Lately my articles have been coming out less frequently; more often than not it would take me 2 weeks or more to finish these babies. Don’t take it against me…I’m still adjusting to my new work schedule, though.
I am apparently nonplussed by the rain of critical goodwill that has been copiously heaped on the latest installment of George Miller’s neo-Western; at times one could not help but colour the proceedings with some cynicism. Just when you thought that the film would NEVER get made…
I do recall witnessing the original Mad Max trilogy in all their bare-bones savagery, not to mention the flood of imitators that followed in its dusty wake. In the words of Brian Aldiss, “They took the world of biking and car-crashes into the near future, but possessed a real sense of myth that countless imitators lacked*”
Thirty years down the line, our other favourite MD-turned-auteur** produces a magnum opus that practically puts its predecessors in an Ayers Rock-sized shade of their own.
You have our hero Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy, gleefully filling in Mel Gibson’s biker boots), who opens the movie lazily chomping on a two-headed lizard like it’s no one’s fucking business. Next thing we know, he gets shanghaied and branded “Universal Donor” by a bunch of chalk-white, shaven headed War Boys in a rock fortress overseen by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played “Toecutter” in the original Mad Max, but you already knew that…)
Six feisty ladies decide to break out – and all hell breaks loose just as Joe delivers his people their daily ration of precious water. Max serves as a willing “blood bag” to Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of these shaven War Boys as he winds up being a glorified “hood ornament” for his ride (can’t take the “ER” out of Mr. Miller). That’s where the madness rolls out – Immortan Joe assembles a truly formidable posse to go after Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, who truly redeems herself after the atrocity that is Æon Flux) and five of Joe’s own “breeders”, one of whom happens to be pregnant. The “Five Brides” of Immortan Joe include rock heiresses Zoë Kravitz and Riley Keough – the latter being The King’s granddaughter – as well as British model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (she plays the preggo one). Along the way, the team meet a bunch of hardy desert warrior women who hold the secret of bring back plant life to the Citadel.
In fairness, what makes this production stand out is just how fresh it damn looks, never mind if the post-apocalyptic genre hasn’t been mined out in nearly a decade. Got to give credit to Miller’s insistence on practical effects, which involves lots of stuntmen atop flimsy-looking poles swaying for dear life in vehicles running at more than 100kph in the hot Namibian sun. Oscar-winning director of photography John Seale (The English Patient, Dead Poets Society) and editor Margaret Sixel make good use of tricky colour coordination (who’d have thought that sky-blue and ochre would ACTUALLY look good on-screen?) not to mention the intentionally jerky lensing that make the War Boys
move shuffle like bunches of Evil Dead zombies. The conception of the motorised monstrosities in display – courtesy of PD Colin Gibson – impart a Dr. Seussian atmosphere to the seemingly interminable chases.
One may think that spending the near-20-year interim doing Babe and Happy Feet sequels – not to mention other family-friendly pabulum – would have dulled George Miller’s directorial eye (still spry at 70!!!); thankfully, revisiting that Wasteland must have revitalised the MD’s creative juices somewhat. I don’t buy the argument that Mad Max: Fury Road may have turned off the majority of its intended male audiences as a two-hour diatribe on straw feminism, but that’s not enough to explain why it opened lower than Pitch Perfect 2 in the US box office (then again, American multiplexes is truly an unjust place for bonkers visionaries). There is no room for sappy sentimentality in Max’s Wasteland…just every man (and woman) for fucking him/herself.
It’s going to be a lovely day – all the better for it, so to say.
*Trillion Year Spree, Brian W. Aldiss & David Wingrove, pg. 247
** after Osamu Tezuka