Mad Max: Fury Road opens at ballistic, immediately escalates to nuclear, and then ramps up on to whatever the hell is more intense and manic than that. Maybe supernova, but that’s a little too clean, all lovely hydrogen consuming itself in purifying fire. This is not that. I think apocaplyptic. That’s the apocalyptic combined with the epileptic.
In the apocaplyptic desert world Max madly haunted by the past is captured by a cult of pale mutanty motor freaks and hung up like a hog to be used for his clean human blood. Furiosa, a warrior in this tribe decides to go rogue, smuggle out the vestal brides of the sick mutant leader in hijacked big rig war machine.
Nux, a mutant War Boy dying from radiation decides he wants to go out in one glorious last rampage down the Fury Road when the maniacs learn that Furiosa has run off with their precious nubile breeding stock. Nux chains Max to the front of a machine, hooks him up for a life-sustaining transfusion, and the car freaks all give chase. Jaw-dropping car freak chaos pursuit and battle ensues.
What can one say about a work of rock’n’rampant genius? Quite a lot actually. But this isn’t about that. This is about, not fury, but a possibly peeved, almost agitated, slightly grumpy road.
Back in 1981 I was living in the outer suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia, a ways further north is where much of Mad Max 2 The Road Warrior was filmed. In a wrecking yard just up the road there was Max’s modified Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe V8 Interceptor, complete with tanks in the back, dog seat attached to the passenger door, and massive, nitrous sucking blower sticking up out of the hood like the exposed chrome soul of the machine. For just $2 grand it could have been mine. But the tanks were plastic, the blower was mostly silver painted cardboard and the possibility of actually driving it on the road without getting immediately arrested was zero.
What I actually bought for 200 bucks was a white 1955 Hillman Minx. Top speed of about 70kmph, which it got to after 5 minutes of determined acceleration. I improved that speed by adding huge flame decals to the front quarters. Yes, even at 15 I understood the joys of irony. I did nick this sort of plastic and horsehair shrunken head from Mad Max’s Interceptor, which I traded with someone for some D&D figures. They were good figures, a Fire Giant, a Red Dragon, Asmodeus, and a skeletal army, all beautifully painted in enamels. Much to my surprise Dungeons & Dragons and a 1955 Hillman Minx with flames proved to be the kind of chick magnet no one expected, attracting the attention of clever, feisty geeky girls, not at all like the nubile sex slaves and relentless female fighters in Fury Road. I guess being more melancholy than Morrissey, more handsome than the cast of the Outsiders and as stylish as a lead in a John Hughes film helped.
In 1981 Leonid Brezhnev was leader of the Soviet Union. He used to say things like, “I shall add that only he who has decided to commit suicide can start a nuclear war in the hope of emerging a victor from it. No matter what the attacker might possess, no matter what method of unleashing nuclear war he chooses, he will not attain his aims. Retribution will inevitably ensue.”
American B actor Ronald Reagan was President of the USA. He used to say things like, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
Plagues, drought and famine heralded judgement day and chaos, Three Mile Island still haunted the imagination, Thatcher fought the working class in England, the US armed Muslim insurgents against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the CIA armed fascist death squads in Latin America, John Lennon sang Imagine, Ultravox sang Vienna and Blondie sang Rapture, and we all keenly felt the possibility of imminent vaporization, or at least the probable descent into a Mad Max like world of dust, savagery and thirst. What did we do about it? We played and partied like it was 1984.
Now seemingly 100 years later some of our sci-fi dreams have come true, but thankfully not our sci-fi nightmares. Peter Weir’s 1974 sci-fi nightmare The Cars That Ate Paris, about a town that lures in passing traffic and uses deranged vehicles to attack and rob travellers foreshadowed George Miller’s high octane dystopia. The spiked jalopy in Fury Road undoubtedly a reference to the earlier film’s monstrous VW. I guess someone on the fury road is a Clint Eastwood fan too, because there’s a moment when an old nearly toothless villain (well actually in several places he has bullets instead of teeth) is standing up through the sunroof on a Chrysler Charger Tank firing off two old fashioned long barrel Colt 45s Josey Wales style. Or perhaps not an Eastwood fan, because in the next moment the Bullet Farmer’s face is kind of exploded. Blinded he switches to machine guns. Showing some true grit there, before he gets fully blitzkrieged a little later.
Speaking of grit just yesterday I was going to go fishing and had to navigate a steep gravel and mud track where the car almost slid sideways through burning, broken trees down a steep drop into a reservoir. Ended up tipped sideways against an embankment, bogged, and having to pile rocks and wood under the smoking tires to drag the car out. If there had only been marauders it would have been the full Fury Road experience. Instead it was the slightly Grumpy Road. Vexed but not vanquished. But it’s a funny thing how life can coincide with movies in the strangest way.
As to the film, if you want two hours of mental intense visceral action filled with nightmare scenes and maniacal stunts (actual stunts, hardly any CGIs) go for it. The Fury Road Experience. I really hope there’ll be a theme park.