Mad Max Fury Road

Post-apocalyptic visions and mechanical fury: the fourth installment of Max’s saga  by its brilliant creator, George Miller.

In his past life, Max Rockatansky was a police officer, a member of the Main Force Patrol. After losing his family and letting himself be consumed by the desire for revenge, The Dark One became the apostle of wanderers. His surname and story was forgotten with the fall of civilization.

Now Max is reincarnated along Fury Road and continues his journey into the abyss of loneliness and post-apocalyptic violence.

Opening shot – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment

The face and the voice have changed, but the silhouette is familiar. His miraculous body, hurt a hundred times, stitched and mended, determined to survive. Max’s body, that could adopt the credo of the Warboys: “I live, I die, I live again.”

Nicholas Hoult as Nux the Warboy – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment

During the first half hour of the movie, Max is merely a blood bag, a man-sized drip for cancerous Warboy, Nux. A mesmerising introduction, during which, muzzled and restrained, Max can only widen his eyes before George Miller’s incredible circus.

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Max (Tom Hardy) – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment
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Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment / Photographer: Jasin Boland

Under  a tent of sand and sky, monsters, acrobats and even a few sirens parade. All on board of overpowered vehicles, whose outrageous designs fit the personality of their owners.

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Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment / Photographer: Jasin Boland

There wasn’t a day where I thought “We’re crazy for doing thisadmits Miller at the Cannes Film Festival press conference, where the film is shown in May 2015.

16 years separate the very first storyboards from the European première. Filmed over the course of 6 months in Namibia, followed by 3 weeks in Australia, resulting in 450 hours of rushes and 2 years in post-production. Among many incongruities for a project of this magnitude, George Miller decides to shoot in 2D, after spending 3 years developing a brand new 3D camera system. He also opts for a maximum of practical stunts. All of it crowned by a supreme narrative audacity: Fury Road will be one, big chase scene. Furiosa, Max and The Five Wives, aboard a truck dubbed “The War Rig”, against the rest of the world.

This simplicity has been criticised by some, the film being neither chatty nor heavy on psychology. However freed from the typical blockbuster narrative tricks – a three-act structure, sub-plots galore, and to some extent, a male hero – Fury Road offers a concentrate of live matter, all about speed and movement. The editing is entrusted to Margaret Sixel, the director’s wife, although she’s never worked on an action film before. Miller affectionately describes her as “someone who has got a very low boredom threshold”.

Their Fury Road is therefore and above all, a feast for the senses, “Visual music” in the words of the Australian director, who designed the film like a “graphic novel, initially composed of 3,500 storyboards“. The average length of the shots is 2.3 seconds, which gives a certain gravitas to each pause. Particularly striking, the vision of Max emerging from the sand in slow motion, like a Golem, after the crash in a toxic storm. A necessary break to understand that his role in this tale is less about being an almighty hero, and more about helping Furiosa and The Five Wives.

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Max The Golem. Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) – ©Warner Bros. Entertainment

150 vehicles are hand-crafted for the film. Ultimately, “only” 88 are used. The minutiae borders on fetishism for each machine, and production designer, Colin Gibson’s jubilation is contagious: “we designed the design process to resemble as much as possible the HOW of the Warboys : scavenge, assemble, increase grunt, weaponize, increase grunt, add cup-holder, set off to war with V8 roar….”

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Colin Gibson, Production Designer on the set of Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment / DR: Motomag.com

Among the most impressive vehicles, The War Rig, a steampunk diligence, designed on the basis of a Czech Tatra T815. “2000 hp of nitro-boosted war machine“, a powerful custom, in the image of his driver, Imperator Furiosa and her prosthetic mechanical arm.

THE WAR RIG - from vehicleshowcase.madmaxmovie.com - Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment
THE WAR RIG – vehicleshowcase.madmaxmovie.com – ©Warner Bros. Entertainment
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Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and The War Rig – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment / Photographer: Jasin Boland

Immortan Joe rides The Giga Horse, a kind of motorised throne, made of 2 Cadillac Coupe DeVille 1959s, mounted one to the other. “In a world where there’s barely one of anything, to show you had power, he’s the man who’s got two of everything“, points out Colin Gibson.

The GIGAHORSE - from vehicleshowcase.madmaxmovie.com - Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment
The GIGAHORSE – ehicleshowcase.madmaxmovie.com – ©Warner Bros. Entertainment
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Immortan Joe on his Giga Horse – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment/Jasin Boland

Finally, The Doof Wagon looks like a mutant army’s little drummer boy on wheels. Immortan Joe’s attacks are accompanied by a fast moving rock concert, with a wall of amps and speakers, drummers, and a faceless guitarist hanging on a bungee, whose double neck guitar spits flames.

DOOF WAGON - from vehicleshowcase.madmaxmovie.com - Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment
DOOF WAGON – vehicleshowcase.madmaxmovie.com – ©Warner Bros. Entertainment
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The Doof Wagon in Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment

Lightweight, customisable and not greedy in guzzoline, motorcycles logically occupy a prominent place in a world with scarce natural resources. The encounter with The Rock Riders, a canyon tribe, surviving outside the Citadel, is an opportunity for dizzying action scenes.

Rock Rider - Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment
Rock Rider – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
©Warner Bros. Entertainment
Rock Riders- Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment
Rock Riders- Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
©Warner Bros. Entertainment

Their primitive looks – dreadlocks made of recycled materials, horns and head-to-toe leather – contrasts with their virtuosity as drivers. Halfway between men and hyenas, they are formidable warriors, able to lead vertical assaults from mountaintops. To achieve these perilous scenes, stunt coordinator Guy Norris (already on the set of The Road Warrior, when he was only 21) used renowned professional pilots, including champion Stephen Gall, Robbie Marshall, Cody Mackie, Michael Addison and Shaun Ford. On Yamahas YZF 450 and Gas Gas TXT250 custom, they perform choreographed jumps and attacks. For impact shots, stuntmen would step in for the final crash.

Even more surprising, The Vuvalini, an exclusively female gang of bikers, whose most senior “Guardian of Seeds” rides at almost 80 years old.

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Vuvalini – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment
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Vuvalini – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment

A nomadic tribe on touring bikes – Harley’s, BMW’s, a Yamaha and a Goldwing – customised for the desert. Machines that tell the tale of their survival and evoke their femininity: rugs, blankets, cushions and a sled, but also carved tanks, feathers and amulets.

30 years separate the filming of Thunderdome and Fury Road. Yet the 2015 film is filled of “Easter eggs”, details that can only speak to hardcore fans and fortify the myth. Among many others: a shot of bulging eyes, a music box, a sawed off shotgun and … Hugh Keays-Byrne – the infamous Toecutter in Mad Max ’79 – as Immortan Joe.

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Easter Egg – A familar black eye. Max/Mel Gibson in Mad Max (1979) VS Furiosa/Charlize Theron in Fury Road (2015)
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Easter Egg – Music Box. Max/Mel Gibson in Thunderdome (1985) VS Toast The Knowing/Zoe Kravitz in Fury Road (2015)
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Easter Egg: Foot Messages. Nightrider/Vince Gil in Mad Max (1979) VS Nux/Nicolas Hoult in Fury Road (2015)
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Easter Egg: sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun – Max/Mel Gibson in The Road Warrior (1981) VS Max/Tom Hardy in Fury Road (2015)
Toecutter
ToeCutter / Hugh Keays-Byrne (Mad Max, George Miller, 1979)
Immortan Joe / Hugh Keays-Byrne (Mad Max Fury Road, George Miller, 2015)
Immortan Joe / Hugh Keays-Byrne (Mad Max Fury Road, George Miller, 2015)

The baroque side of the film, essentially carried by characters and their vehicles, contrasts with the emotional charge of this neo-western. If Miller announces that “initially, there was never a feminist agenda” to the story, Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, went on set to talk with the actresses playing The Five Wives. Ultimately, the message about the absolute necessity of the emancipation of women is heard loud and clear, and the film earns the label of “Badass Feminist”.

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“We are not things” – Miss Giddy (Jennifer Hagan) – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment
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“Our Babies will not be warlords” – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment

The richness and diversity of more political themes throughout the film – the radicalisation of youth, the global ecological disaster, the stranglehold on natural resources by a powerful few – adds depth to the whole.

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From LtoR: Abbey Lee/The Dag, Courtney Eaton/Cheedo the Fragile, Zoe Kravitz/Toast the Knowing, Furiosa/Charlize Theron, Riley Keough/Capable – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment/Jasin Boland
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Furiosa / Charlize Theron – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment/Jasin Boland

Mad Max Fury Road is one of the few films that rehabilitate popular cinema. It loads us with images, sounds, sensations and dreams. So much that we have to stay in our seats a few minutes after the end credits roll, divided between the need to return to reality, and the desire to linger in the universe imagined and augmented by George Miller. Undoubtedly a big machine, but with a heart and a brain, Fury Road renews the dialogue with bright and distant cinéphile galaxies, somewhere between the inventiveness of Méliès and mad energy of Buster Keaton. All we have to do is be amazed.

Official US Poster #1 – Design by Art Machine – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment/Jasin Boland
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Official US Poster #2 – Design by Art Machine – Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller 2015) ©Warner Bros. Entertainment/Jasin Boland
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Tribute Poster for Fury Road – Poster by John Aslarona for Poster Posse

 

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