19-25 February 2016 #796

Mad Max: Fury Road

Hollywood’s paean to set design, and a continuation of the subliminal horror that has always been a part of the Mad Max films
Sophia Pande

About a quarter of the way into watching George Miller’s fourth installment of Mad Max: Fury Road, I began to realise with a growing sense of horror, what a crazy, over the top, endlessly painful journey I was in for. Wanting to kick myself for not having realised earlier on why it was titled “Fury Road”, I heard a friend’s voice in my head, saying “That film is not one you want to journey through again.” Well, now I know what she meant. 

A very liberal take on the post-apocalyptic world that Mel Gibson, the original ‘Mad Max’, battled in, this desert-like landscape in the 2015 iteration takes an enormous amount of inspiration, knowingly or not, from David Lynch’s much loved (and much vilified) film Dune (1984), adapted from the seminal 1964 Frank Herbert science fiction novel of the same name. 

As with Lynch’s villains, the men here are monstrous, both morally as well as in form, thriving on their deformities (caused by nuclear fallout) just as the women are beautiful, almost mythical creatures who wield enormous power – in this case, the ability to give birth and to nurture a fast-dying, hideously sickened human race. 

This sandy realm has no respite; there are no oases, only power that comes from controlling water, gasoline, and the women. It is in this grim, terrifying world run by the grotesque Immortan Joe (played ferociously by Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his legion of half crazed offspring, that Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) stages a daring revolt, diverting one of the precious, coveted ‘war rigs’ on a trip to pick up gasoline, helping Joe’s five young, beautiful, tough as nails wives (played by the likes of Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Riley KeoughCourtney Eaton, and Abbey Lee) to escape the heinous baby factory that their bodies (and minds) have been subjected to. 

Chased by Joe’s entire army and compounded by his equally bellicose allies, Furiosa and Max (the brilliant Tom Hardy), who was a captive at Joe’s citadel, embark upon a blood and death filled ride, which is embellished with the most over the top accoutrements you can imagine, including a pursuit vehicle in Joe’s army mounted with a ghoulish, electric guitar playing creature that provides the raucous soundtrack to this nightmarish film.

Mad Max: Fury Road is Hollywood’s paean to set design, and a continuation of the subliminal horror that has always been a part of the Mad Max films, amplified by a thousand writers and creative directors possibly on acid or perhaps just high on the hubris from having $150 million to spend on a road film where warped human beings brutally murder each other with glee – accompanied by an oversized electric guitar.