The making of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road was fraught with tension. But the sweat, blood and tears at least amounted to something in the end — 10 Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture and Best Director.
“In this wasteland, I am a man reduced to a single instinct — survive.”
Survival is easily the most obvious and significant theme of George Miller’s 2015 masterful movie, Mad Max: Fury Road, which starred Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz and the late Hugh Keays-Byrne, among others. The movie, set in a dystopian wasteland, is about The Citadel ruler Immortan Joe’s (an awe-inspiring Keays-Byrne) chase to get back his young partners, or ‘breeders,’ as he calls them. The young women have escaped with the rogue commander of Joe’s army, Imperator Furiosa (a terrific Theron), who wants to avenge herself and the women.
A skilled fighter, Furiosa drives a massive truck-like vehicle throughout the stretch of the film, which is referred to as War Rig, as she does her best to escape from the furies of tyrant Joe. He, meanwhile, has his eyes only on the prize. The females are important to him as he wants to birth healthy heirs from them to rule the dry desert. The Citadel, Joe’s palace of sorts, is a fortified area where the area’s two most vital things are stored, water and gasoline. As his clan grows, the people of the desert run askew with dry mouths and starved souls, sometimes ‘experiencing’ the magic of water when Joe wants them to. Essentially, Mad Max: Fury Road is all about destabilising the one in power and seeking justice as the citizens struggle to breathe freely. In comes Tom Hardy’s Max, who has been hunted and held captive by Joe and his War Boys for healthy genetics. Max is fighting too, to flee from the prisons of Joe and his own mind, haunted by images of those he could not save.
Despite having his name on the title of the movie and being as good an actor he is, Hardy is definitely not the protagonist. Co-written by Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road serves its big themes as its heroes, a close second is Theron’s Furiosa and the monster of a vehicle she drives. Miller does so many different things here, making Fury Road seem like its own new beast, despite being a reboot of the his Mad Max franchise (played earlier by Mel Gibson). One of the first things that struck was the striking image of the War Boy with a flaming red guitar as the chase began. The guitar guy blazed his fingers on the instrument, pushing it to scream its lungs out. War music is an ancient concept; even before the battle was won, warriors celebrated the spirit of the event and pumped themselves up to do some crazy, horrific deeds through music. So Miller’s idea of using that centuries-old ritual via modern electronic instruments itself felt fresh. As if some bit of that rush of those men got seeped into you as you heard the drums go and guitars blare that big, terrible sound. The score by Junkie XL helped build this weird world further, you were scared but couldn’t look away. Like a car crash waiting to happen.
Feminism is another major takeaway. Furiosa being the prime example in this case, but so are the women who dared to escape with her. Those who want a better future, and are willing to fight for it. Joe thinks the partners are his ‘property’ and says as much, yelling at Furiosa as he tears down the sandy paths — “They’re my property!” Furiosa, at first, is not in the game to fight the good fight, so to speak. She just wanted her revenge. However, later, her heart turns when she gets into the thick of it. She is seen rising to the occasion even though she is scared of going against the person she has worked for such a long time. Multiple times we see Theron’s face shrouded in fear, disgust and anger as she drives the monster truck. She did not have to say anything to show us she was being valiant. After all, it’s only bravery if you are frightened out of your wits, and that’s what she was, every second.
Considering the solid silent chemistry that Hardy and Theron share in the actioner, one would think everything went seamlessly behind the camera. But that was far from the truth, as recently both the lead stars accepted their working relationship was fraught with tension, so much so that after one ugly confrontation, Charlize had requested a woman producer to accompany her at all times on the set. And now, the artistes have themselves referred to it and said maybe, the movie itself was such a mammoth thing to put your energy behind, that Theron and Hardy misdirected their frustration and fear at each other.
But the sweat, blood and tears at least amounted to something in the end, a little more than something in the world of showbiz in fact — 10 Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture and Best Director.
Mad Max: Fury Road is currently streaming on Netflix.