Had the opportunity to catch Mad Max: Fury Road for the second time in theaters. It’s not something I do often. In fact, it’s probably been since Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty in the late 1990s that I’ve seen a movie a second time on the big screen. Two takeaways from George Miller’s latest Mad Max frenzy:
1. The amount of detail is incredible. Skulls everywhere, on steering wheels, on grills, on shifters, on the girls’ chastity belts, on Immortan Joe’s get-up and so on. The variety and variance among the vehicles – from the drum-and-guitar deathmobile to the unique war rig of Imperator Furiosa – isn’t new to the Mad Max franchise, but taken to a new level here. Hill even uses that to remind us what’s been lost in all this war and terror. There’s a moment between attacks where one of the girls is looking at the ceiling of Furiosa’s truck, and there’s this simple, beautiful pattern covering it. In the days before, that pattern would have likely included birds or cats, but here, more skulls. I can’t wait to watch it on DVD so I can pause to get a better look at those little but visually and stylistically important things that are hard to catch in a movie that moves at the pace Fury Road does.
2. A new creation story. Miller toyed with that some in Beyond Thunderdome with the story told by the kids who lived isolated from the terror of the world in their own little oasis. Here, the merging of pseudo-Viking religion as well as the worship of good, ol’ Detroit steel and chrome create a blind, unquestioning, suicidal warrior culture not unlike the Islamic extremism seen in pockets of the world we live in today. Immortan Joe is both a priest who preaches about the rewards of virtue and faith as well as god on Earth, controlling the most vital of resources: water. His cult insulates him from the rabble and wholeheartedly seeks to do whatever will most redeem them in Joe’s eyes. Joe promises them that their loyalty will be rewarded when they have left this hard, wretched place and live again in the afterlife. It’s a bit … Margaret Atwood-esque. In the Oryx & Crake/Year of the Flood/MaddAddam trilogy, Atwood shows that a creation story and the religion that develop from it are part truth, part fantasy shaped by necessity and part off-the-cuff bullshit, a mix that helps believers buy in. Miller’s Immortan cult has that feel to it. Brilliantly done.