As it launches onto and off the biggest screens around the world, there are essentially three things being said about Mad Max: Fury Road:
1. It is excellent.
True. Very true. So very true.
2. It is completely insane.
True. Very true and very insane. So very bonkers.
3. There’s a theory doing the rounds that ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is light on plot.
This one gets said as the natural corollary to the extraordinary action it contains.
Technically this isn’t true. Fury Road has a huge amount of plot, story and explanation. It’s just not in the film. Not explicitly anyway.
Dr George Miller, the film’s writer and director and the creator of the Mad Max universe, is the first to acknowledge that this is an action film, but he is a filmmaker who is true to his medical background, takes a scalpel to surgically remove the word “mindless” from “action.”
“This one I wanted to be an extended chase,” he tells Fliks. “From the get go when I first started making movies I was always interested in the action movie. That’s where film language was forged: In the silent era with Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton and Max Linder and everyone. That’s really where the language which differentiates cinema from theatre evolved. That was one of the things that drove the first Mad Max movies.”
No one doubts Miller has succeeded in delivering one long chase, but the real success is the way that every character manages to develop. The five wives that make up the human cargo in particular shift from damsels in distress to strong commanders of their own destiny.
“The action has to inform character otherwise it becomes empty calorie action: Colour and movement,” explains Miller. “With this movie being one continuous chase that was a big concern that it doesn’t become that.”
There is nothing empty calorie about this film. Miller knew why every character did every action at every stage.
“Tom Hardy was funny when he said the other day ‘we weren’t in a movie, we were in George’s head.’ I think to some degree that’s true. It’s a visual medium. That’s how I roll, as they say.”
Miller laughs but his actors are in awe of the scale of the world Miller has created in his mind and landed them on.
“I don’t really know what to call it,” says Josh Helman who plays Slit. “It’s the same universe as Mad Max 2 but it’s this whole other thing. This other planet almost. This is heightened to such a degree that it’s now an epic. It’s almost operatic in scale. It’s so much larger. The first films were fully realised worlds. It’s almost in the realm of mythology now. It’s mind blowing to me.”
For Helman, the craziness of the film jumped right off the page.
“It was pretty much just as bizarre and insane as how you see it.”
“You read it on the page the first time and you’re reading about the wheel room and reading about a character being refer as a blood bag and being used for live transfusion and war pups being these little diseased children running around being assistants to the war boys. It’s mind blowing. But you can see the time has been put in to flesh out this whole universe and create it from a whole cloth. As startling as it is, it feels totally lived in.”
This, it seems, is Miller’s trick. Every crazed notion in Fury Road – and there are oodles – is based in a logic, and terrifyingly often in the real world.
“You’re riffing off the zeitgeist all the time,” says Miller.
“For instance, we needed Max to be trapped and not killed. So the idea was he has to be harvested. For Max to be a blood bag, a universal donor, was the way to go. The idea for that came from the Bosnian war when they literally had no refrigeration and would take prisoners of war, match their blood types, and use them as living blood bags.”
What about an oil rig filled with breast milk? The former doctor sees that as no brainer, or rather a new brainer.
“Mothers milk? There’s this whole movement of the most nourishing liquid on Earth being human mothers milk rather than cow milk because it carries so many antibodies and all the essential fatty acids and all the nourishment for a growing brain. So it’s probably one of the most valuable liquids on the planet.”
Miller even has a rational explanation for what seems – frankly – the daftest idea in this whole lunatic landscape: A human hood ornament playing a flame-shooting electric guitar at the front of a charging war party.
“The Doof Warrior? He was just a natural extension of the music of war before modern communications, the way armies communicated was through buglers or drummers or bagpipe players and he’s the wasteland equivalent of that. “
Frankly, I’d have preferred the bagpipes, but I can’t question the logic and when a film maker can have this much logic backing up THIS much lunacy, it’s hugely impressive.
That’s when you realise, Mad Max: Fury Road doesn’t have too little story, it just doesn’t bother filling you in on the boring details, the mundane moments between the action. They’re all still sitting in George’s head though and will inform every scene in the prequels and sequels to come.
Want to read more? Click here for the full transcript of George Miller’s interview
Still haven’t seen it? Click here for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ movie times in your area. (Also playing in 3D.)