Movie Review: Coming 2 America

Thirty-three years ago, the ‘fish-out-of-water’ comedy flick, Coming to America hit cinemas. It was made at the perfect time too, as director John Landis was riding high after a string of successful and popular comedy films. Then there was its main star, Eddie Murphy. For me, this was Murphy at his very finest. Coming to America fast became one of my all-time favourite comedy movies ever, still is too. Now, a little over three decades later, we have Coming 2 America. Same title, just written in that really obnoxious and annoying way of using numbers for letters/words. Was Coming to America II such a bad title? In fact, I’ll be calling the film Coming to America II for this review from now on.

This sequel has been a long time coming, with news of it being worked on several years ago. It had many false starts and for a while, it very much looked like a dead project. But here it finally is and with pretty much all of the original cast back too (sadly, Madge Sinclair who played Queen Aoleon died in 1995). But gone is the original’s director, John Landis… And that instantly put a huge cloud of uncertainty over the film for me. Then there’s the rating. The original flick was rated for adults due to nudity and swearing, but this sequel was given a more tame PG-13. And of course, let’s not forget that (let’s be honest) these sequels to films made decades after the original very rarely, if ever, work.

COMING 2 AMERICA POSTER 2

So, as an avid fan of the first Coming to America, will I enjoy this sequel? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Order a McDowell’s, get some Soul Glo for my hair and watch Coming to America II myself.

Quick pre-warning. There could be some slight SPOILERS here. So if you don’t want anything ruined, stop reading now.

The Plot

King Jaffe Joffer is on his death bed and reveals that Akeem has a son called Lavelle that he never knew about, living in America. Needing a male heir to the throne (as is tradition) and seeing as Akeem (now King) only had three daughters, he has to go back to America and bring his bastard son (that’s what he’s constantly called in the film) to Zamunda to be Prince and heir to the throne. Meanwhile, evil General Izzi (who is the brother of Akeem’s arranged bride from the first flick) turns up to cause trouble with the royal family, wanting to take over Zamunda for himself. With Akeem’s son and native New Yorker in Zamunda, the challenge is to turn him from a typical New York street-rat to a Prince.

In fact, now thinking about the plot and the film’s awkward title. This really should’ve been called Coming to Zamunda, because that’s basically what it is. Coming to America but with the fish-out-of-water trope flipped to the Americans in Africa. In fact, I’ll be calling this film Coming to Zamunda for this review from now on. Because let’s be honest, it’s a far better and more accurate title than Coming 2 America.

The Cast

As I said in the intro, pretty much the entire original cast returned for the sequel, even some of the smaller actors came back over three decades later. Of course, we have both Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return as all of their previous roles… All of them. There’s even a new character played by Hall too. Shari Headley as Lisa is back and now Queen of Zamunda. Paul Bates also returns as the royal aide, Oha. And all of them do a great job of sliding back into their respective roles and ones they haven’t played for over thirty years.

COMING 2 AMERICA AKEEM AND SEMMI

Along for the ride are a handful of new characters. Jermaine Fowler plays the bastard son, Lavelle Junson, with Leslie Jones playing his mother, Mary. Wesley Snipes plays bad guy General Izzi and (spoilers), he steals the entire film.

My View

Okay, let’s get the bad out of the way first. Leslie Jones is not funny, she actually manages to suck the comedy out of everything she’s in. She can’t act and her only ‘joke’ is that she screams her dialogue as she tries to be the loudest person in any film she ever does. Why people keep hiring Jones I have no idea, she’s shit! And I quite liked the Ghostbusters remake… Where Leslie Jones screamed her way through the film.

The fact this sequel has a lower age rating that the original is also a sore point. The first Coming to America was rated for adults due to the nudity and swearing. The nudity was so slight, a few seconds of Akeem’s bathers at the beginning that it’s not really missed here. But, I do have an issue with the lack of swearing in the sequel. Swearing can be really effective when used properly and Coming to America used it brilliantly. A couple of instances that spring to mind are when Akeem is in New York and talking to his neighbours, wishing them a good morning. He gets a “Fuck you!” retort, for Akeem to reply with the classic, “Yes, yes and fuck you too!”. It’s a great joke because Akeem doesn’t understand swearing, he’s proudly screaming “fuck you!” thinking it’s a term of endearment and the way Eddie Murphy plays it by speaking so proudly just adds to the humour. Then there’s the old guys in the barbershop. They get into an argument and the main guy, Clarence (Murphy) just screams “Fuck you, fuck you and fuck you… who’s next?”. It’s that quick switch of character from swearing old man, to nice and polite barber that makes the joke work. The quick jump from “fuck you” to smiling, softly spoken barber makes me laugh every time and it worked because of the swearing. After seeing a really bad TV edit, trust me, it’s the swearing that sells the joke.

COMING 2 AMERICA BARBERSHOP

The lack of swearing in Coming to Zamunda really does damage what could’ve been a much funnier flick. Now, there is some swearing in the film (mainly the word bastard), it’s just not used as well, as much nor is it as effective when it feels so diluted. I never understand why directors/producers do softer sequels to adult films, it makes no sense. Those who watched and loved the original did so because it was more adult for an adult audience. So why make a sequel that isn’t as adult if your audience is an adult one? And even if you were a kid when you saw the first flick (I was around 13-14), you’re an adult now thirty-two years later. So make the film for adults.

This film just lacks any truly great laughs and most of the jokes are poorly written and executed. I mean, there’s a part in the flick where a character talks about how great American cinema is. And they get the retort of:

“What do we have besides superhero shit, remakes and sequels to old movies nobody asked for?”

Seriously? You really want to try to get meta and trump folk who are inevitably going to call this it for what it is? I’m sure that on paper, that joke looked good. But in practice, it’s just terrible and a real eye-rolling moment. The only time I genuinely smiled at Coming to Zamunda was when it referenced the original, something it actually does really damn well. There are loads of nods and references and admittedly, some of them are really bloody clever too. So much so that I don’t actually want to spoil them here. But there is a scene I really need to address and spoil.

So, you are probably questioning just how did Akeem sire a son, thirty years ago during the events of the first film? Well, that’s covered in both a brilliant and really stupid scene. There’s a flashback to the club scene from the original film. You know the one where Akeem and Semmi are looking for possible brides? Anyway, new footage has been shot and some de-ageing (cos every film does that now) tech is used to show what ‘really’ happened that night. So, it turns out that Semmi wanted to dip his wick, so he found a woman, Mary (Leslie Jones) to keep Akeem busy while he got busy himself. While back at their apartment (lovingly recreated from the first film, complete with chalk lines of the dead guy and his dog), Mary drugs and ‘takes advantage’ of Akeem, becoming pregnant with his son.

COMING TO AMERICA CLUB

The scene is actually really well done, what with the whole de-ageing and all that… But, it also annoyed me for a couple of reasons, not just because they’ve changed the background song (think I wouldn’t notice eh?) First, the first film specifically shows that Akeem and Semmi return home very much dateless from the club, no women. They go from the club and bump into Clarence from the barbershop, who tells them they can find good women at the pageant he is going to. And that is where Akeem sees Lisa for the first time. But this film retcons that to say that Akeem and Semmi don’t talk to Clarence as they go back to their apartment with two women. So if they don’t speak to Clarence, they don’t go to the pageant and Akeem doesn’t see Lisa and fall in love. That’s a gaping plot hole that I just could not get over. Plus, Semmi very clearly states in the first film that he’s not had sex since arriving in New York, but this film now says different. Come on, fans are going to pick up on this haphazard/lazy writing pretty quickly.

The other major issue is one I found in another film recently too. Mary drugs and (essentially) rapes Akeem. He doesn’t consent to the sex, he is raped. Akeem himself even says he wasn’t ‘willing’ and that he has no knowledge of the sex happening in the film. Just like the random guy in the recent Wonder Woman flick. Seriously, why is the sexual assault of men becoming a thing in films now? Flip that scenario with a male drugging a female and having sex with her and they’d be outrage. As I said, as good as the re-edited club scene is on a technical level, it really fucks up quite a bit.

By the time the film ended, I felt like I had already seen it. Now, I don’t mean due to all the beats it rehashed from the original (of which there’s a lot), more like the film in general just felt like I had seen it before. It took me a while to work out where I had seen Coming to Zamunda before and it wasn’t until I was writing this review when it hit me. Coming to Zamunda is basically Crocodile Dundee II. Look, you have the first film where the fish-out-of-water goes from his own country and taken to America… Particularly New York. The fish-out-of-water does exactly what fish-out-of-water do, they feel uncomfortable, have trouble fitting in and all that guff. But finds love along the way. Then the sequel rolls around and things get switched up a tad as the native New Yorker is taken from their home, to the unfamiliar surroundings of the original’s fish-out-of-water’s home. Mick Dundee did it with Sue in Crocodile Dundee II in that film. And Akeem does the exact same thing to his son, Lavelle, in this flick. Coming to Zamunda is a Crocodile Dundee II remake, just with a lot of references to Coming to America.

COMING 2 AMERICA AKEEM

To be honest, I went into this with low expectations. The original flick really is one of my favourite comedy films, one that was made at the upmost optimum time, a time when the cast and crew were riding high. There’s no way a sequel could ever match up to its greatness. Still, Coming to Zamunda, despite its various shortcomings (Leslie Jones being the biggest), did manage to make me smile a few times. It doesn’t have the impact the first film had and it is just a rehash of the original’s plot too. Perhaps a little too heavy on the nostalgia in some places and a sequel that would’ve been better off existing twenty years ago. But still, it was okay, just a shame it wasn’t more ‘adult’, I really miss those arguing and swearing barbershop guys. They are in this sequel… But it’s clear they’ve had their balls cut off sometime in the last thirty years. Coming to Zamunda is more of a slightly likeable nostalgia trip with some quite honestly great, clever cameos and references than a good sequel. The set designs and costumes in Zamunda are really stunning. Oh, and Wesley Snipes is awesome.

Another disappointment is that, while the original film’s director, John Landis, is gone, taking on the job is Craig Brewer. Now, Brewer recently directed Eddie Murphy in the 2019 biopic, Dolemite Is My Name… Which is brilliant. So it’s a shame for them to have not captured that magic again for this flick. But I can’t really blame either the star or director when it’s very clearly the lazy, sloppy, plot hole creating and rehashed writing that is to blame.

COMING 2 AMERICA AKEEM NEW YORK

If the original Coming to America was a McDonald’s Big Mac meal, then Coming to Zamunda is a McDowell’s Big Mic meal. A lower quality and questionable copy, but still digestible. It’s worth one view just for the cameos and references to the first film, just don’t expect much more out of the film than that. Still, at least Coming to Zamunda wasn’t as bad as the TV pilot.

Coming To America… The TV Show?

The long-awaited sequel, Coming 2 America is released in just a few hours and you can bet that, as a fan of the original, I’ll be watching and giving it a review over the weekend. But here’s a thing. Did you know there was (almost) a Coming to America TV show? Okay, so it never actually made it to air, but a pilot was made and that did air. On the 4th of July 1989, the world (well America) was subjected to Coming to America.

The plot of the show worked as a kind of sequel to the film. Eddie Murphy’s amazing Prince (now King) Akeem isn’t in the show, even though the pilot was written and produced by Murphy himself. Instead, the show told the story of Akeem’s (never mentioned in the film) brother, Prince Tariq. In fact, none of the film’s cast return, except for Paul Bates who played royal aide Oha in the film.  Anyway, the plot of the pilot has Tariq sent to Queens, New York to attend college by Akeem. Why? I really don’t know to be honest, it just happens.

COMING TO AMERICA TV PILOT CHARACTERS

Anyway, several people were up for the main role of Prince Tariq including Wesley Snipes and Will Smith, as if Will Smith would ever do a sit-com about a black ‘prince’ in a fish out of water-type story. Landing the leading role was Tommy Davidson, who had a semi-successful career in TV and film. Basically, the TV show worked like the film, but with Tariq taking the place of Akeem and Oha being the Semmi sidekick role. But whereas the film is a solid comedy classic, the show is terrible. The set up is that Tariq and Oha are living in an apartment owned by the landlord Carl Mackey.

I think one of the worst things about the show is how Tommy Davidson, playing the role of Tariq, is trying his best to imitate Eddie Murphy. The style, the tone of the character and his performance is just like a low-rent Murphy. Davidson even tries his hand at Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson impressions, which if you’ve ever seen Murphy on Saturday Night Live or doing his stand-up, then you’d know that was kind of Murphy’s thing.

The jokes in the show are pretty flat throughout with some pretty lazy and haphazard Eddie Murphy references. I mean, Tariq utters the following line in the show:

“I can be a Beverly Hills Cop, you can be a Beverly Hills Cop too (II). Why, within 48 hours, we could be Trading Places.”

Yup, that’s how bad the writing is here… and that’s just one of the ‘jokes’. Now, I did point out that it was Eddie Murphy himself who wrote the pilot. The truth is that he wrote the story, but not the script. So, I guess someone else wrote that awful Murphy reference movie line? Still, Murphy can’t be completely blameless for this pilot’s terribleness, he was the executive producer after all.

COMING TO AMERICA TV PILOT MURPHY PRODUCER

Either way, that’s how low the bar is set on this pilot. The basic plot of the pilot revolves around Tariq blowing all of his money in a few days. Needing cash to live, Tariq and Oha get jobs at a diner owned by their landlord. Which of course, leads to shenanigans… very unfunny shenanigans. The whole thing is very typical and unfunny American eighties sit-com fare, right up to the heart-to-heart reasoning scene where the lead character learns a lesson. There’s absolutely nothing original here and nothing to do with the film the pilot is based on.  Seriously, aside from the Oha character, this has nothing to do with Coming to America other than the bare basic premise of an African Prince going to America and feeling a bit out of place.

So yeah, there was an attempt to make a Coming to America sit-com that never got picked up… thankfully. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can watch the pilot yourself. Bearing in mind this is a thirty-odd-year-old pilot that no one remembers and has been forgotten about. So the quality is not great… and I mean that in multiple ways.:

Seriously Funny: Remembering Leslie Nielsen On His 95th Birthday

Today, the 11th of February, 2021 would’ve been Leslie Nielsen’s 95th birthday. This is an article I’ve actually been meaning to write for a few years now, but it just kept slipping down my ever growing list of an increasing backlog. Still, as a way to say happy birthday to and remember one of the all time great funny men, I thought I’d finally finish this up and get it published. 

Early Life

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada on the 11th of February, 1926. Leslie Nielsen’s father was reportedly an abusive man. Often beating both Nielsen’s mother and his two brothers, along with Nielsen himself. Wanting to escape his slap-happy childhood, when he turned seventeen, Leslie Nielsen the Royal Canadian Air Force, despite being legally deaf. Nielsen had to wear hearing aids since he was a young child.

“You know it’s very difficult to be an actor, and to have people depending on you to say the right line, at the right time, and to not be able to hear your cues! I can’t tell you how many times I would’ve had to have said What? if I didn’t have my hearing aids. So my hearing aids are a life saver, and they allow me to practice my craft.”

– Leslie Nielsen

While in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Nielsen trained as an aerial gunner during World War II. After the war ended he enrolled at the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto to study acting. It was while studying in Canada when he received a scholarship at the Neighborhood Playhouse, New York. Here, Leslie Nielsen studied theatre and music before landing his first TV appearance on an episode of the anthology show Studio One in 1950.

Early Roles

Through the early fifties, Leslie Nielsen was cast in many small parts as handsome extra and bit part player. He also narrated a few documentaries and commercials just to bring in some much needed cash. However, he wanted more and dreamt of being a big name Hollywood leading man. In 1956, Nielsen landed a small part in his first feature film The Vagabond King. The film was a flop but the producer on the film, Nicholas Nayfack, took a shine the the young and good looking Leslie Nielsen and offered him an audition for a sci-fi film that Nayfack was working on next, Forbidden Planet. Of course Nielsen got the part and the film went on to be a hit too.

LESLIE NIELSEN FORBIDEN PLANET

In fact, Forbidden Planet (a sort of Shakespeare’s The Tempest… In space!) has been cited as the forerunner to ground-breaking TV show, Star Trek and the birth of real sci-fi entertainment. So great the film was and more importantly, so much liked and impressive Nielsen was that he was given a contract to work at MGM. After several years of bit parts and struggling as an actor, Leslie Nielsen was making a name for himself. Through the mid-fifties, Nielsen made more films for MGM Ransom!, The Opposite Sex, and Hot Summer Night. None of which were big hits and Nielsen started to become a bit jaded with the films he was being offered and even doubting himself as an actor. He landed the lead role in the romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor from 1957 from Uniserial Pictures (where he was borrowed from his MGM contract), which did get some positive reviews and still seen today as a pretty good flick. Leslie Nielsen began to realise that perhaps it was MGM who where the problem and not him. Still, MGM had an epic of a film coming up and one that Nielsen very much wanted to be in, Ben-Hur. He auditioned for the role of Messala in the 1959 flick and didn’t get it. By now, that contract with MGM has ended, which left Nielsen free to work elsewhere… So he did. 

Leslie Nielsen found himself working for Disney on the 1959 TV miniseries, The Swamp Fox. Being put off by movies the last few years and now finding TV work so much more fun, Nielsen gave up on trying to be a big Hollywood leading man and settled on a career in TV instead. He began to appear in numerous TV shows in the sixties like, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (based on the film), The Virginian, and The Wild Wild West. Over the years, Leslie Nielsen very much became a character actor on TV and kept popping up in supporting roles, never landing a lead. He was pretty much back where he started in the early fifties, small and secondary parts, no leads, only now on TV instead of film.

LESLIE NIELSEN THE SWAMP FOX

The thing was, Leslie Nielsen could really act, he was a fantastic serious/dramatic actor, good looking in his youth too. He just wasn’t being offered the parts he could really get his teeth into and prove just how good an actor he was. Then, he landed a role that could’ve proven to be a huge door opening for him. Leslie Nielsen secured a lead role in the 1969 TV show The Bold Ones: The Protectors. He played Deputy Police Chief Sam Danforth, a tough, no-nonsense, straight talking cop with a drive to rid his city of crime. This was gritty drama, a genre that Nielsen was really bloody great at. Sadly, the show only lasted for seven episodes and the big leading break he was striving for never came. 

In the seventies, Leslie Nielsen was back playing smaller parts. Appearing in one of the greatest TV shows of all time, Columbo in 1971. Plus, he began to appear in a few movies once more too… especially the popular disaster movies of the decade like 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure and City on Fire from 1979. In fact, it was the smaller roles in those disaster movies that would finally make Nielsen the household name he eventually became…

The Breakthrough

It was the late seventies, two writer brothers, David and Jerry Zucker, along with writer Jim Abrahams (collectively known as Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker… or just ZAZ), all had a zany sense of humour. The trio had a success with the hilarious The Kentucky Fried Movie in 1977, and they wanted to follow up on it with another off the wall comedy. But, they wanted to remake the little known but very serious 1957 disaster flick, Zero Hour! and turn it into a film with their unique brand of humour. That remake was 1980’s Airplane! and playing perhaps the most memorable character in the entire film was Leslie Nielsen as Dr. Rumack.

LESLIE NIELSEN AIRPLANE

He was hired for this offbeat comedy because he was such a great serious actor, because of those roles in the disaster flicks of the seventies. ZAZ wanted, not known, but recognisable faces in their film to help sell the fact they wanted people to think that Airplane! had the look and tone of a serious disaster flick. The jokes would do the work while the actors just acted. It was this serious take on comedy that really worked and helped to make Airplane! such a huge hit. No matter how silly the situations in the film got, no matter how stupid some of the lines were, Leslie Nielsen was dead straight in his performance. Just as a quick aside, here’s a video comparing Zero Hour! to Airplane! so you can see how much the two films are similar:

It was also that deadpan approach to humour that led to Nielsen landing a lead role in a new cop show on TV, but unlike his previous starring role in a cop show with The Bold Ones: The Protectors, which was a heavy drama, this would be a comedy. Created by ZAZ again, Police Squad! saw Leslie Nielsen play Sergeant Frank Drebin (a role created just for Nielsen), detective lieutenant of the titular Police Squad! Just like Airplane! being a silly take on the serious disaster movie genre, so to was Police Squad!, but for police TV shows. However, unlike Airplane!, Police Squad! wasn’t a big hit. In fact, only six episodes were ever filmed and of those, only four originally made it to air before the show was cancelled by the ABC network in America. Though the last two episodes were eventually aired. Nielsen just couldn’t get a break and soon found himself struggling to find a lead role. As for why Police Squad! was cancelled? I’ll let Leslie Nielsen explain himself:

“We thought it was gonna be one of the biggest hits of the season, and we realised after it had been on for four [episodes]. It was pulled off [the air] in America because the ratings were not high, they got worse and worse. It’s the kind of humour that doesn’t belong on television, on the small screen because you had to watch it. [Tony] Thomopoulos, who was the head of programming at ABC said ‘it didnlt make it because you had to watch it’. What he meant was, you had to pay attention to it.”

– Leslie Nielsen

It was true too. The trouble was that back then, people didn’t really watch TV like they do now. The TV was just something that would be on in the background while you did something else. The humour in Police Squad! relied on your eyes being transfixed because there was so much going on. Visual jokes, jokes in the background, jokes on signs, jokes any and everywhere. You eyes worked overtime watching an episode of Police Squad! because each one was so tightly packed with so many jokes and jokes within jokes that you would miss most of them if you didn’t sit and actually watch. What worked on the big screen with Airplane! with a captive audience in a cinema, just didn’t translate to the small screen with Police Squad! as it played in the background while you did the ironing, despite being just as (if not) funnier overall.

So, Nielsen was back at square one again (again), with just getting smaller roles on TV and in movies. One such role I’m saving for last. Anyway, Paramount Pictures got the VHS distribution rights to Police Squad! and released all six episodes in 1985. The tapes became a smash hit and Paramount soon realised how popular the show really was, they approached ZAZ with an offer to bring the show back… somehow. Then in 1998, we got The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, a film version of the cancelled TV show. Of course, Leslie Nielsen was back as Frank Drebin and it was also his first lead role in a movie for over thirty years too. While The Naked Gun still had that ZAZ humour and Nielsen’s brilliant deadpan delivery of the jokes, it also showcased something that neither Airplane! or Police Squad! did before it. It allowed Leslie Nielsen to show off his slapstick comedy too. The Naked Gun became a massive hit, far bigger than Airplane! in fact. At sixty-two years old and after decades of struggling, Leslie Nielsen was finally a lead a worldwide hit movie. After that, studios were commissioning parody films specifically to have Nielsen starring in them and the parody movie craze of the nineties was born.

The sequels, The Naked Gun ​2 1⁄2: The Smell of Fear and Naked Gun ​33 1⁄3: The Final Insult help cement Nielsen as a genuine Hollywood funny man legend. He’d always pop up on chat shows around the globe armed with his favourite joke, a simple fart machine, which he would sound off in the middle of an interview just to make the audience and himself laugh. By the time the third Naked Gun film was released, Nielsen was sixty-eight years old. An age when people retire and take it easy, but Leslie Nielsen was enjoying himself too much to retire, appearing in more films, making millions of people around the world laugh. Some of his flicks were popular, but they never got to the level of the Naked Gun trilogy. The starring roles began to dry up, but Leslie Nielsen still appeared in the parody film genre that made him famous right up to his death in 2010, aged eighty-four.

Seriously Funny

He struggled to make a name for himself for decades. He tried serious drama, which he was amazing at, but there were just too many good looking men doing the same thing around the same time, so Leslie Nielsen never really stood out. Yet, it was that seriousness of his acting that eventually led him to be loved worldwide for his comedy. All thanks to the trio of ZAZ who saw that potential in the actor when so many others were overlooking his unique talents as an actor and comedian.

Oh, and as for that earlier smaller role of Nielsen’s that I said I was saving until last? It’ from the all time classic horror anthology flick, Creepshow. Leslie Nielsen played Richard Vickers, a rich, slick and charismatic guy who discovers his wife is having an affair.  He tracks down his wife’s illicit lover and well… Let’s just say that for me, this is the best Nielsen has ever been. He’s sick, pure evil and still a bad guy you can’t help but fall in love with. For someone so damn funny, he could be even more sadistic and I love it. My all time favourite Leslie Nielsen role.

There never will be another Leslie Nielsen.
Happy birthday.

LESLIE NIELSEN YOUNG

I’m afraid if I don’t keep moving, they’re going to catch me. I’m eighty-one years old and I want to see what’s around the corner, and I don’t see any reason in the world not to keep working. But I am starting to value my down time a great deal because I am realizing there might be other things to do that I am overlooking.

– Leslie Nielsen

Mad Max’s ‘Supposed’ 2021 Setting

Toward the end of last year, I noticed a few posts going around the social medias that were pointing out the movie Mad Max was set during 2021. What with all the shit that’s been going on the last twelve months… And still going on now, I wasn’t sure if it was an attempt at a joke or whether people actually think that Mad Max was set in 2021, and so applied that to the current situation. Seriously, there’s loads of them…

MAd MAX 2021 3MAd MAX 2021 2MAd MAX 2021 1MAd MAX 2021 5MAd MAX 2021 4

But was Mad Max actually set in 2021? The short answer, no. But that wouldn’t make a very interesting article would it? Still, before I do explain the time-frame setting of the Mad Max films, a quick synopsis for those unfamiliar with the franchise.

So Mad Max (The Road Warrior for all the Yanks) was a film set in a post-apocalyptic universe telling the story of Max Rockatansky, a man who’s wife and child are killed by a gang. Driven by a thirst for revenge, Max goes a little mad and hunts down the gang that murdered his family, killing each and every one of them. It was hardly Shakespeare, but it was still an awesome slice of seventies low-budget cinema. It also introduced the world to Mel Gibson. The film was a hit and spawned two sequels in the eighties… And a sequel/reboot/’reimagining/whatever-it-is in 2015, now with Tom Hardy playing Max. The Mad Max films are action packed, violent, car-smashing heavy flicks and all four are pretty good entertainment.

Anyway, back to the point. The claims of the film(s) being set in 2021 are erroneous. But it’s not just as simple as pointing out a year in the films in which take place, because the films never mention a specific year. If they did, this would be a very easy article to write. Instead, I have to delve into the universe that the films take place in and dig up what info I can. So I guess I’d better start with the first flick, Mad Max, released in 1979. As I said, the film itself doesn’t mention any specific year. However, it does state the events of the film take place ‘a few years from now’. If we use the film’s 1979 release date as the ‘now’, a ‘few years’ is fairly open to interpretation. The word ‘few’ is defined as not many, but more than one. Generally, it seems that ‘few’ means three or more, but still not many. So I think three to five years from 1979 would be fair. Plus, the trailer for the film states ‘in the not too distant future’, so I think we can all agree that Mad Max must take place not too long after it’s 1979 release date. 

So, if the film is set a ‘few’ years from the ‘now’ 79 release date, then we’re looking at an early to mid eighties setting, 1983-84-ish sounds reasonable, as that is also ‘in the not too distant future’. While the film never states a specific year, years are still referenced in the flick, at least twice. There’s a road sign shown in the film and that road sign has graffiti daubed over it. Some of that graffiti says ‘December 6, 1984’. So if someone left that graffiti, then I think it would be safe to assume it was done after the date written. Then there’s the Halls of Justice, the HQ of the Main Force Patrol (MFP) that Max works for.

MAD MAX HALLS OF JUSTICE

You won’t see it in the film itself, but that little plaque there also has a date on it, it says ‘est. 1983’. That info is taken from the movie prop as in-film, it’s impossible to see. Ergo, Mad Max must take place post 1983 and 1984. Still, 2021 is most definitely after 1984… but would you define 2021 as ‘a few years from’ 1984 or even the ‘not too distant future’ from 1984? No, I think most people would say that thirty-seven years is a bit more than ‘a few years’. There there’s this little tit-bit that claims the film ‘is set between 1983 and 1985, a few years after the 1973 oil crisis’. So going back to what I said before, ‘a few years from now’ of the 1979 release date could be an early to mid eighties setting. I think we can all now agree that Mad Max isn’t set in 2021, but more likely 1984 or 85.

On to the sequel, Mad Max 2. This one came out in 1981 and kicks off by most definitely using the previously mentioned 1973 oil crisis as it’s backstory and explanation to the desolate world the films are set in. Not only that, it also gives us a something else to work with. The film outright says that it takes place three years after the events of the first film, as do production notes. So three years after (let’s just say) 1985 would be 88… Not 2021 then?

MAD MAX 2 POSTER

The third film, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was released in 1985 and is a little harder to find a time-frame for. Unlike the previous film, we’re not told how many years it has been between films. In the script, the date that Captain Walker (the founder of the lost tribe) left to find civilization was the 8th of November, 2005. However, in the film itself, a date can partially be seen that states he left in search of civilization on the 10th of September, 199X. The last digit can’t be seen. How many years have past since Walker leaving the tribe and Max finding them in the film is also not stated, but the fact they are all young-ish kids and young adults, would suggest it’s only been a short time. Months, a handful of years at the most. So, if Mad Max 2 was set in 1988 and Captain Walker left the tribe in 199X before Max turned up. That still has to be before 2021 going by the ages of the kids in the tribe. Some claim that Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome takes place around fifteen years after Mad Max 2, which would put it in and around a 2003 setting… And that does sound about right too.

Still, regardless, none of the original Mad Max films take place in 2021 as the memes like to claim. You are looking at a 1984/5 to 2003-ish for the whole trilogy. As for 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road? I’m not even sure where to start with that one. Even writer and director George Miller has never explicitly said where that film fits in to the original trilogy, or even if it does. Is it a remake, a reboot, a sequel or something else? No one seems to know. Not that it matters as the meme claiming the 2021 setting was using the original film(s) as it’s reference point. And as proven, the Max Max films don’t take place in 2021.

 

Film Review: Wonder Woman 1984

This will possibly be the shortest article I’ll ever write as I look at the superhero flick, Wonder Woman 1984.

I got to around an hour of watching this absolute train wreck of a film before I just had to turn it off. I’m in my mid-forties, officially middle-aged and every day, I get closer to my grave. I’m not wasting my life putting up with utter dreck as badly written, directed and acted as this film is.

Review done and I’ve already put more time and work into this article than the writers did with the film.