So we saw Fury Road on Sunday and it seems that George Miller has finally figured out the mythology of Mad Max.
The first Mad Max was the origin story, sure. Important for that, less important otherwise. The high notes: Max used to be a cop, he failed to prevent his family being killed by gangs, he now wanders haunted.
The 2nd Movie, The Road Warrior, started nudging at the eventual iconic story. Mad Max wanders in a wasteland. There are still a whole lot of gangs wandering. Life has become a Hobbesnian battle of all against all… and, interestingly, new developments have started to take place in the culture of the gangs in the absence of a centralized government (and centralized culture). Society has begun to go feral. Max dismantles the feral society on the behalf of the innocent feral kids out there who would be swallowed whole by the gangs.
The 3rd movie, Beyond Thunderdome, finally understands what it wants to do. The movie begins with Max making his way through the wasteland not bugging anybody, but a couple of bad guys steal all of his stuff. Max just wants to get his stuff back and get back to not bugging anybody but, along the way to getting his stuff back, he encounters one of these feral societies and his vestigial sense of justice and rightness gets in the way of this and he ends up choosing doing the right thing over the easy payday. His punishment results in him meeting another anthropologically interesting society and his intention is to settle down with them… but events unfold such that he saves the little innocent ferals but is unable to stay with them as they enjoy their new lives in the promised land to which he shows the way.
Which brings us to Fury Road.
The new formula seems to be:
- Max is minding his own business.
- Max gets his butt kicked (good and hard) by one of these new gangs.
- We spend enough time with the new gang to get an idea of the direction society takes after the apocalypse. New gods, new virtues, new vices. (Don’t explain too much. Let the fact that everybody is talking about Valhalla suffice. There is no need for Auntie Entity to give a speech about before and after.)
- Max almost manages to escape his cruddy circumstances but finds his sense of justice and rightness getting in the way after he encounters a group of innocents.
- Max then goes on to dismantle this new society for the benefit of the innocents and helps them to set up a society more in tune with his sense of justice and rightness.
- This is done using vehicular combat. A *LOT* of vehicular combat.
- But, of course, he can’t stay to enjoy the new society he helps create. He’s gotta keep wandering.
And, if Fury Road is any indication, this formula *WORKS*. Beyond providing a field day for amateur anthropologists (the silver paint huffing war boys are a triumph), the action scenes are relentless, the dialog does not even aspire to “utilitarian”, and the explosions are *AWESOME*.
And I’m looking forward to the next Mad Max movie. Already.
So… what are you watching and/or reading?