Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Film Studies: Mad Max: Fury Road

Figure 1: Theatrical poster (IMDb)
  Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth installment to the Australian film franchise Mad Max. Historically, Mad Max has been considered an exploitation film; a film designed and marketed to play off the popularity of a particular trend, idea or gimmick.

  Historically, Mad Max exploited the international popularity of Australian cinema in the late 1970s and the bulk of the 1980s in order to be a financial success. But it was also a "carsplitation" film. Carspoitation films focus the action on cars and driving. This can be seen in Max Rockatansky's (Mel Gibson, Tom Hardy) title "The Road Warrior" and in Fury Road there is a moment where Max tries to fight some gang members of the War Boys who have stolen and reworked his car. It is this gang where Fury Road takes carsploitation to a new level. While the other films had various gangs, Fury Road takes the emphasis on cars to a new level with the War Boys. Who seem to behave like a cult, ritually asking for favour of "V8" when preparing for a drive with the titular Fury Road being alluded to as a spiritual place. As characters such as Nux talk about being "awaited". But they also talk about Valhalla which alludes to action-exploitation. Fury Road appears to ditch the use of Australian Exploitation, bringing in English and American actors, primarily using American vehicles such as Cadillacs, Chevrolets and Fords (Schaefer, 2015) and setting the bulk of the action in a nondescript desert.

Figure 2: The quintessence of Fury Road: Wacky cars, savage action and an intense chase across miles of nothing. (Woerner, 2015)

   The story itself exploits the driving gimmick to its most essential levels. Much of the story revolves around Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) driving to "the green place" with Max - who had been strapped to the car of Nux (Nicholas Hoult) who was part of a war party led to chase down and capture Furiosa. And the bulk of the story is the War Boys leader Immortal Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) chasing Furiosa across a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with everyone driving heavily modified cars. The War-Rig Furiosa drives is a lorry with an extended cab, Nux drove a stripped-off hot-rod, Immortal Joe drove what looked like two car bodies combined to make a monster truck and the captain of the Bullet Farm rode around in a car with caterpillar tracks.

Figure 3: Immortal Joe's war machine. Given he's a powerful warlord I suppose his access to such old cars is forgivable.
(Schaefer, 2015)

  What's interesting as a car film is that very few cars in the film are contemporary models. One driver has a 1960s Beetle, Joe's war-wagon appears to be a mash-up of a monster truck and two late-50s/early-60s Cadillacs and Nux's car (the one Max is strapped to above) looks reminiscent of the cars commonly associated with Greaser culture. The use of classic cars takes away from the idea that the War Boys are scavengers in a world where resources are scarce given they have access to so many classic models. Which might add credence to the ides this is a carsploitation film as surely in such a resource-strapped world it is more likely for drivers to come across modern models. And given Mad Max's timeline (if this is the same timeline) then surely a lot of 1970s car models would show up.

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1 comment:

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