In the wake of 1982's post-apocalyptic powerhouse The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) theaters were glutted with cheap imitations. Anyone with access to a desert, some leather, beaten up cars and a few prop guns could make a post-apocalyptic film. Theatergoers thrilled by the prospects of seeing another Road Warrior were suckered into bottom-of-the-barrel rip-offs like Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and Warrior of the Lost World. But most missed Luc Besson's (La Femme Nikita) 1983 take on post-apocalyptic life.

Operatic, furious, and unrelenting, The Road Warrior is nearly devoid of humanity. It is a vision of a world where the only escape from maddening chaos is blinding speed - moving as fast as possible along a road with no ending, no future. And The Road Warrior captures that nihilistic bent wholly. Le Dernier Combat approaches the same chaos - civilization reduced to rubble, humanity profaned - and suggests that the only way out is order, not escape. Besson sees the same world but with a fanciful eye. (While Le Dernier Combat was begun in color, it is Besson's stunning use of B&W Cinemascope that lends the film its polished, big-budget look. The style is "cinema du look," vogue in the '80s relying heavily on aesthetics over depth, consumer fetishism and "window shopping.")

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