Mad Max

The Man Who Came from the Sky (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

Recent feedback from a friend on my Mad Max 2 (dir. Miller, 1981) post brought to my attention my disregard of the Gyro Captain’s (Bruce Spence) role in the film. So, in an attempt to compensate, I’m giving him a post all of his own.

We are introduced to the Captain when he captures Max (Mel Gibson) by concealing himself beneath the sand and tempting him with the prospect of gasoline. Max, in turn, is able to outwit and capture the Captain, which sets in motion a game of one-upmanship between them. The Captain’s association with a snake is symbolic of the cunning he displays and his ability to adapt to life in the wasteland but is also connected to the film’s religious themes, as we see him use temptation and treachery in pursuit of his goals.

In contrast to Max – who resembles a Marauder – the Captain attempts to maintain a respectable appearance and employs a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation, making him seem more attuned to the Settlers’ ideals. The Captain sees himself as a gentleman and criticises Max for his lack of ‘style and taste’ – evoking certain representations of Satan. If we compare their initial encounters with the Settlers, we see Max is persecuted while the Captain is accepted and, indeed, respected instantly, due to his transport and air of sophistication (showing the traditional Settlers aversion to those who are different).

Both Max and the Captain seem affected by the Settlers’ lifestyle, seemingly abandoning their self-interest to aid the community – but not before Max is hunted down by Wez (Vernon Wells) and the Captain tries to tempt Lusty Girl (Arkie Whiteley) away (his compliance with her refusal suggesting he is warming to the Settlers’ family-like existence). When it is revealed that the Captain was complicit in the Settlers’ betrayal of Max, we see that he hasn’t changed at all and he is merely profiting from the opportunity the alliance provides. It’s possible he even instigated the betrayal, as it is he who returns Max to the compound so the deception can be carried out (speaking demoniacally to the addled Max), and he later returns to gloat upon its success. Like the Settlers, his respectability is merely a cover and his true selfishness is revealed.

Mad Max 2 uses exaggerated villains to criticise capitalism, politicians and religion, but it is its most subtle villain that prevails. The Captain has the ability to fit in, to pursue his self-interests within the system while maintaining a mask of decency. He does not come across as evil, in fact, he is very likeable – as are many unscrupulous opportunists in our own world, who’re often part of respected organisations and institutions – but, in the end, he proves himself more dangerous than any of the anarchic Marauders.

Max, like myself, ignored the Captain at his peril – believing this was the story of his reformation while all along he was still embroiled in a game of one-upmanship with the nefarious Captain. The Settlers adopt the Captain as their new leader, referring to him as ‘the man who came from the sky’. The title allots the Captain prophet-like status, but while Max’s Christ-like figure is representative of the need for communality, the Captain represents immoral self-interest, showing they have embraced a false prophet. Max, untrusting of such a society, chooses to remain an outsider.

the-gyro-captain_140335-fli_1374136123

More Mad Max!

Just One Man Can Make a Difference (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

If We Can’t Stick Together (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)

Hope & Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Mad Max

Only Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Missing Mel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

 

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Missing Mel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Saying Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. Miller, 2015) would’ve been better with Mel Gibson, sounds like the bitter and delusional cry of an older fan, whose sentimental attachment to the original trilogy is blinding him from the true awesomeness of the movie. I mean, it’s got 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, dude, what are you talking about? Well, okay, there are obvious reasons for not casting Mel, which we won’t go into detail about here, but let’s just say certain events have resulted in him becoming far from the huge box office draw he once was. Casting Mel in the movie could’ve possibly resulted in a commercial disaster, and a fresh start was likely needed for the series to appeal to a younger generation. However, if we ignore these issues (and the fact that it should’ve been a Furiosa film, not a Mad Max one), casting Mel would’ve undoubtedly been the right decision, made far more narrative and thematic sense, and resulted in a far better movie.

Hope4Mel

George Miller has said in interviews that Fury Road was “never meant to be a story about an older warrior”, but everything about it suggests it should’ve been. You may ask how can you tell a story of an older Max still haunted by the death of his family, didn’t he move on in the second and third films? Well, how about this:

In his final days, an aged Max is still wandering the cruel wasteland. Reflecting on his life, he again becomes haunted by his past and visions of his lost family and begins to question whether he really has made a difference. 

If Max was nearing death, it makes perfect sense that he would be remembering the loved ones he’s lost and questioning the meaning of his life – which is a neat progression of the themes of Mad Max 2 (dir. Miller, 1981). At the start of the film, we see Max’s (Tom Hardy) blood forcibly taken via transfusion. This would’ve undoubtedly weakened an older Max and resulted in him moving ever closer to death throughout the film. Having Max gripping onto life from the very start of the film – desperate to prove once more he can make a difference – would really increase the tension and up the dramatic stakes (whilst channelling the classic Doctor Who – The Caves of Androzani. If you haven’t seen it, get off my blog!). Max’s age and weak condition would also explain his lack of involvement and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) handling most of the action (which some fans have criticised), and his brief spells of action would be all the more heroic with him struggling to hold onto life.

Joe

A stronger connection between Max and Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Bryne) would exist if Mel were in the role. Joe is played by the actor who played Toecutter in Mad Max (dir. Miller, 1979), the character who killed Max’s family. Just having Mel come face to face with Hugh again would resonate with older fans, but it’s also possible that Joe could be an older Toecutter, who unknown to Max, survived his collision at the end of the first film – accounting for his breathing apparatus and deformity. Max, again encountering the murderer of his family, could result in him being torn between his desire for vengeance and his duty to help those escaping in the War Rig. This could perhaps be too much continuity for new fans, but even without it, there are definite parallels to be formed between Joe and an older Max. Nearing death, both men are seeking meaning to their lives – Joe selfishly wants to leave a legacy with a son and heir, while Max, altruistically, wishes to create a better place for the generation he’s leaving behind by helping those on the War Rig escape. The Many Mothers joining Max near the end of the film connects to this theme, as we see an older generation, who had lost hope, finding purpose by fighting for a new generation.

Canyon

My favourite aspect of Fury Road was its subversion of the plots of the second and third films, which involve Max assisting characters to flee damaged societies so they can create a new paradise elsewhere. Fury Road is set up this way with Furiosa leading the War Rig to the Green Place, but upon discovering it no longer exists, Max makes the decision to return to Immortan Joe’s Citadel and mend the society they’ve left behind instead of running away. It’s a powerful moment, but would be all the more effective if it was made by a Max who had made the decision to flee from trouble in the two previous films and originally in the first film after the death of his family. A major flaw of Fury Road is that from the moment Max makes the decision to return, there are no surprises left; of course they’ll succeed with their plan, they’re the good guys! What’s missing is one of the main characteristics of the two previous films, ‘Max’s heroic sacrifice’. In both Mad Max 2 and Beyond Thunderdome (dir. Miller & Ogilvie, 1985), Max allows characters to escape danger by sacrificing himself. This does not happen in Fury Road and is a major oversight. Max’s plan is to return to the Citadel, charging through Joe’s war party and blocking the canyon so they cannot pursue. This succeeds, as Nux (Nicholas Hoult) sacrifices himself by blocking the canyon with the War Rig, causing Joe’s war party to crash into it. This clearly should’ve been Max’s responsibility, resulting in him being trapped outside the citadel and left to wander the wasteland once more, or if this were a film about an older Max, his death! Max making such a noble sacrifice (perhaps instead of taking revenge on Toecutter/Joe – if we wanna go with that storyline) would result in a far more emotional ending and a perfect send off for Mel. Max could finally have closure on the death of his family, and his life could be given purpose, as he finally makes the decision not to run from his problems and helps create a peaceful society to be left behind when he’s gone, discovering just one man ‘really’ can make a difference.

Just one man

More Mad Max!

Just One Man Can Make a Difference (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

If We Can’t Stick Together (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)

Hope & Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Mad Max 

Only Fury (Fury Road)

The Man Who Came from the Sky (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

Only Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Well, I’ve seen it, and overall I was disappointed (and not just with the CGI and terrible narration). I know, I must be the only person in the world, but if you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know I had some pretty high expectations, and the film just failed to deliver on many counts.

My main complaint is with the feminist themes. No, not the same complaint that’s getting all the press attention (note to all the so-called meninists – if you think Mad Max has never had feminist themes, read my post on Beyond Thunderdome). We’re told it is bad to objectify women as Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) does by treating his Five Wives as his property, but the film does nothing else but objectify them. The Wives have no agency and no character. They’re weak, useless victims, there to be protected by Max (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to add risk to their endeavour, for Nux (Nicholas Hoult) to have a shallow romance with (so we know he’s now a good guy) and to be fetishized by the audience! As my girlfriend said to me, “they had no character but I liked looking at them”. In the first scene where we see all the Wives together, they are dressed in revealing clothing, their nipples visible, spraying each other with a hose and washing each other’s legs; looking like something out of a low-rent porno (I’m assuming). I understand they’re supposed to represent the kind of women who are fetishized in our own society, but to criticise this, surely they should have been given some sort of character? They are only ever addressed by name (Splendid, Capable, Fragile…) by Joe; pet names I presume he attributed to them because of their sexual characteristics. It would have been nice if they rejected these names and we learnt who they really are! The only female character with any agency is Furiosa. The Many Mothers can kick ass but they’re basically just there as cannon fodder for the final chase as we aren’t given enough time to connect with them or reason to care about them (like the Wives, I couldn’t name a single one without a Google search). Even Furiosa is hard to sympathise with as her backstory about being kidnapped as a child from the Green Place and wanting to return there is only revealed ‘in the scene directly prior to them arriving there’ and discovering it’s now a bog! We are then expected to feel sympathy as she breaks down and falls to her knees screaming in an incredibly over-the-top and pretentious scene. If we’re expected to connect with her and support her struggle, then her goal should be made clear from the very start! The solution to the problems with the Wives and Furiosa is there should’ve only been one wife and that should’ve been Furiosa! This would give her a backstory we could connect with from the start (she was kidnapped as a child from the Green Place to become Joe’s future wife) and give a character that has been objectified back their agency. It would make sense for a victim of such abuse to want to return to a safe childhood place and would make the decision to go back to the Citadel and face her problems instead of running away more powerful. Some people may consider it unrealistic that a female victim of such abuse could become such a strong warrior but I don’t think this issue would even occur to them if applied to a male character.

Five Wives

Despite being presented with a fascinating society, we learnt little more about it than was revealed in interviews and trailers. The Information given about Immortan Joe was not built upon or in some cases even referenced. What happened to his backstory, previously being Colonel Joe Moore? I guess that’ll be in the prequel comic. If it was made clear that Joe was once a military leader, one that was responsible for starting wars over commodities such as oil and water, and through his proliferation of these sins he represents the worst of the old world, then we would have a definitive answer to the repeated question, “who killed the world?”. Also, although it’s made clear the War Boys believe that by dying heroically for Joe they will enter the afterlife, the fact that Joe has tricked the populous into believing he is an immortal messiah is not referenced. This oversight significantly lessens the impact when his dead body is presented to his subjects at the conclusion. The main lapse in the religious subtext is in the depiction of Max as a Christ-like figure, as the trait of the previous films of Max making a final heroic sacrifice is not included. In the previous films, Max has assisted characters fleeing a damaged society so they can create a new paradise elsewhere. Subverting this trait by having Max decide to return to Joe’s Citadel and help repair that society is superb and counteracts the questionably defeatist attitude of these conclusions, but once Max makes this decision, the film has no surprises left. Max’s plan is to return to the Citadel, charging through Joe’s war party and blocking the canyon so that they cannot pursue. This succeeds, as Nux sacrifices himself by blocking the canyon with the War Rig, causing Joe’s war party to crash into it. Nux’s death is no big surprise, as he is a support character and support characters are killed off for plot convenience all the time. His reasons for making this sacrifice are shallow compared to Max’s in the previous films as they are motivated by his soulless romance with the Red Headed Wife (yeah, I’m just gonna call her that as it’s the only distinctive thing about her). Max’s sacrifice would’ve cemented the film’s altruistic themes, with Max acting as a parallel to Joe’s selfish, false messiah and selflessly sacrificing himself so a better society can be born. However, Max has less invested in the society than other characters, so what would have made more sense is if Furiosa made the sacrifice (as she was complicit in its wrongdoing). The film really should’ve been called Furiosa; I’m not saying that sarcastically, Max is superfluous as his goal is the same as Furiosa’s (to find redemption for past failures by building a better future). Furiosa should’ve been the only wife, kidnapped as a child, treated as an object all her life but then finding the agency to return home. She would then come to the conclusion (by herself, not have a man make it for her as Max did) that she must face her problems and return to the Citadel. Finally, she would make the decision to sacrifice herself for the benefit of society instead of taking vengeance on her abuser, Joe. That’s the film I believe this should’ve been.

More Mad Max!

Just One Man Can Make a Difference (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

If We Can’t Stick Together (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)

Hope & Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Mad Max 

Missing Mel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

The Man Who Came from the Sky (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

Mad Max

Some readers may have been wondering why I have neglected to post about Mad Max (dir. Miller, 1979) for so long – covering Mad Max 2 (dir. Miller, 1981), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (dir. Miller & Ogilvie, 1985), and my expectations for Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. Miller, 2015) before it. Well, the truth is, I just don’t hold it in such high esteem as the second and third films. Many fans will be outraged by this declaration as the original is the favourite of many of the saga’s most devout, but hopefully, this post will justify my reasoning.

Max

Although there’s no doubt it is a superlative action movie, featuring electrifying chases and stunts, and gripping performances (Mel Gibson really makes us empathise with Max’s struggle and lose, and Hugh Keays-Byrne is unnervingly deranged as Toecutter), it just doesn’t have the thematic depth of its successors – and the themes it does cover are morally questionable (even George Miller rejected them, amending them in the two sequels).

Toecutter

Max’s job as a cop suggests support for the establishment while the outlaw existence of Toecutter’s gang vilifies the counterculture, and the endorsement of Max’s conventional family life becomes problematic when we consider the gang’s bisexual characterisation. Johnny the Boy (Tim Burns) is physically affectionate towards Toecutter, who refers to him as having a “sweet, sweet mouth”, implying Johnny is Toecutter’s bitch. The gang also rape a heterosexual couple and gang members act in a stereotypical ‘camp gay’ manner. It has also been suggested that Fifi (Roger Ward), Max’s commanding officer, is gay by people judging his appearance and flamboyant character. Another factor contributing to this opinion is that Roger Ward is famous for writing The Set (dir. Brittain, 1970), the first Australian film to have homosexuality as a central theme, which depicts homosexuality within Australia and is supposedly partly autobiographical. If Fifi was intended to be seen as gay, then it’s possible that similarly to Mad Max 2, the filmmakers were attempting to promote equality and show a future where sex has become interchangeable. If this is the case, they did a poor job, as suggesting one good guy is gay through stereotypical characterisation and having bisexual villains who commit rape is no way to promote equality.

Fifi

The film’s central theme is of ‘survival of the fittest’. Toecutter’s gang operate via a hierarchical structure, a system he believes should be applied universally, with him at the top

TOECUTTER: “Take your hat off.” 

STATION MASTER: “Anything you say.”

TOECUTTER: “Anything I say? What a wonderful philosophy you have.” 

This system encourages a survival of the fittest mentality that encourages gang members to seek revenge when they are wronged to reclaim their dominance. Max is torn between his family life and his job, which the alluring thrill of is putting him at risk of becoming as dangerous as the criminals he faces. From his first appearance, there is a suggestion that it wouldn’t take much for Max to tip over the edge and become as deranged as one of Toecutter’s gang, as we see him crash the Nightrider’s (Vince Gil) car by besting him in a game of chicken. Nightrider’s subsequent death incites Toecutter’s gang to seek revenge. In their search for revenge, a grudge is also formed between Max’s best friend and fellow officer, Jim Goose (Steve Bisley) and Johnny the Boy. Johnny is arrested by Goose, mocked by him while in custody, and when no witnesses show at Johnny’s trail, he is released, and an angered Goose attempts to attack him but is held back by his fellow officers. Johnny must prove himself to Toecutter and the rest of the gang by taking vengeance. He causes Goose’s vehicle to crash by throwing a brake drum through the window and must complete his initiation by burning Goose alive. Max is pushed into operating in a hierarchical system, being Main Force Patrol’s “top pursuit man”, a job he is desperate to leave but is pressured by his fellow officers to keep.

FIFI: “You’re a winner, Max! You’re on the top shelf!”

Max attempts to resign but is persuaded by Fifi to take a holiday with his family and think about it. While on holiday, he is hunted down by Toecutter’s gang and his wife and child are killed by them (a classic example of fridging, which is at odds with the active feminism of the sequels). Max’s fears come true, and he adopts the philosophy of Toecutter’s gang, setting out on a revenge-fuelled rampage. He assaults a mechanic to gain information, just as Toecutter had previously done, then hunts down and kills the gang members. The last to die is Johnny, whose death parallels Goose’s. Max finds Johnny, handcuffs his ankle to a vehicle, sets up a rudimentary time-delay fuse that will shortly cause it to explode, then throws him a hacksaw, leaving him the choice of hacking through the handcuffs in ten minutes or his ankle in five! The desperate Johnny cries, “you think I look silly don’t you”, echoing the words he used to describe Goose before his death, “look at him, he looks silly doesn’t he, upside down”. Just as Johnny submitted to the gang by killing Goose, Max has now submitted to their survival of the fittest mentality by killing Johnny in the same manner.

Although Mad Max is critical of the survival of the fittest philosophy, it suggests it is inescapable and the only way the world can operate – a decidedly grim and morally corrupt view. When put in context with its sequels, the film’s negativity is rectified, but when judging the films individually, I’m on the side of the latter instalments and their more hopeful outlooks.

More Mad Max!

Just One Man Can Make a Difference (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

If We Can’t Stick Together (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)

Hope and Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Only Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Missing Mel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

The Man Who Came from the Sky (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

Hope & Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

There’s not long to wait until Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. Miller, 2015) hits UK cinemas on May 14th, and recently there’s been an abundance of clips and interviews promoting the film. The original Mad Max films are probably my favourite trilogy, so obviously my expectations are high. I’ve been dissecting every bit of information that’s been released, in the hope of finding evidence that it will, at least, come close to living up to the legacy of the previous films. Here’s a summary of my hopes and fears, based upon the information I’ve gathered.

Fury Rd Poster

Both the previous sequels have extended the saga’s existing themes, making them clearer and counteracting any possible misinterpretations. I’m hoping Fury Road will follow this tradition. The second and third films criticised our capitalistic society, and although in Mad Max 2 (dir. Miller, 1981) this message was confused due to the bad guys’ resemblance to countercultural figures, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (dir. Miller & Ogilvie, 1985) made its point clear by clearly presenting the bad guys as operating within a hierarchical capitalist system. Mad Max: Fury Road looks set to do the same but offers to present an even more complex system, ruled by a corrupt leader, Immortan Joe (Heugh Keays-Bryne).

GEORGE MILLER: “Immortan Joe, Hugh Keays-Byrne’s character, who is the warlord of the wasteland, he now has a citadel where he controls the water. And then he has Gas Town, that we see from a distance, which supplies the gas. And then there’s Bullet Farm, which supplies their munitions. So it’s an ecology, almost a hermetically sealed ecology. An economy and an ecology in a wasteland.”

George Miller has also commented upon how Mad Max 2 was influenced by oil wars and that Fury Road will also present some topical criticisms of world powers fighting over resources.

GEORGE MILLER: People effectively went to war for oil. We arguably have been fighting oil wars ever since. Now, in some places in the world, there are water wars.”

The previous films have comprehensively taken a dim view of war, presenting them as being started by greedy leaderships that selfishly seek commodities and resources, but they have yet to offer a defined opinion of the military. Mad Max 2 hinted that the wicked Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) was ex-military via his possession of a military gun and case, and George Miller has revealed a little about his origins.

GEORGE MILLER: “Humungus had been some kind of military man who’d been in a severe accident or explosion and suffered facial or head burns.”

Miller has also suggested that Pappagallo (Michael Preston) was ex-military, but as his morality was presented as ambiguous, this can’t be seen as making any definitive statement. Another Settler, Curmudgeon (Syd Heylen), wears a military uniform, but as the Settlers were at times used to represent outdated institutions and Curmudgeon was characterised as a senile old man, who was also occasionally seen dressed in his pyjamas, it’s possible the military were also meant to be included in this bracket. With the character of Immortan Joe, Fury Road will hopefully define these themes, as he is also an ex-military man, formerly known as Colonel Joe Moore, and is seen wearing medals and military insignia.

Immortan Joe

In the past, the saga has promoted gender equality by attempting to present a society where the sexes are equal, featuring strong, free-willed, female characters like the Warrior Woman (Virginia Hey) and Savannah Nix (Helen Buday). It has also touched upon objectification and oppression of women by criticising women being used as commodities and the story of Adam and Eve promoting the suppression of women’s knowledge. Fury Road promises that these gender equality themes will come to the fore. The latest trailer reveals the plot centres around a female character, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), freeing five women known as the ‘Five Wives’ from the captivity of Immortan Joe, who is using them as sex slaves to bear his children. The trailer shows the Five Wives repeatedly screaming at Immortan Joe, “we’re not things”, vandalising their prison with these words, cutting the locks of their chastity belts once they’re freed, and Immortan Joe, upon discovering they are missing, yelling, “where is she taking them? I want them back. They’re my property”. It’s clear from the released footage that Furiosa is one tough character. She is seen to be involved in a lot of the action, driving the huge War Rig, saving Max’s (Tom Hardy) life by grabbing hold of him as he falls out of the vehicle, and head-butting bad guys. Her name also suggests her hardened nature, and possibly her origins, imperator meaning general in Latin and furiosa being Portuguese for furious. Along with her name, the fact we see her being branded with Immortan Joe’s mark of a burning skull, which also features on the War Rig along with her mark of a skeleton arm, indicates she was once a general under Immortan Joe’s command but turned traitor due to issues with his treatment of the Five Wives and decided to rescue them and flee in the War Rig. George Miller has said, I don’t think anyone’s ever seen anything quite like (Furiosa) in cinema before”, a strong statement considering the tough woman we’ve seen in sci-fi in the past. However, it has to be said that many of these tough sci-fi women draw their strength from maternal instincts (Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor), which connects them with conservative female roles, or are overly sexualised, their strength existing more for its fetishistic appeal to the male audience than for female empowerment (Black Widow). So let’s hope Miller strays away from these conventions. It’s possible that Miller is not only referring to Furiosa’s gender but also her disability, as she possesses an artificial arm. Beyond Thunderdome could perhaps be criticised for presenting disabled people as helpless, as Master (Angelo Rositto) and Blaster (Paul Larsson) are unable to operate without the other’s assistance. Furiosa is clearly a disabled character who is more than capable of looking after herself.

Furiosa Disabled

Immortan Joe is seen to derive his power from manipulating religious superstition; tricking the masses into thinking he was brought back from the dead. This suggests a more blatantly negative depiction of religion than in the previous films. Mad Max 2 presented the religious Settlers in a mostly positive light; their religion leading to social progress. In Beyond Thunderdome, the fact that members of the Lost Tribe make it to their Tomorrow-Morrow Land, in a sense fulfilling their prophecy, could be misinterpreted as pro-religion by people not realising it is the rejection of their religion that led them to progress. Max’s (Mel Gibson) characterisation as a Christ-like figure could also be misunderstood by people not appreciating the message that Max makes his altruistic sacrifices despite being just a man. Immortan Joe’s false resurrection suggests he could be cast as a Christ-like figure of a different nature. Plus, in the latest trailer, we hear Immortan Joe preach to his followers that they will only enter the afterlife through him; his prophetic words imitating those of Christ.

IMMORTAN JOE: “It is by my hand…you will rise…from the ashes…of this world.”

JESUS CHRIST: “I AM THE LIVING GOD, The Way and The Truth and The Life; no man comes to my Father but by me alone.”

We also again see Max presented as a Christ-like figure, as he is seen in a Christ-like pose, chained to the front of an enemy vehicle. It could be possible that like Wez (Vernon Wells) in Mad Max 2, Immortan Joe presents a dark parallel to Max, representing religions’ power to be used for corruption, manipulation and power-seeking, while Max, as always, promotes charity, communal spirit and sacrifice, but rejects deification. The character of Nux (Nicholas Hoult), it seems, is also being used to expand the religious critique. The previous films, presenting the good guys as being in search of paradise, could easily be misinterpreted as praising the concept of seeking a glorious afterlife, even though Beyond Thunderdome’s intended message was for us to build our own paradise here on Earth. Nux is initially an antagonist, being one of Immortan Joe’s best pursuit riders; a group of drivers who are willing to sacrifice themselves for his cause. The trailers even feature one of these pursuit riders acting as a suicide bomber, possibly acting as a criticism of religious extremism. Nux is sent to chase down Max and Furiosa, and according to George Miller, “(Nux’s) looking for a glorious death in battle, in the hopes of a sweet afterlife”. In the trailers, we see Max carrying an unconscious Nux on his shoulders after rescuing him from a crash, and promotional pictures show Nux joins the good guys. This could mean that after not experiencing the afterlife during a near-death experience, and being shown kindness by Max although he showed him none, Nux has been taught to appreciate and make the most of the life he has now. As trailers reveal Fury Road will also include the past plot thread of Max losing his family, it’s possible Max could be taught the same, and this could be a main theme. Nux’s journey would be similar to that of members of the Lost Tribe, but Nux actually acknowledging he saw no afterlife, would be the most direct statement on the existence of heaven the saga has ever made.

One of the main criticisms of Mad Max 2 is that the appearance of the deviant Marauders could be seen as criticising homosexuality and the punk movement. They’re decked out in BDSM gear, with Mohawk haircuts, and two are in a homosexual relationship. This was never George Miller’s intention, and there are ways Fury Road could rectify this. It would be great to see a positive depiction of a homosexual character and Nux seems the most suitable option. It’s possible that such feelings could be suppressed under Immortan Joe’s tyrannical religious regime, and this could provide Nux with a motivation to join the pursuit riders; hoping the afterlife would offer him a better existence. Having him join the good guys, who’re excepting of him, would provide a positive message. I think the fact Miller is a known rock music enthusiast, and his casting of punk icon Angry Anderson in Beyond Thunderdome, has proved he has no beef with the punk movement, but a direct criticism of what he believes are the failings of the rock industry could help make his feelings clear once and for all. Miller’s favourite band is the highly political Midnight Oil, which could suggest he’s not a fan of the more excessive and indulgent aspects of rock. One of the bad guys in Fury Road is seen atop a vehicle stacked high with amps, wielding a guitar flamethrower similar to that used by Gene Simmons of Kiss. This could be criticising the self-indulgent excesses of rock, or possibly, I could be grasping at straws, and it’s simply been done because it looks totally badass.

Flamethrower Guitar

So far, I’ve taken a positive look at what’s been revealed, but there are definitely some aspects that don’t look too promising. The latest trailer features an extended monologue from Max, which suggests Tom Hardy will have more dialogue than Mel Gibson had in the last two films combined. Not only that but what he says is pretentious, self-pitying crap, greatly reminiscent of Nolan’s Batman (Christian Bale). Max does not need to imitate other heroes, and he never needed words for us to know what he was all about, so I’m really hoping this talking is limited to the trailer and won’t feature at all in the film. Another concern is the chance of a romantic relationship between Max and Furiosa. There’s little evidence that this will occur, but my girlfriend’s convinced, and they are standing very close together in some promotional images. A romantic interest for Max, if done right, could be very effective, but disastrous if done badly. The Marauders’ sadomasochistic gear and sexual excess, the Settlers’ conservative relationships, and the fact that Max has remained asexual since the loss of his traditional family in the first movie could imply the saga has a very prudish view of sexual relationships. Continuing to criticise treating sex as a commodity, introducing a homosexual character, and sexualising Max, could turn all this around. On the other hand, a clichéd romance, featuring the strong, independent Furiosa being tamed by the dominant Max, would have a really negative effect on the film’s gender equality theme, as well as incorporating a conventional trope into a hitherto unconventional saga.

OMG! They’re almost holding hands! Gross!

OMG! They’re almost holding hands! Gross!

So far, I’ve dealt with character, story and thematic issues, but probably my greatest concern with the film is its visuals. Although it’s been promised in interviews that there’s been minimal computer-generated tinkering, the trailers tell a different story.

TOTAL FILM: “So it’s still very real? You’re not using CGI cars or anything like that?”

GEORGE MILLER: “No, there’s no CGI like that.”

TOTAL FILM: “Good for you.”

GEORGE MILLER: “There’s a CGI storm, because there’s no other way you can create it, but everything else you see is real. Every car stunt is real.”

No CGI you say?

No CGI, you say?

Sorry, George but that’s bull. I can tell the difference between a real explosion and a cartoon one. I recall Spielberg and Lucas saying similar things before the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (dir. Spielberg, 2008), and we all saw how that animated feature turned out. By comparing the teaser trailer and the final trailer, we can also see that scenery and numerous cars have been added to shots, and the colours have been greatly oversaturated, giving the film the look of a comic-book (which the story initially started out as). The cars could’ve been filmed for real and just superimposed into the same shot together, but it’s this kind of trickery that I fear will take away from the realism and make us feel less involved; which was never a concern when watching the gritty action of the original trilogy.

After Before

These issues aside, Mad Max: Fury Road promises to stay faithful to the original trilogy but set itself apart by telling its own story and expanding the saga’s existing themes, as I’d hoped. The last entry, Beyond Thunderdome, despite expanding the saga’s existing themes, lacked the action and efficiency of Mad Max 2, due partly to its segmented plot. George Miller has said that Fury Road will be, “almost a continuous chase”, so action will not be sacrificed for story. It also offers to present action like we’ve never seen before, with bad guys attached to poles on the back of vehicles battling with Max as they swing back and forth; an innovation that could rival the Thunderdome fight scene. With the offer of non-stop action and the most richly thematic story of the saga so far, Fury Road could be Mad Max’s greatest adventure yet.

More Mad Max!

Just One Man Can Make a Difference (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

If We Can’t Stick Together (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)

Mad Max

Only Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Missing Mel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

The Man Who Came from the Sky (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

If We Can’t Stick Together (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (dir. Miller & Ogilvie, 1985) further extends the Mad Max saga’s existing themes. Again, we see Max (Mel Gibson) encounter two differing societies; Bartertown -whose civilisation has inherited many of the failings of our own – and the innocent Lost Tribe. While the Marauders, the bad guys from Mad Max 2 (dir. Miller, 1981), could be mistaken for members of the counterculture, here the antagonists’ connection to the establishment is made clear. Bartertown operates via a hierarchical structure, consisting of three social classes that literally and figuratively live on different levels. At the top, representing the elite, is Aunty Entity (Tina Turner). Having built Bartertown, she is its ruler and lives in a luxury palace, towering high above the other townspeople. Although she lives a leisurely life, she receives the most rewards, being provided with air conditioning, clean water, fresh fruit, music and servants. At the bottom, representing the proletariat, are the workers of Underworld; a pig farm beneath Bartertown where methane from pig faeces is used to fuel the town. The conditions are horrible, the workers are literally living in shit, and although they endure the most and it is their hard work that gives Bartertown its power, they have the least. Between the two are the traders of Bartertown, who buy and sell goods and services in a large marketplace on the surface. Max arrives in Bartertown with nothing, having had his camels and vehicle stolen from him by Jedediah (Bruce Spence), who he has tracked there. To the Collector (Frank Thring), who admits people to Bartertown, this renders Max useless.

THE COLLECTOR: “People come here to trade. Make a little profit, do a little business. Got nothing to trade, you got no business in Bartertown.”

Aunie

In Bartertown, people’s worth is estimated by the value of their commodities. People who have no commodities cannot survive within the system, like Pig Killer (Robert Grubb), who is forced to kill a pig to feed his family and is branded, and sentenced to a life shovelling shit in Underworld. Comparisons are drawn between Bartertown and our capitalist society. The sign above the town entrance resembles a company slogan, ‘BARTERTOWN – HELPING BUILD A BETTER TOMORROW’ and Dr. Dealgood (Edwin Hodgeman) auctions Max’s camels using the language of a used car salesman (“800 miles to the gallon. Independent suspension. Power steering. Ride them away today.”). The capitalist system Bartertown has adopted is presented as encouraging immoral self-interest (The first trader Max meets lies to him, trying to sell him radioactive water), preying on the poor, benefiting the rich and promoting a survival of the fittest mentality. Human beings are also used as commodities. Traders hold people in chains and when Max offers to trade his skills to the Collector, he’s rudely informed, “the brothel is full”.

Pig Killer

Master Blaster (Angelo Rossito/Paul Larsson) runs Underworld operating as a single unit. Master is the brains, but having dwarfism, being only 2’11”, he is physically weak. Blaster is the brawn but is mentally vulnerable, having down-syndrome. However, this fact is concealed as his face is covered by a helmet. Master Blaster rebels against Auntie’s unjust rulership by cutting off all power until she admits they run Bartertown. Master Blaster acts as a criticism of Bartertown’s inequality and its survival of the fittest mentality. Master is lacking physically and Blaster mentally but working together they can help each other thrive, one without the other would be exploited by Bartertown’s system. In another expansion of the themes of Mad Max 2, we see that established society has laws (unlike the anarchic Marauders), but the elite is more than willing to corrupt them for their own gain, as we see when Auntie hires Max to kill Blaster, in exchange for the return of his camels and vehicle. Max works within the laws of Bartertown by starting an argument with Master Blaster so their dispute can be settled in Thunderdome, a gladiatorial arena where conflicts are resolved through a fight to the death, similar to those used by the Roman Empire; linking capitalism with imperialism. Max defeats Blaster, but after his helmet is knocked off and it’s revealed he has down-syndrome, he refuses to kill him and reveals Auntie hired him as an assassin. Thunderdome resembles our own media, specifically game shows. Flashing neon lights read, ‘Thunderdome Live!’, Auntie announces, “Welcome to another edition of Thunderdome!”, and Max’s fate is decided by the spin of a wheel of fortune. The people of Bartertown are controlled by a combination of written law and media manipulation, which Auntie, like a corrupt politician, uses to avoid punishment, e.g. claiming, whether right or wrong, Max has broken their agreement, and citing the law, “bust a deal, face the wheel”. The brainless masses, oblivious to the manipulation, accept the law as if they have no choice, chanting it in monosyllabic unison. The unfairness of the justice system is shown as Max’s fate is decided by the spin of a wheel (“you take your chances with the law, justice is only a roll of the dice, a flip of the coin, a turn of the wheel.”). In showing compassion towards Blaster, Max proves he cannot operate within Bartertown’s exploitative system and is banished. While Master, now separated from Blaster, is powerless and becomes a slave just like Pig Killer.

Thunderdome

Left for dead in the wastelands, Max is rescued by the Lost Tribe; a group of young adults and children who live in a desert oasis. The Settlers being primarily characterised as the good guys in Mad Max 2 could be misinterpreted as endorsing conservative religious values and their search for paradise as suggesting religious ideals can lead to social progress. Like the Settlers, the Lost Tribe resemble a religious order. They sing choral hymns, possess sacred relics, carry out rituals that restate their beliefs, and are waiting for a messiah to lead them to paradise. Unlike the Settlers, the Lost Tribe’s faith has led them to stagnate; awaiting their Messiah’s guidance has robbed them of their agency and prevented them from progressing. When Max arrives, they mistake him for their messiah, Captain Walker, who they believe will lead them to their paradise, Tomorrow-Morrow Land. Like the Settlers, the validity of their faith is mocked, as they are a cargo cult, children of the passengers of a plane that crashed fleeing the apocalypse, and their mistaken beliefs are based on artefacts from the crash and memories from infancy. Such as, the plane’s pilot, Captain Walker, and Sydney, the city they originated from. Max falls unconscious upon his arrival but the Lost Tribe, desperate for his guidance, attribute God-like abilities to him, suggesting he could be communicating with them telepathically. When Max awakens and is unable to understand what is expected of him, the Lost Tribe use religious terminology, believing Max is ‘testing them’, showing they are unwilling to progress without hearing the word of their God. Max refutes his divinity and the existence of Paradise and insists the Lost Tribe stay where they are, knowing the dangers they face if they leave, fearing they could come across Bartertown. There is a division formed within the tribe. Some, led by Slake (Tom Jennings), still wish to follow Max’s word and stay, but a small faction, led by Savannah (Helen Buday), realise Max is mortal (“he ain’t no different to us”), accuse them of closed-mindedness (“programmed, all of you programmed”), and wish to leave in search of knowledge and progress, despite the dangers.

SAVANNAH: “No one’s saying it ain’t a hard slog, we knows that now, but if we want the knowing and doing of things, there ain’t no easy ride.”

Beyond Thunderdome criticises sexism within religious texts, subverting the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from paradise by criticising man’s desire to stay faithful to God and live in Paradise in ignorance, and praising woman for seeking knowledge and enlightenment.

Lost Tribe

Max initially prevents Savannah and her followers leaving, even going as far as physically assaulting Savannah; a symbol of the brutal effect of God and man’s oppression of woman. Despite this abuse, they are still determined and escape while he is sleeping and he ventures after them. After finding and rescuing them from a quicksand pit, they come across Bartertown and sneak inside to steal transportation. They rescue the enslaved Pig Killer and Master, who help them escape in a train that is the centre of Bartertown’s generator, and the proletarian revolution causes the destruction of Bartertown by smashing the machinery of capitalism. They are pursued by Auntie and her warriors, swapping the train for Jedediah’s plane halfway through the chase, and Max reclaims his vehicle from one of the warriors. Face to face with Auntie and her warriors, there is not enough runway between them for the plane to take off. Consequently, Max again sacrifices himself, crashing his vehicle into the oncoming warriors, leaping to safety and clearing a path for the plane to take off (shifting from a God-like figure to a Christ-like figure). The plane makes it to the ruins of Sydney, where a new society is formed based on Max’s altruism, in the spirit of Master Blaster’s cooperation, and in opposition to the exploitation of Pig Killer. A society, that like the Lost Tribe reveres stories, but not of heroes and messiahs, but of the deeds of ordinary people. A society that’s learnt from the past so it can build a better future, a paradise, where the city lights are lit to guide those who have nothing to a life beyond exploitation, a life of equality and communal spirit.

SAVANNAH: “Time counts and keeps countin’, and we knows now: finding the trick of what’s been and lost ain’t no easy ride. But that’s our track, we gotta travel it, and there ain’t nobody knows where it’s gonna lead. Still in all, every night we does the tell, so that we ‘member who we was and where we came from… But most of all we ‘members the man who finded us, him that came the salvage. And we lights the city, not just for him, but for all of ’em that are still out there. ‘Cause we knows, they’ll come a night, when they sees the distant light, and they’ll be comin’ home.”

The Lights

More Mad Max!

Just One Man Can Make a Difference (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

Hope & Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Mad Max

Only Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Missing Mel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

The Man Who Came from the Sky (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

Just One Man Can Make a Difference (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

The post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max 2 (dir. Miller, 1981) presents us with two differing societies formed from the ashes of our own world. The Settlers, who are refining oil within their protected compound, and the Marauders, who desire the oil and are laying siege to the compound. The Settlers present a more traditional way of living (or, at least, a more idealistically traditional way of living). They are referred to as a family, and this is proven through their care and respect for one another; e.g. Lusty Girl’s (Arkie Whiteley) unwillingness to abandon the compound when she is given the opportunity to escape, the sorrow shown when members die and the concern when they are injured. They also have a father figure in Pappagallo (Michael Preston), whose name is indicative of his position (papa), and who leads democratically; convincing everyone of his plans before decisions are made and holding meetings to discuss issues. Dressed in wholesome white clothing, the Settlers also resemble a religious order, and their desire to leave the squalor of the wasteland in search of paradise is comparable to religious belief. At one point, we see a Settler lose faith in their cause (“You’re going to die for a pipe dream”) and another, the Warrior Woman (Virginia Hey), defends it, referring to it as a belief (“No. We fight for a belief”). Although the validity of their faith is mocked – the basis being picture postcards of an idyllic coastal resort presumably long gone since the advent of the apocalypse – the Settlers’ beliefs inspire them to work together to achieve their goal – the implication being that religious ideals promote communality and social progress.

Settlers

The Marauders present a more anarchic way of life. In contrast to the Settlers’ family unit, they behave more like a gang, acting aggressively towards each other and mocking weaker members’ misfortune, such as when the Toadie (Max Phipps) loses his fingers. Sporting Mohawk haircuts and BDSM gear, they resemble members of the counterculture, specifically punks and sadomasochists, and due to their large male dominance comparisons have been made to the gay underworld (different castes of Marauders are even referred to as gay-boy berserkers and smegma-crazies). One Marauder, Wez (Vernon Wells), is plainly presented as homosexual, his lover, the Golden Youth (Jerry O’Sullivan), constantly accompanying him on the back of his motorcycle. However, it is questionable whether he has given his consent, as he is held in chains, and the immoral acts of the Marauders, including rape and torture, suggest he could be an unwilling slave. They too have a leader; the Humungus (Kjell Nilsson). His name is also indicative of his position, being by far the largest and most muscular of the Marauders, suggesting he gained his position by being the biggest and most powerful, rather than through diplomacy. A lack of democracy is also shown as he is referred to as ‘the Lord Humungus’ and acts as an autocrat, the Marauders being ruled by his word alone, which he imposes through force, such as when he subdues Wez (“we do it my way”). Although he feigns diplomacy with the Settlers in an attempt to gain the oil, speaking eloquently and presenting his terms as being entirely reasonable, he only uses threat of force, making him come across as a corrupt politician and leader of an invading power.

Humungus

Due to their appearance, it has been suggested that the Marauders being depicted as the ‘bad guys’ and the Settlers as the ‘good guys’, implies that the counterculture and homosexuality are deviant, wrong, and a threat to conservative values that must be upheld. I don’t believe it was ever the intention to present homosexuality or the counterculture as immoral. The film’s writers have been quoted as saying they changed the sex of the Golden Youth and the Warrior Woman to show sexuality has become interchangeable in the future; a progressive view that would have been helped if one of Settlers was also presented as homosexual. A point is made to show that the Marauders are not exclusively homosexual with a shot of a heterosexual couple having sex as their tent cover is unexpectedly pulled off, and they are also seen to rape a female Settler. As for the counterculture, director George Miller is a known rock music enthusiast who would later cast punk icon Angry Anderson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (dir. Miller & Ogilvie, 1985), making it seem highly unlikely he would want to criticise it. Instead, criticism is aimed at life without purpose beyond selfish indulgence. This lifestyle is embodied by the Marauders, who live nihilistically, selfishly feeding off others as they drive around the desert in search of gasoline so they can drive around some more and endlessly repeat the same pointless cycle. They are consumers in endless pursuit of empty commodities, and this intemperance is expressed further by their sexual indulgence (sex being empty to them as they commit rape and treat people as commodities), moral dearth, and their aesthetic relation to the hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. The commodity they value most of all is, of course, oil. The opening narration reveals a fuel crisis started the war that caused the apocalypse, and George Miller has gone on record saying the film was influenced by oil wars. This further establishes the Marauders as an invading power and Humungus as a political leader, connecting them more with the establishment than the counterculture. A scene cut from the original script reveals Pappagallo’s origins as chief executive of a major oil company, who with the event of the apocalypse decides to flee into the wasteland with the other Settlers.

Whole Earth

The ‘Whole Earth, Catalogue’ was a counterculture magazine focusing on self-sufficiency and, of course, solar energy is an inexhaustible alternative energy. Pappagallo’s possession of counterculture literature and rejection of our world’s dependence on fossil fuel, and the Marauders reliance on it, further establishes the Marauders as the true establishment figures, while relating the Settlers with the counterculture.

Wez

The first film in the Mad Max saga, Mad Max (dir. Miller, 1979), sees our protagonist, Max (Mel Gibson), caught between two ways of living. His conventional family life, and his job as a police officer, which he is desperate to leave through fear he’s becoming as bad as the criminals he faces.

MAX: “I’m scared Fif, you know why? It’s that rat circus out there. I’m beginning to enjoy it. Look, any longer out on that road and I’m one of them, ya know? A terminal crazy, except I’ve got a bronze badge that says I’m one of the good guys.”

By the end of the film, we see Max’s fears come true as the murder of his wife and child by a berserk motorcycle gang sends him on a revenge-fuelled rampage. The film endorses Max’s conservative family life but presents his transformation into an outlaw as a tragedy that was impossible to escape in a world that operates by the law ‘survival of the fittest’. George Miller is said to be disapproving of its moral implications, and Mad Max 2 can be seen as addressing his grievances.

TERRY HAYES (co-writer Mad Max 2): “The first one (Mad Max) was a very bleak revenge story. I don’t think that George (Miller) particularly enjoys, now looking back, the sensibilities captured in that film. The second one (Mad Max 2) was a more generous film.”

Mad Max 2 expands the themes of Mad Max, as again we see Max pulled between two lifestyles, those of the family-like Settlers and the selfish, scavenging, Marauders. At first, Max seems to have more in common with the Marauders. He appears like a punk, dressed in ripped black leather, sporting spiky hair, and scavenges the wastelands for gasoline. He mistreats the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), enslaving him, lying to him, feeding his dog while the Captain goes hungry and refusing to release him when he has no further use for him. He rescues one of the Settlers but only so he can trade him for gasoline (“I’m just here for the gasoline”) and is accused by the Settlers of being a Marauder (“For all we know he’s one of them”), a “parasite” and “trading in human flesh”. It appears Max will find salvation through embracing the Settlers’ way of life, as the opening narration sets up the film as the story of his recovery (“He learned to live again”), and after he retrieves the tanker – so the Settlers can escape the compound with their gasoline – he is invited to drive it and join them on their journey to paradise. Max refuses the Settlers’ offer, preferring their arrangement to stay purely business and to leave with a reward of oil. Pappagallo attempts to persuade Max, criticising his lack of purpose and his coveting of empty commodities.

PAPPAGALLO: What is it with you, huh? What are you looking for? C’mon, Max, everybody’s looking for something. You’re happy out there, are you? Eh? Wandering? One day blurring into another? You’re a scavenger, Max. You’re a maggot. Did you know that? You’re living off the corpse of the old world.”

The offer to join the Settlers provides Max with the opportunity to embrace the family life that he lost. The Feral Kid (Emil Minty) is even set up as a surrogate son for Max, as they form a close bond, and Max gifts him with a music box that plays ‘happy birthday’ – a song symbolic of childhood and family bliss – and it seems the film is endorsing a conservative family lifestyle as Mad Max did. The film also rejects the survival of the fittest mentality of Mad Max, with Wez being established as a dark parallel to Max when the Feral Kid kills the Golden Youth, and he too is consumed by a desire to avenge a loved one, that is encouraged by Humungus.

HUMUNGUS: “Be still, my dog of war. I understand your pain. We’ve all lost someone we love. But we do it my way! We do it my way. Fear is our ally. The gasoline will be oursThen, you shall have your revenge.”

Humungus’ dialogue parallels a speech Pappagallo gives to Max. Unlike Humungus, Pappagallo condemns being consumed by loss, pushing Max to overcome the deaths of his loved ones and aspire for betterment like the Settlers instead of stagnating like the Marauders.

PAPPAGALLO: “Oh, so that’s it, you lost your family? That makes you something special, does it? Do you think you’re the only one that’s suffered? We’ve all been through it in here, but we haven’t given up. We’re still human beings with dignity. But you, you’re out there with the garbage. You’re nothing!”

Upon refusing to join the Settlers and leaving for the wasteland, Max is hunted down by the Marauders, his car is destroyed, he is severely injured, and his dog is killed. The injuries he receives can be seen as a symbolic death and the surreal sequence featuring his rescue by the Gyro Captain and elevation into the sky on the autogyro an ascension. Once returned to the compound, Max revives and changes his mind about driving the tanker, offering to drive it for free – sacrificing himself so the Settlers can reach paradise. This is symbolic of his rebirth; after again losing everything, instead of choosing revenge, he has embraced the Settlers’ communality – realising it’s the only way to survive. Again, it seems the film is siding with the Settlers, as Max has taken Pappagallo’s advice, found purpose and moved on from his loss, and his depiction as a Christ-like figure connects him to the Settlers’ religious ideals.

Road-Warrior-Bestride

After agreeing to drive the tanker, Max is embroiled in a final epic chase with the Marauders, which ends with the tanker crashing and flipping on its side. Max survives and goes to inspect the wreckage. It is revealed that the tanker was filled with sand and was purely a diversion for the Marauders so the Settlers could escape with the gasoline hidden in their vehicles. From Max’s reaction, it seems clear he was unaware the tanker was filled with sand and he was being used as a decoy, meaning he was lied to by the Settlers. This adds ambiguity to the assertion that the Settlers’ lifestyle is unquestionably righteous. Although Pappagallo shows he is not a hypocrite, as he dies alongside the Warrior Woman defending the tanker, showing he will fight for his beliefs, his religious conviction has led him to exploit and lie to an outsider to further his cause. The Settlers’ prejudice against outsiders is previously hinted at; they take Max’s car and are untrusting and hostile towards him until he proves useful to them, and when he initially decides to leave with his reward, one Settler suggests to Pappagallo they keep his car. They welcome the Gyro Captain into their society, but again, it is only when he proves his usefulness, and after he is partnered with Lusty Girl, suggesting his acceptance was due to their union; evoking outdated religious traditions. It’s true the ending is presented by the Narrator (Harold Baigent) as optimistic and happy, with Max becoming a legendary hero of the Settlers’ folklore, but at the film’s conclusion, the Narrator is revealed to be an elderly Feral Child, who went on to become the Settlers’ leader and form the Great Northern Tribe. This means this is the Settlers’ retelling of the story and, therefore, biased, meaning the betrayed Max could be recast in their legends as a noble martyr instead of an oblivious pawn. Plus, it’s possible the Great Northern Tribe is not an entirely benevolent one. However, a more positive outlook, in keeping with Max’s Christ-like depiction, would be that in sacrificing himself for the Settlers’ sins (betrayal/prejudice), Max inspired the formation of a new society based on his altruism.

theroadwarrior

It’s a climax that begs us to ask questions, as although some aspects of the Settlers’ lifestyle seem entirely praiseworthy, doubt is cast on the conservatism that prevents them from achieving universal communality. So, instead of presenting a story about a man having to choose between two different ways of life, it’s exposed as one about a man who chose his own path, and although he was adopted as a messiah, we know he was just a man, proving faith does not have a monopoly on amelioration and morality and that just one man, one ordinary man, can make a difference.

Just one man

More Mad Max!

If We Can’t Stick Together (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)

Hope & Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Mad Max

Only Fury (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Missing Mel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

The Man Who Came from the Sky (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)