Future Retroism: Mad Maxed Out
By George Plank
Audiences were dazzled by “Mad Max: Fury Road” and it was quickly considered by many to be the summer film of 2015, grossing over 150 million in the United States and 374 million worldwide. “Fury Road” is the fourth in a long standing series of films.
Let’s take a look back and see where the madness began.
The original “Mad Max” film, released in 1979, takes place in a dystopian future wasteland where gas is extremely limited, mimicking the world gas shortage that took place just six years prior. This is a world where anarchy reigns supreme. Only one law enforcement force, the Main Force Patrol, dares to combat the roaming gangs of motorcyclists that have begun forming.
One such gang, the Acolytes, had been causing a nearby town a good deal of trouble. Among those tasked with taking down the Acolytes is Max, an officer who has been known to take extreme risks in order to achieve his goals. After Max’s friend is killed by members of the Acolytes, Max tries to leave the force to avoid any more trouble, but trouble finds him and the Acolytes kill his wife and son.
Now, with a personal vendetta against the gang, Max launches a one-man war against the Acolytes until he personally sees to the death of each and every member of their ranks, and avenges his friends and family. In the end Max drives off into the unknown, with the memory of his loved ones weighing heavily on him.
At its heart, the plot of “Mad Max” is one that the general movie going audience has seen a dozen times over: the lone lawman who fights in the name of vengeance. When all is said and done, he eventually rides off into the dusty sunset for better horizons.
Director George Miller funded the production of the movie by working as an emergency room doctor. There he saw the same types of graphic injuries that would later make it into the film. Most of the film was shot in the Australian Outback and as such Miller chose to hire local Australian actors with little to no experience to cut cost and to avoid any associations with that actor’s name. The members of the Acolytes were part of an actual biker gang.
The budget for “Mad Max” was $350,000. While the production style may not have been the cleanest, it was built on necessity of relying on practical effects and creative shots to convey the plot and keep the excitement high.
Even in the newest installment with its comparatively massive $150 million budget and 150 times the box office gross of the first film, Miller didn’t funnel that money into cost-cutting computer effects, but instead funneled it into even more impressive practical effects and stunts and elected to use well-established actors Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.
With the success of “Fury Road,” it just shows us that “Mad Max” is a franchise with some gas still in its tank.