Absolutely awesome and totally sensational, Mad Max: Fury Road is an ultimate hard core apocalyptic epic with heart! This is what filmmaking is all about - a visceral experience that relentlessly grabs hold of you from the first frame until the climatic ending.
It is masterfully directed by George Miller, originator of the post-apocalyptic genre and mastermind behind the legendary Mad Max franchise, who plunges us into the world of the Road Warrior, Max Rockatansky.
With Mad Max: Fury Road, director/writer/producer George Miller unleashes a world gone mad with the concussive force of a high-octane road war as only he can deliver it. The mastermind behind the seminal Mad Max trilogy has pushed the limits of contemporary cinema to reimagine the beauty and chaos of the post-apocalyptic world he created and the mythical road warrior adrift within it.
No rule of law
It's 45 years after the fall of the world. There is no rule of law, no power grids, no water, and no mercy. In Mad Max: Fury Road, civilisation is a memory, and only to a few. The world's great economies have fallen into dust, the coastal cities have been erased, and in the wake of wars for water and oil, food is scarce and air is poison. What's left of humanity roams the Wasteland in wild tribes or clings to survival at the foot of The Citadel, a fortress spun into a cave system where water is pumped from the only aquifer for miles around. By controlling the essentials, The Citadel and its allies, Gas Town and the Bullet Farm, control The Wasteland.
Haunted by his turbulent past, Mad Max (Tom Hardy) believes the best way to survive is to wander alone. Nevertheless, he becomes swept up with a group fleeing across The Wasteland in a war rig driven by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). They are escaping a Citadel tyrannised by the Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), from whom something irreplaceable has been taken. Enraged, The Warlord marshals all his gangs and pursues the rebels ruthlessly in the high-octane road war that follows.
"When you go into a reduced, dystopian future, you're really going back to an almost medieval past," Miller comments. "People are just surviving. There is no honour and very little time for empathy or compassion. This gives rise to a clear balance of hierarchy - with the powerful few literally above the many, and above the moral. And into this world comes Max, who is simply trying to escape his demons."
Max Rockatansky was first introduced in Miller's original 1979 film, and the character's global resonance took even his creator by surprise. "I realised I'd unconsciously tapped into that classic mythological archetype," he says. "In Japan, they called Max a lone Ronin Samurai. In France, they saw the film as a Western on wheels, and Max as the lone gunslinger. In Scandinavia, some said Max reminded them of a solitary Viking warrior, wandering the harsh landscape."
Miller always envisioned a film that would play out as a breathless chase from start to finish. "I think of action movies as a kind of visual music, and Fury Road is somewhere between a wild rock concert and an opera," Miller comments. "I want to sweep the audience out of their seats and into an intense, rambunctious ride, and along the way you get to know who these characters are and the events that led up to this story."
Producer Doug Mitchell, Miller's filmmaking partner for 35 years, says the decade-long effort to bring Mad Max: Fury Road to the screen has itself been an exhilarating ride. "George has a brilliantly creative mind, but with that creativity comes a certain pragmatism. A project of this scale could only be possible with that combination, which he intuitively possesses. We've got through some tight corners and hilarious moments along the way, but, for me, it's been a wonderful privilege to be there with him on his epic journey."
Emergency Room doctor
For Miller, the road goes back further. In the late 1970s he was just out of medical school when, fuelled by his love for cinema's early action and chase movies, he set out to rediscover their pure visual language on his own. Drawing from his experiences as an Emergency Room doctor, he conceived a tale of a solitary figure in a world stripped bare following the collapse of society, and terrorised by psychotic road gangs.
Miller notes: "I've always been fascinated by how societies evolve, which can be at times incredibly inspiring, but at other times disturbing. When you strip away the complexity of the modern world, you can enter one that is very elemental, very spare, and tell stories that are basic allegories."
Scraping together a shoestring budget, Miller assembled a rolling carnival of motorbikes and muscle cars, cast an unknown named Mel Gibson straight out of drama school, and hit the desolate highways on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia, to capture the raw energy of a cataclysmic array of live stunts, with people driving real vehicles at real speeds.
The car is virtually a weapon
"We have a car culture here in Australia, where the car is virtually a weapon," notes screenwriter Nico Lathouris, a friend of Miller's since their school days, who played the first film's Grease Rat. "George had been treating youths in horrific car crashes, and rather than taking it seriously, there was a tendency to brag about an experience in which someone was seriously injured or had died. As a doctor, he felt he was just putting Band Aids on a problem that was far greater, and this story was his way of getting to the core of it."
The result was Mad Max, which burst onto screens in 1979 and sent shockwaves through the culture. As the Mad Max legend grew, Miller escalated his singular brand of propulsive action and immersive world building with the two films that followed: the iconic Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and the operatic Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
"One of the ideas that drove the first Mad Max, and drives Fury Road, was Alfred Hitchcock's notion about making films that can be watched anywhere in the world without subtitles," Miller reflects. "You're trying to achieve what great pieces of music do, no matter what your mood, they take you to a place outside yourself, and you come out the other end having had an experience. That's what we've tried to do with these films."
The stark, decayed landscapes, visceral action, minimal dialogue and kaleidoscopic cast of characters Miller laid out in the Mad Max trilogy birthed a whole new genre, and inspired generations of artists across every medium.
Tom Hardy, who is sensational in the title role of Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road, states: "George essentially invented the post-apocalyptic atmosphere we now see in so many video games and movies. That's his canvas, and he's continuing to paint on it with all of the assets he has at his fingertips. To be in this film is to sit with George in his toy box, and his imagination is so fantastic that you're not really in a movie; you're in George's head."
Charlize Theron, who originates a new character in the canon - Imperator Furiosa - and delivers a superb performance, attests that, with this film, Miller has forged a totally new vision that stands alone, even in the wake of its rich legacy. "George has truly reimagined a world he loves with this film. Anyone can enter it and experience something spectacular. There are some nice little gems in there for people who love the movies and, at the same time, I think he's created something that will resonate with a new generation that didn't grow up with Mad Max. That's the beauty of Fury Road."
Nicholas Hoult, who plays the War Boy Nux and counts himself among that generation, agrees: "What's incredible about George is that he can create something so massive, but there's a real intimacy about it," he says. "So much thought has gone into each small piece of the whole mythology that even the tiniest detail will tell you everything you need to know about these characters and their environment."
The tip of the iceberg
It's a universe that lives in Miller's imagination and, Mitchell posits: "There are no limits to its depths and dimensions. Fury Road is really only the tip of the iceberg; there's so much more under the surface. George has spent many years thinking about this world and it keeps revealing itself to him."
The quest to immerse today's audiences in Miller's mad future with Mad Max: Fury Road would cross continents and span more than a decade. It would leverage the talents of hundreds of artists to design and fabricate an authentic post-apocalyptic universe, from the creation of 3500 storyboards to thousands of props and costumes. In a logistical operation of unprecedented scale, the monumental production would hurl cast, crew and 150 hand-built drivable vehicles through the deserts of Namibia to stage a real-life road war across multiple units for 120 days.
For Miller, the final product was a revelation, which he calls "an enormous testament to all the people who put all their wisdom into the work. I've watched the film so many thousands of times with Margaret, but I now find myself able to sit back with a degree of pleasure and let it carry me along".
Hardy attests: "George batted everything into his story with due diligence and care, and he went out there and shot it frame-by-frame for months until he got everything he wanted onto the screen, and it's awesome. This is the film that so many people have been waiting for - and nobody has been waiting quite as long as George has to make sure it happened."
Miller himself looks back and reflects that all those years and all that mileage were in service to this moment. "A film does not exist without an audience," he says. "It doesn't exist on a disc or in a can. It's in the cinema where we congregate with strangers, and we give ourselves to the screen. It's a shared experience. And only in that act do we know what we've wrought. I hope the audience will make their own connections and that the film will have some meaning for them."
As a freelance film and theatre journalist for more than 30 years, published playwright and creator of the independent training initiative The Writing Studio, Daniel Dercksen received the number one spot for most popular lifestyle contributor for 2012, 2014 and 2015, and 2nd spot in 2016 on Bizcommunity.com.
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