Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller|
|Content Rating||R (R)|
|Awards||Top Rated Movies #206 | Won 6 Oscars. Another 239 wins & 231 nominations.|
|Company||Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, Kennedy Miller Productions|
|Country||Australia, South Africa|
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road is a 2015 Australian post-apocalyptic action film co-written, co-produced, and directed by George Miller. Miller collaborated with Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris on the screenplay. The fourth instalment and a "revisiting" of the Mad Max franchise, it was produced by Kennedy Miller Mitchell and RatPac-Dune Entertainment and distributed by Village Roadshow Pictures in Australia and by Warner Bros. Pictures internationally. The film stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton. Set in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland where petrol and water are scarce commodities, Fury Road follows Max Rockatansky, who joins forces with Imperator Furiosa to flee from cult leader Immortan Joe and his army in an armoured tanker truck, leading to a lengthy road battle.
Miller came on the idea for Fury Road in 1987; however, the film was in development hell for many years before the idea occurred in 1998. Attempts to shoot the film in 2001 and 2003 were delayed due to the September 11 attacks and the Iraq War, respectively. Miller decided to pursue the film again in 2007, after the release of the animated comedy Happy Feet. In 2009, Miller announced that filming would begin in early 2011. Hardy was cast as Max in June 2010, with production planned to begin that November. Principal photography was delayed several more times before beginning in July 2012. The film wrapped in December 2012, although additional footage was shot in November 2013.
Fury Road premiered at Los Angeles on 7 May 2015, and was released in Australia on 14 May. Although it is the highest-grossing Mad Max film, Fury Road was a box office disappointment, grossing $375.4 million worldwide against its $154.6–185.1 million production budget and incurring overall losses of up to $20–40 million. The film was widely praised by critics for Miller's direction, screenplay, action sequences, musical score, cinematography, editing, costume design, visuals, and the performances of the cast (particularly from Hardy and Theron). Considered one of the greatest action films of all time and one of the best of the 2010s, Fury Road received numerous accolades, with ten Academy Award nominations at the 88th Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, and won the most awards of the ceremony with six awards for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.
After a pay dispute between Warner Bros. and Miller delayed early efforts to produce follow-up projects, a prequel, Furiosa, was announced as being in "advanced development" in 2020, with Miller set to return as writer and director.
With the world becoming a desert wasteland following a societal collapse from warfare over resources, a survivor named Max Rockatansky is captured and taken to Immortan Joe's Citadel by the War Boys, an army led by Joe. Max is imprisoned and used as a "blood bag" for a sick War Boy called Nux. Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa, one of Joe's lieutenants, is sent in her armoured "War Rig" to extract gasoline and ammunition. When Joe realises that his five wives are fleeing with her, he leads his army in pursuit of Furiosa, calling on the aid of nearby Gas Town and the Bullet Farm.
Nux joins the pursuit with Max strapped to his car, and a battle ensues between the War Rig and Joe's forces. Furiosa drives into a sand storm, evading her pursuers, except Nux, who attempts to sacrifice himself to destroy the Rig. Max escapes and restrains Nux, but the car is destroyed. After the storm, Max finds Furiosa repairing the Rig, accompanied by the wives: Capable, Cheedo, Toast, the Dag, and the Splendid Angharad, the last of whom is pregnant with Joe's child. Max steals the Rig, but reluctantly agrees to let Furiosa and the wives accompany him. Nux boards the Rig as it leaves and attempts to kill Furiosa, but is overcome and thrown out, being picked up by Joe's army.
Furiosa drives through a biker gang-controlled canyon, having bartered a deal for safe passage. The gang turns on her when they discover Joe's army arriving, forcing her and the group to flee, while the bikers detonate the canyon walls to block Joe. Max and Furiosa fight off the pursuing bikers as Joe's car breaks through the blockade. Joe catches up with the War Rig, allowing Nux to board with the intent of attacking Furiosa again; he fails, to the disappointment of Joe. As the Rig escapes, Angharad falls off trying to help Max and is fatally run over by Joe's car. Furiosa explains to Max that they are escaping to the "Green Place", an idyllic land she remembers from her childhood. Capable finds Nux hiding in the Rig, and consoles him as he laments his failure. Furiosa and Max slow Joe's forces with mines, but Joe's ally, the Bullet Farmer, continues pursuit. After Furiosa shoots the Bullet Farmer, Max leaves to confront him and his men, returning with guns and ammunition. During the firefight, Nux emerges from hiding to help free the trapped Rig and joins the crew.
After driving the War Rig overnight through swampland and desert, the crew comes across a mysterious woman. Furiosa approaches her and states her history and clan affiliation. The woman summons her clan, the Vuvalini, who recognize Furiosa as one of their own who was kidnapped as a child. Furiosa is devastated to learn that the swampland they passed was indeed the Green Place, now uninhabitable. The group then plans to ride across immense salt flats in the hope of finding a new home. After seeing visions of a child he failed to save, Max convinces them to return to the undefended Citadel, which has ample water and greenery, and to trap Joe and his army in the bikers' canyon.
The group heads back towards the Citadel and engage Joe's forces, with many Vuvalini and many of Joe's forces killed, and Furiosa seriously wounded. Joe positions his car in front of the War Rig to slow it, while Max fights Joe's large adult son, Rictus Erectus. Joe captures Toast, who manages to distract him long enough for Furiosa to kill him. Nux sacrifices himself by wrecking the Rig, killing Rictus and blocking the canyon, allowing the group to escape in Joe's car. Max transfuses his blood to Furiosa, saving her life.
Back at the Citadel, the people rejoice upon learning of Joe's death. Furiosa, the wives, and the Vuvalini are cheered by the crowd and welcomed by the remaining War Boys. Max and Furiosa both share a glance before he leaves.
- Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky
- Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa
- Nicholas Hoult as Nux
- Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe
- Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as The Splendid Angharad
- Nathan Jones as Rictus Erectus
- Riley Keough as Capable
- Zoë Kravitz as Toast the Knowing
- Abbey Lee as The Dag
- Courtney Eaton as Cheedo the Fragile
- Josh Helman as Slit
- John Howard as The People Eater
- Richard Carter as The Bullet Farmer
- Angus Sampson as The Organic Mechanic
- iOTA as The Doof Warrior
- Megan Gale as The Valkyrie
- Melissa Jaffer as Keeper of the Seeds
- Melita Jurisic, Gillian Jones, Joy Smithers, Antoinette Kellerman, and Christina Koch as The Vuvalini
- Quentin Kenihan as Corpus Colossus
- Coco Jack Gillies as Glory the Child
- Chris Patton as Morsov
- Stephen Dunlevy as The Rock Rider Chief / The Winchman
- Richard Norton as The Prime Imperator
In 1987, George Miller came on the idea by making the fourth instalment have "almost a continuous chase"; however, plans for a fourth instalment in the Mad Max franchise hit financial difficulties and the project spent several years in "development hell", with the idea for a fourth instalment occurred to Miller in 1998 when he was walking in an intersection in Los Angeles. About a year later, while travelling from Los Angeles to Australia, the idea coalesced. Miller conceived a story where "violent marauders were fighting, not for oil or for material goods, but for human beings." The film was set to shoot in 2001 through 20th Century Fox, but was postponed because of the September 11 attacks that same year. "The American dollar collapsed against the Australian dollar, and our budget ballooned", Miller said, adding that he "had to move on to Happy Feet because there was a small window when that was ready". Mel Gibson, who starred in the original three previous films, would not return to his role as the lead character. Miller ended up re-casting the role because of controversies surrounding Gibson and because he wanted Max to remain at a younger age, as the "same contemporary warrior". The project was given the green light to begin filming in the Australian desert in May 2003 with a budget of US$100 million, but the location was ruined by rainfall. Mad Max 4 then entered a hiatus in light of security concerns related to its Namibian shoot because of tightened travel and shipping restrictions at the onset of the Iraq War.
In November 2006, Miller stated that he intended to make Fury Road and that the film was never going to involve Gibson: "There's a real hope. The last thing I wanted to do is another Mad Max, but this script came along, and I'm completely carried away with it." The film's screenplay was co-written with cult British comic creator Brendan McCarthy, who also designed many of the new characters and vehicles. Miller again confirmed his intention to make another Mad Max at the 2007 Aurora filmmaker initiative. He stated that he thought Gibson would not be interested in the film because of his age. Heath Ledger was reportedly considered for the lead before his death in 2008. On 5 March 2009, it was announced that an R-rated animated feature film was in pre-production and would be taking much of the plot from Fury Road, although Gibson would not be in the film and Miller was looking for a "different route", a "renaissance" of the franchise. Miller cited director Akira Kurosawa as an inspiration for what he wanted to do with the franchise. Miller was also developing an action-adventure tie-in video game based on the fourth film, along with God of War II video game designer Cory Barlog. Both projects were expected to take two to two-and-a-half years, according to Miller, with a release date of either 2011 or 2012. Fury Road was going to be produced at Dr. D Studios, a digital art studios founded in 2008 by Miller and Doug Mitchell.
On 18 May 2009, it was reported that location scouting was underway for Mad Max 4, which "could go into production later this year." After exploring the possibility of an animated film, Miller decided instead to shoot a live-action film, and "has already had the various vehicles built for years now - as they were built for the doomed Fury Road shoot." By this time, production had moved to Warner Bros. In October 2009, Miller announced that principal photography on Fury Road would commence at Broken Hill, New South Wales in August 2010. That same month, British actor Tom Hardy was in negotiations to take the lead role of Max, while it was also announced that Charlize Theron would play a major role in the film. In June 2010, Hardy announced on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross that he would play the title role. In July 2010, Miller announced plans to shoot two Mad Max films back-to-back, entitled Mad Max: Fury Road and Mad Max: Furiosa. Weta Digital was originally involved with the film when it was scheduled for a 2012 release. The company was to be handling visual effects, conceptual designs, speciality make-up effects and costume designs until production was postponed from its November 2010 start date.
In November 2011, filming was moved from Broken Hill back to Namibia, after unexpected heavy rains caused wildflowers to grow in the desert of Broken Hill. Other potential locations scouted included the Atacama Desert in Chile, Chott el Djerid in Tunisia, and Azerbaijan.
In a July 2014 interview at San Diego Comic-Con International, Miller said he designed the film in storyboard form before writing the screenplay, working with five storyboard artists. It came out as about 3,500 panels, almost the same number of shots as in the finished film. He wanted the film to be almost a continuous chase, with relatively little dialogue, and to have the visuals come first.
Principal photography began in July 2012 in Namibia, with most of the filming based in the Dorob National Park. Filming also took place at the Cape Town Film Studios in Cape Town, South Africa. In October 2012, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Warner Bros. sent an executive to keep the production on track. Filming wrapped on 8 December 2012, without any of the opening or closing scenes at the Citadel shot. In February 2013, a leaked draft from the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management Project accused the producers of damaging parts of the Namib desert, endangering a number of plant and animal species. The Namibia Film Commission said it had "no reservations" after visiting the set during production. It disputed claims reported in the media, calling the accusations "unjust rhetoric". In September 2013, it was announced that the film would undergo reshoots of the opening and closing scenes at the Citadel, before continuing on 22 November 2013 at Potts Hill and Penrith Lakes in Western Sydney, and concluded in December 2013 at Fox Studios Australia.
Miller said that he did not feel he had to top himself in terms of production design compared to the previous films in the series. Instead, he wanted the production design to harken back to the earlier films and reflect the changes of the past 30 years. Colin Gibson, the production designer, said that they developed an internally consistent history to explain the film's look and justify its use of hot rods. Gibson designed the film's vehicles, all of which are fully functional. Construction of some of the vehicles began as early as 2003. 150 vehicles were constructed, with only 88 surviving to the end of filming. The ones that did not last were made for destruction, with some designed to snap in half. The War Rig, the film's most prominent vehicle, was made by combining a Tatra 815 and Chevrolet Fleetmaster and fusing a Volkswagen Beetle to the hull, among other modifications. The cars were designed to show characterisation and detail in the world, including the characters' feelings of guilt, loss and their attempts to recycle the remains of civilisation.
Cinematographer John Seale came out of retirement to shoot Fury Road. He replaced Dean Semler, the cinematographer of the previous two films, who left the film over the end of its preparation period. Seale outfitted his camera crew with six Arri Alexa Pluses and four Alexa Ms, as well as a number of Canon EOS 5Ds and Olympus PEN E-P5s that were used as crash cams for the action sequences. It was the first time Seale shot with digital cameras. Because of the fast nature required for edits, Miller asked Seale to keep the focus of the shot centered for each scene, thus allowing the audience to quickly orient towards it.
Miller said that 90% of the effects were practical. Both the Doof Wagon and the Doof Warrior's guitar are fully functional—none of his scenes were rendered in CGI—while the Doof Warrior's guitar shoots fire. Second unit director and supervising stunt coordinator Guy Norris was in charge of over 150 stunt performers, which included Cirque du Soleil performers. Miller invited playwright Eve Ensler to act as an on-set adviser. Impressed with the script's depth and what she saw as feminist themes, she spent a week in Namibia, where she spoke to the actors about issues of violence against women. Hardy would explain that he had a hard time seeing Miller's vision, which frustrated him; however, once seeing the finished product, he started his Cannes press briefing with a lengthy apology to Miller, calling him "brilliant".
Mad Max: Fury Road contains 2,000 visual effects shots. The lead effects company was Iloura, who delivered more than 1,500 effects shots for the film. Additional visual effects studios that worked on the film include Method Studios, Brave New World vfx, Stereo D, 4DMax, BlackGinger, The Third Floor, and Dr. D Studios. Miller recruited his wife, Margaret Sixel, to edit the film, as he felt she could make it stand out from other action films. Sixel had 480 hours of footage to edit, which took three months to watch. The film contains about 2,700 cuts of its entire running length. The frame rate was also manipulated, as Seale said that the film's frame rate is "something like 50 or 60 percent is not running at 24 frames a second, which is the traditional frame rate," and the film will be "running below 24 frames because George, if he couldn't understand what was happening in the shot, he slowed it down until you could. Or if it was too well understood, he'd shorten it or he'd speed it up back towards 24. His manipulation of every shot in that movie is intense." The Washington Post would later note that the changing frame rate gave the film an "almost cartoonishly jerky" look. The extensive effects work included altering lighting and time of day, weather effects, terrain replacement and plate composition.
Sound designer Mark Mangini stated that he viewed the War Rig as an allegory for Moby-Dick with Immortan Joe playing the role of Captain Ahab. As such, the mechanical truck sounds were layered with whale calls to provide a more animal-like quality to the truck. When the tank is pierced with harpoons and milk sprays out, the sound of whale blow-holes were used. For the final destruction of the War Rig, the only sounds used were slowed down bear growls to symbolise the death of the truck as a living creature.
The musical score for Mad Max: Fury Road was written by the Dutch composer Junkie XL. Prior to Junkie XL's involvement, Hans Zimmer, John Powell, and Marco Beltrami were attached at separate times to score the film. A soundtrack album was released by WaterTower Music on 12 May 2015.
Survival and humanity
Miller describes the film's key theme is survival, and his reason that is "why the American Western was such a staple for the better part of a century in American cinema." The primary theme of Mad Max: Fury Road is survival and retention of humanity in the face of apocalyptic events. As survival was the underlying goal for Max, the theme has been carried over from the previous instalments of the series that also highlight issues such as ecological collapse and moral decadence. The theme of humanity is illustrated by Max, who begins the film as the survivor haunted by visions of deceased people, then recovers his former dignity by partnering with Furiosa.
Feminism is another theme that has received academic attention. Charlize Theron as Furiosa is a dramatic center for the film. Throughout the film, her character demonstrates the physicality of a hero committed to a rescue mission, which "sets up the start of a matriarchy as an antidote to the barbarian, warlike tribes that came before". These elements contrast this film with the male-centered hero in the previous Mad Max films.
Director George Miller described the film as "a very simple allegory, almost a western on wheels". Further themes pointed out by critics have included vengeance, solidarity, home, and redemption. Similar to the previous Mad Max films, home has been regarded as a central theme in Mad Max: Fury Road as it dominates the motivations of Max, Furiosa, and the Five Wives: his home was destroyed, she was taken from her home, and the wives are in search of a new home to raise their children. The unity of these characters also harnesses a concern for family, a common theme within Miller's films—including Happy Feet, Happy Feet 2, and Babe: Pig in the City.
In May 2015, Vertigo began publishing a comic book prequel limited series, with each issue focusing on the backstory of one or two of the film's characters, and consisting of four issues. The first issue, titled Mad Max: Fury Road – Nux and Immortan Joe #1, was released on 20 May; the second, Mad Max: Fury Road – Furiosa #1, was released on 17 June; the third, Mad Max: Fury Road – Mad Max #1, was released on 8 July; and the fourth and final issue, Mad Max: Fury Road – Mad Max #2, was released on 5 August. A deluxe-edition hardcover collection of art inspired by the film, titled Mad Max: Fury Road – Inspired Artists Deluxe Edition, was released on 6 May by Vertigo.
Mad Max: Fury Road had its world premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles on 7 May 2015. On 14 May, it screened out-of-competition at the 68th Cannes Film Festival, and was theatrically released in the United States the next day.
Miller stated that the Blu-ray Disc release would include black-and-white and silent versions of the film, with the latter accompanied by the musical score. Miller described the black-and-white cut as the best version of the film. However, when details for both the United Kingdom and United States releases of the Blu-ray were announced, the alternate cuts were absent. Producer Doug Mitchell in December 2015 confirmed that the black-and-white version existed and could potentially see a future theatrical release. In January 2016, Miller announced that the black-and-white versions would appear in another DVD release.
The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD in the United Kingdom on 5 October 2015. In the United States, the film was released digitally on 11 August 2015, and physically on 1 September. In addition to the stand-alone release, a box set containing all four Mad Max films and a documentary about the series titled "Madness of Max" was released the same day. In October 2016, the black-and-white version of Fury Road, called Mad Max: Black & Chrome, debuted in the Mad Max: High Octane anthology. The Black & Chrome version was made without the involvement of cinematographer John Seale, but Seale stated that the idea was "beautifully dramatic" and that he thought "the new version will emphasise" the actor's performances.
Home media editions of Mad Max: Fury Road were among the top-selling video titles in the United States in 2015 and 2016. As of 2020, over 3 million copies have been sold, for a total revenue of $55.8 million.
Mad Max: Fury Road grossed $154.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $221.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $375.4 million, against a production budget of $154.6–185.1 million. A box office disappointment, The Hollywood Reporter calculated that the loss incurred by the film was around $20–40 million.
In the United States and Canada, Mad Max: Fury Road was released alongside Pitch Perfect 2 from across 3,702 theatres, and earned $16.77 million on its opening day; this included $3.7 million it made from Thursday night run from 3,000 theatres. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $45.4 million, finishing in second at the box office behind Pitch Perfect 2 ($69.2 million).
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, which categorizes reviews only as positive or negative, 97% of 424 reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.60/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "With exhilarating action and a surprising amount of narrative heft, Mad Max: Fury Road brings George Miller's post-apocalyptic franchise roaring vigorously back to life." According to the review aggregator Metacritic, which sampled 51 reviews and calculated a weighted average of 90 out of 100, Fury Road received "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph gave the film a full five stars and praised its acting, screenplay, choreography, stunts, humour and direction, describing it as a "Krakatoan eruption of craziness". In The Guardian and awarding the film four out of five, Peter Bradshaw wrote that it is "extravagantly deranged, ear-splittingly cacophonous, and entirely over the top", a "bizarre convoy chase action-thriller in the post-apocalyptic desert". Lindsay Bahr of the Associated Press described the film as "radically visionary".
IGN reviewer Scott Collura gave the film 9.2 out of 10, describing "the over-the-top stunts and eccentric characters and designs are all hugely important to Fury Road, as are the troubled figures like Max himself and Furiosa, but it’s the overriding sense of the film’s uniqueness, its striving to be something more than just another action movie, that is most impressive." Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four and wrote that Theron and Hardy are "one of the best action duos ever, in one of the best action movies". Similarly, Rolling Stone's Peter Travers called the film "a new action classic", with particular praise towards its editing, costumes and soundtrack. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a mixed review, praising the cinematography and Theron's performance, but perceiving the film as a "long, dull chase".
The film has been praised by scholars on several fronts. Women's studies have praised the dominant role taken by Furiosa and the range of atypical female roles, including the wives and the gun-toting Vuvalini, and disability studies scholars have commended its positive, non-stigmatising portrayals of physical and psychological disabilities. Several critics have named Mad Max: Fury Road one of the greatest action films ever made.
Mad Max: Fury Road was named one of the best films of 2015 by numerous critics and publications, and was named Rotten Tomatoes' best scoring film of 2015. The film topped Metacritic's tally of film critics year-end best film lists, with 58 critics naming it their best film of the year. Mad Max: Fury Road was named the nineteenth-greatest film of the 21st century in a 2016 BBC critics' poll. In 2017, it was named the "nineteenth-best film of the 21st century so far" by The New York Times. In January 2020, Empire voted it as the best film of the 21st century.
It appeared on numerous best films of the decade lists, ranked first on The A.V. Club critics' list of "100 best movies of the 2010s," ranked third on Variety's "The Best Films of the Decade," and ranked ninth on The Hollywood Reporter's The 10 Best Films of the Decade. It also appeared (unranked) on The New York Times' "The 10 Most Influential Films of the Decade (and 20 Other Favorites)", Wired's "The 24 Absolute Best Movies of the 2010s", and the Los Angeles Times' "best movies of the decade: Kenneth Turan and Justin Chang's essential picks". In Metacritic's tally of lists of the best films of the decade, it appeared on and topped more lists than any other film, with 20 critics placing it at number one.
The film received ten nominations at the 88th Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won six Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, surpassing all other films at the awards ceremony, and broke the record for the most wins for an Australian film, previously held by The Piano (1993), which won three Oscars.
During the writing process for Fury Road in 2011, Miller and McCarthy found that they had enough story material for two additional scripts. In March 2015, during an interview with Esquire, Hardy revealed that he was attached to star in three more Mad Max films following Fury Road. Miller told Wired in May 2015 that if the film becomes successful, he will tell the other two stories. Later that month, Miller revealed that plans for the sequel had changed and the fifth film in the franchise will instead be titled Mad Max: The Wasteland. That October 2015, Miller's team had scripts for two sequels.
Later that month, Miller clarified that Mad Max: The Wasteland was a working title for the sequel. Miller reaffirmed his intent to continue the franchise after reports to the contrary surfaced. In November 2017, it was reported that a lawsuit filed by Miller's production company against Warner Bros. over a disputed $7 million bonus was likely to delay the production of any sequels. In July 2019, Miller told IndieWire that the two films will both involve separately: a Mad Max story and a Furiosa story, in which their possibility is clear.
In October 2020, a prequel, titled Furiosa, entered "advanced development" at Warner Bros., with Miller set to direct. Anya Taylor-Joy has been cast to portray a young Furiosa, while Chris Hemsworth and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II will also star in unspecified roles. Miller will co-write the screenplay with Nico Lathouris, while Miller and Doug Mitchell will produce through their Kennedy Miller Mitchell banner. In December 2020, Warner Bros. announced that the film will be released on 23 June 2023. In a February 2021 interview, composer Junkie XL confirmed that he would return to produce the score for Furiosa.