Academic journal article Science Fiction Film and Television

Mad Max: Fury Road

Academic journal article Science Fiction Film and Television

Mad Max: Fury Road

Article excerpt

Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller US 2015). Warner Brothers. Region 1 2015. Widescreen 1.78: 1. US$28.99.

An academic review that seeks to summarise, contextualise or encapsulate George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road (Australia/US 2015) quickly finds itself besieged by a proliferation of responses, ranging from critics lauding the film's stunning visuals to others bemoaning its ecstatic hyperviolence to feminists and men's rights activists wrangling over its complex gender politics. The film's release on 15 May 2015 earned immediate critical acclaim, including a 99 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes; the film's Oscar buzz garnered ten nominations and six awards, the most awarded to a single film in 2016, despite hype for more 'Academy-friendly' fare such as The Revenant (Iñárritu US/HK/ Taiwan/Canada 2016), Spotlight (McCarthy US 2015) and The Big Short (McKay US 2015). The sheer multiplicity of responses to the film renders the production of a succinct DVD review a difficult task, as all these components have gathered together to extend the film's cultural impact well beyond the short season of the typical summer blockbuster.

Miller's late foray into extending his 1980s Mad Max franchise took an unexpected hiatus that ultimately would last over 25 years. After international successes with Mad Max (Australia 1979), The Road Warrior (Australia 1981) and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (Australia 1985), Miller turned to animated fare, such as Babe (Australia/US 1995), for which he wrote the screenplay. After an idea came to him for a fourth Mad Max entry in 1998, he began to plan the next film. Mel Gibson cited a willingness to return to Mad Max 4 as late as 2001, when the film first entered pre-production, but the events of 11 September 2001 forced the film into a new set of delays, including the US dollar's collapse against Australian currency, making a film shoot in the Australian outback impossible for the studio's budget. For Miller, this setback meant finding a new location in which to shoot the film. Landing on Namibia, Miller experienced still more difficulties after beginning the shoot in 2003, when Namibia was declared a risky location for security purposes. The project was then shelved until 2009, when Miller began production once again. While aiming for his desired return to Australian outback, he again had to settle for Namibia, because an unprecedented rainstorm in the desert caused sudden blooming of vegetation which altered the desert's appearance.

With Miller's location finally set, he then had to settle on the casting of his protagonist. Despite Gibson's willingness to participate in the new incarnation of Mad Max, Miller recognised that casting Gibson would create an aged Max Rockatansky, a direction he was reluctant to take the franchise; further, Gibson's infamous personal problems following his arrest and anti-Semitic rant added an extra complication. Miller's decision led him to pursue Heath Ledger, until that actor's untimely death in 2008; ultimately, he cast Tom Hardy as Max, telling an interviewer that Hardy 'has a lot of similarities to Mel, that charismatic energy, and both are very athletic. And he's got that animal charisma that all great movie stars have'. With the new Max Rockatansky in place, filming began in Namibia in 2012 and lasted for eight months; the cast and crew dealt with hot sun and dust storms throughout the entire shoot.

Despite the challenges and years-long delays in making the film, Miller stuck to his original idea, which tacitly acknowledges the other films while branching into a new direction for the twenty-first century. He reinvigorates the Max Rockatansky character by acknowledging his vigilante roots, but then developing his supporting role amid the wider cast of characters in Fury Road, many of whom take centre stage over its nominal hero. In the initial trilogy, we witnessed a progression from a world vaguely analogous to ours, with elements of social or political unrest such as the gasoline shortage in the 1979 film, through the thoroughly dystopian gladiatorial concept of the post-apocalyptic Thunderdome, where 'two men enter, one man leaves'. …

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