It’s been thirty years since Mad Max last disappeared into the post-apocalyptic wastelands as envisioned by writer/director George Miller. In those three decades, our own culture has shifted through revelatory technological innovations and equally dynamic failures of global economies and civilization. Miller’s three films - Mad Max, The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome - have all become less improbable in the passage of time. We’re better informed than ever before and yet less confident in what tomorrow will bring. Let’s face it: every day is an "anything can happen" day. As a culture in flux, scarred by endless desert wars and sporadic rioting at home, it’s no wonder that we seek honesty and truth through our automobiles. That fusion of horsepower and engineering is one of the few things that can still be trusted. Keep your engine tuned. Put your key in the ignition, the Mad Max future may only be a few years away.
10- The Movie Trailers Are Stunning.
The first tastes of what was to come popped up across the online communities and forums while filming was underway in 2012 and immediately generated excitement. The new film seemed to be sidestepping the skewed attempt at establishing a society in Beyond Thunderdome, and be more of a Road Warrior-type motor mayhem story. When the official trailers dropped, everything became clear. Fury Road is a non-stop hyper-violent chase movie. The beauty of the endless wasteland and the fury of the attacking savages are reminiscent of John Ford westerns set in Monument Valley. But faster. And more violent.
9- Cars Cars Cars. Desert Rods Covered in Steel Spikes. And Harpoon Guns.
No one does off road hot rods like Mad Max. Vehicle photos from the locations in Namibia have leaked online since shooting began almost three years ago. Images of massive truck chassis with vintage car bodies welded on and bristling with skulls, weapons and jabbing steel spikes ready to impale trickled across auto forums. Since the earlier films were released, real cultural gatherings like Burning Man and Wasteland Weekend - the latter an actual celebration of the Mad Max universe - have become annual events attended by thousands. Home-built vehicles roar across the sands and have in some ways surpassed their movie inspirations. This was on everyone’s mind during Fury Road pre-production. The metal monsters eating up the desert in Fury Road had to be something beyond what anyone with an old pickup and basic welding skills could conjure up in their backyard. The vehicles had to be hulking, the wheels bigger, the engines louder. They had to be dangerous to drive, running just on the edge of disaster every time the throttle was hit. The sheer scope of metal badassery is enough to keep any motorhead glued to the screen for two hours. And how about 50 foot sticks with pole-vaulting desert warriors able to drop down from above onto speeding armored transports. You won’t see THAT at King Of The Hammers.
8- Scary Punktastic Nomad Killers.
A lot has happened in the three decades since we last saw Max take on every type of psychopath smart or brutal enough survive the end of the world. Black leather, tattoos and Mohawks haven’t shocked or intimidated anyone for a long time. Most of the baddies in The Road Warrior would hardly earn a second glance at a stoplight today, and in some ways that speaks volumes about the cultural influence of the first three MM films. Creator George Miller has always used an element of comedy and ridiculousness to temper the extreme violence of his bad guys. They might be mindless animals, but they have a sense of humor. The Fury Road cast of killers looks to be nuttier, funnier, deadlier, and sweatier than any that have come before.
7- One-Armed Badass Charlize Theron
It seems that this time around the creeps are after more than “juice”. Women are a prime commodity and Charlize Theron is a butch-cut escort for the group of virginal females that seem to be the focus of all the ensuing destruction. She goes by Furiosa and with that name; you should probably let her have her way. To top it off, she’s got a Terminator-like metal arm that pulverizes the lustful mugs of slack-jawed desert warriors like a cheap cuts of beef. And Elvis’ grandbaby, Riley Keough, is along for the ride as well. Honestly…is there any reason NOT to see this film?
Miller has been quoted as saying that the budget for the original Mad Max film was so tight that almost all of the signature leather police outfits were actually made from cheap black vinyl, with only Mel Gibson’s costume being actual leather. Whether you’re shooting Ben Hur or Apocalypse Now, it takes piles of money to make a film look epic. This time around, Warner Brothers seems to have delivered a few Brinks trucks to the Namibian Desert sets along with the fleet of off-road hot rods. Nothing looks cheap or compromised. The studio suits clearly believe in the franchise and by the look of the trailers, every dollar was put up in front of the cameras. Everything looks epic.
5- Siamesed Double ’59 Cadillac Desert Destroyer
Cadillac’s tagline throughout the emergence of the automobile age was “Standard of the World.” And they meant it. The iconic 1959 Caddy was the extreme refinement of the 1950’s decade of Detroit extravagance. Never would any tailfin be so large. The sheer size and heft of the car commanded attention. Now take all that, double it, and weld it to a heavy-duty truck chassis. Bolt in two functional supercharged big blocks. 70” Wheels. Harpoon Guns. It can be no surprise that with the end of civilization, the ’59 Cad would reign supreme in the hyper-violent Mad Max future. The command car of baddest bad guy Immortan Joe, this Caddy death machine is both the dream and the nightmare of every hot-rodder to ever pick up a cutting torch. We’ll forgive the four fake turbos because they look so badass. They call it The Gigahorse and you don’t want to see it in your rearview mirror.
4- George Miller
Fury Road couldn’t have been made by anyone else. The original creator and director knows what makes the Mad Max world resonate. Beautiful, cinematic landscapes, the insane desires of savages and the hopes of humanity playing out at 100 miles per hour are what make these films more than mindless piles of wrecked vehicles. Taking on big questions about the nature of humanity without slowing down the action has been the core strength of the Mad Max narrative. That he has made what may be the greatest action film ever created at the age of 70 says everything about his ability as a storyteller and the continued relevance of his original vision.
The warrior Max, the loner, the shadow in the wasteland. We all know Max, and this story is set only a few years after Beyond Thunderdome. Mel Gibson had aged and crazied himself out of the role and Tom Hardy is the man tapped to continue the tale. He’s a good choice made perfect by reports that Charlize Theron considered him to be “weird and scary” during production and asked that he be kept away from her. Take a look at his earlier film, Bronson, before dismissing any of that as hype.
2- CGI is for Video Games
Reality is the reason that both the low-budget Mad Max and its bigger-but-still-modest sequel The Road Warrior are so entrenched in the car culture psyche. Everything crashing across the screen was shot in camera in real time. There was danger. Stunt drivers sustained injuries. In too many of the current crop of action films, the heroes and villains have been pushed to superhero status, performing physically impossible stunts that stretch believability. Movies and video games have merged in an attempt to amp up the excitement and the result is often a lesser film, a film easier to dismiss once the theater lights come up. Miller is quick to point out that CG and green screen effects are used when necessary, but peppered in as sparingly as possible. Real stunts and real risks give audiences a better film.
1- Total Chaos
Admit it. For the past few years, there’s that little piece of you that thinks a zombie apocalypse wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Civilization stripped down to two options: survive or perish. The BS and frustrations of everyday living vaporized and all aspirations chiseled down to a sharpened point. The chaos landscape of the Mad Max dystopia is also a kind of wonderland for the automotive inclined. No speed limits. No noise restrictions. Sure, there’s the risk of death by a skull-faced nomad, but think about open roads at full tilt with no threat of jacked-up insurance rates or seatbelt violations. Cinema was built upon its ability to provide an escape from the everyday routine. On Fury Road, escape awaits.
Mad Max Fury Road opens May 15th.
(Photos: courtesy of Village Roadshow Productions)