Fans have been waiting for thirty years until their hero, Max Rockatansky, returns. Rockatansky? You ask. You might know him better as Mad Max. We’ve seen Mad Max: Fury Road and here’s why it’s a movie you’ve got to see.
Max is no longer played by Mel Gibson, who portrayed the anti-hero in the first three movies shot between 1979 and 1985, so this is a rather risky endeavour. The crew and, most importantly, writers and directors are the same. Among them, the man who invented the character of Max: George Miller. This is a good omen for the movie, already as most reboots and sequels of older movies as of late have been underwhelming at best.
Still, a hero as iconic as Max can’t be replaced easily. Sadly, if they want to remake a movie with an action hero from the days gone by, or – in Mad Max’ case, do a sequel -, their main stars have either moved on or grown old. Worst case scenario, they’re dead. In case of Max, Mel Gibson is 59 years old. Considering George Miller wanted to make a high octane action thriller, Gibson might be too old for the role. The same goes for pretty much any action or cult hero of the 1980s. Thus, Tom Hardy of Inception and The Dark Knight Rises fame was cast as the drifter in a completely destroyed world.
The Small World of The War Rig
Director George Miller is very much a visual storyteller. As such, there’s not all that much in ways of dialogue. Viewers looking for explanation of anything are pretty much out of luck. It’s not that the explanation is not there, it’s just that the movie doesn’t slow down and has a character narrate what exactly went wrong with the world. In fact, the movie rarely if ever slows down.
It begins with Max eating a lizard. Raw. Some time has passed since the events of Beyond Thunderdome, the previous installment of the franchise. The world has fallen deeper into chaos and disorder and there is no trace left of the policeman that Max once was. If he wouldn’t be driving a car, he’d be completely feral.
The car. George Miller loves his cars. Max still drives his V8 Interceptor that is as much a character as the main protagonist is. Lizard eaten, there’s a bunch of raiders who want to have what Max has. What that is is completely besides the point. He has fuel, water presumably, and a functional car. Life is cheap. A chase ensues. One of many, but by far the least spectacular one. It lasts all of two scenes.
The result: Max ends up in Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) hideout, called The Citadel and the V8 ends up in the garage. Max is promoted to be a blood bag, a blood donor for the terminally ill War Boys, indoctrinated warriors that drive heavily modified cars with little regard for life and limb. They adhere to some weird belief system that is a mash-up of familiar and strange faiths. One of these War Boys is Nux (Nicholas Hoult) whose donor Max becomes. But Max isn’t beaten.
Eventually, Max teams up with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who has kidnapped several of Immortan Joe’s wives and has also stolen a massive two-engined truck called The War Rig.
While the desert of Max’ world are vast, his world gets smaller as soon as he boards The War Rig. In order to outrun Immortan Joe, the ragtag team of wives, Furiosa, Max and Nux must keep moving. Luckily, they have an entire rig full of fuel.
Small World, Small Story, Big Impact
It’s this smallness of the movie, despite its estimated 100 Million US Dollar budget and its vast desert landscapes, that makes it so engaging. Even The War Rig, a heavily modified Tatra 6×6 truck, becomes a character of its own. Every part it loses, every chase it endures and every bit of rough road is as engaging as the characters aboard it and their stories.
Because it’s so small, it manages to evade most tropes of the usual tropes that pop up in stories that deal with the post apocalypse. Mad Max: Fury Road is very much a dystopian movie, there’s no two ways about it. But it’s not the usual dystopia where humanity has managed to rebuild after being extinct. The War Boys are all terminally ill, worship death and willingly fight for the top spot of self-sacrifice. There’s slavery, polygamy, torture, and weird cults.
Immortan Joe has stylized himself to be some kind of God, controlling large reserves of freshwater, urging his subjects to not become addicted to it. He believes that he and his disciples gain something by drinking mother’s milk and his children are sacred.
All the Pretty Colours
Arguably the movie’s biggest asset is George Miller, who manages to create a world that is quite unlike any other. To quote his lead character, a world of fire and blood. Apparently, the writer and director wanted the movie to be as colourful as possible to counteract all the bleak and washed out visuals that other movies with similar settings have these days. While all the colours are bright and, if anything, oversaturated, the horror of the world are in no way diminished or set aside. This is not a bright and shiny movie.
Millar apparently also insisted on a very peculiar brand of prettiness in the movie, claiming that even after the apocalypse, people still like pretty things. Costumes are wild and colourful, adorned with medals or snow white. Cars are decorated and built to look nicer. And boy, do they ever look nice. There’s only one car that appears mostly in the way it was built. The legendary V8 Interceptor. The other vehicles are mashed together to serve as combat vehicles, using car parts as platforms and hideouts. The War Rig runs on two engines in order to be able to continuously drive for prolonged periods of time. They’re equipped with turrets and inflammable spears, giving them an almost tribal look.
The movie basks in its over-the-top world. There’s a rig that serves as nothing but a platform for war drummers and a guitarist. Yes, death by flaming guitar becomes a thing.
Because there’s very little dialog, the sound is important. For this, Miller got Tom Holkenborg aka. Junkie XL to compose the soundtrack. The result: A very driving, very intense and very heavy orchestral soundtrack that follows the cast along the way.
As much influence as the soundtrack has, its absence already has a profound impact. The final chase scene happens without any sound to it. Only the roar of engines.
So let’s enter the World of Fire and Blood, let’s go into the desert with Mad Max and let’s enjoy Fury Road. It’s a very successful sequel from an old franchise that has been pronounced dead numerous times. Not only does it reinvigorate the movie bigger and bolder than anything that could have been produced in the 1980s and 1990s.
Mad Max: Fury Road will open May 14th in Swiss cinemas.