discs jammed into one wide Blu-ray case in a simple slipcase. It’s fine for viewers who just want all four films in 4K in one compact package, but offers little collectible value, especially galling considering the premium $89.99 MSRP. Even the cover art is lazy, with the only images being simple screen grabs of Max’s car and the little helicopter from The Road Warrior. The huge letters on the cover make it clear what you’re getting, but the marketing effort stops there.
Aside from the packaging, the set is woefully short of bonus features on the discs, with only a commentary track, a 49-minute making of feature, an introduction on the second film and nothing on the rest. It’s also missing one previously released movie variant: the Black and Chrome version of Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s still available for purchase on Blu-ray, but its omission here adds further salt to the wound. Also, for viewers who plan on redeeming the set’s digital copies, note that the first film’s unique licensing history means that it is only redeemable and watchable on either VUDU or Apple, while the other three films are redeemed as a set using one Movies Anywhere-friendly code. On the upside, the digital copies grant access to many previously released bonus features for the fourth film on Movies Anywhere.
This is the only series where I like each film more than the one that preceded it, and possibly the only series where each film is longer than the one that preceded it. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the full collection of works in the Mad Max universe, since writer/director George Miller is currently in pre-production on Furiosa’s origin story with Anya Taylor-Joy taking over Charlize Theron’s role. The set’s audio issues, lack of premium packaging, along with the knowledge that the story really isn’t complete, contribute to make this set feel very much like a work in progress, albeit a work that is always worth watching in any format.
[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 WHV@warnerbros.com.]