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Max the Fifth

June 9, 2024 at 8:50 am
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Saw FURIOSA last week on an Imax screen.   The latest Mad Max movie… though, oddly, without Mad Max.   I don’t think there’s a better action director in the field than George Miller.   The  fights in FURIOSA are spectacular, especially on Imax.

I saw my first Mad Max film back in 1981.   That was ROAD WARRIOR, the second in the series (did not catch the first one until a few years later — I am not even sure it was ever released in Santa Fe).   The chase sequence blew me away.   The best ever put to film, I thought.   So good that I dragged Roger Zelazny out to see it a few days later, to show him what  the film version of DAMNATION ALLEY should have l0oked like.. and could have looked like, if they had hired the right director.  And they almost did, as it happens.   But that’s another story.

I would still rank ROAD WARRIOR’s climactic action chase as one of the best in movie history, especially since it was all practical, amazing real world stuntwork and not the sort of SFX and AI that dominates so many movies currently.   George Miller keeps trying to top himself.   BEYOND THUNDERDOME had some great action too, with the train chase… and the fight in the Thunderdome, though that was a different sort of animal.   After that there was a long hiatus before FURY ROAD came along, with a different Max and several huge chase scenes.   You can make a case for that one being bolder and bigger than any that had come before, though on balance I still liked ROAD WARRIOR more.

With FURIOSA, though, there’s no doubt.   Of course, Miller had a much bigger budget this time.   I think the original MAD MAX was made with the loose change he found in his couch pillows.  FURIOSA probably cost more than the first four Max movies put together.   Given its structure, it could just as easily been five features, or maybe three seasons of a television series.   I liked Anya Taylor Joy, who played Furiosa this time around.  The girl who played Furiosa as a child was good as well.  I liked Tom Burke (Praetorian Jack) and Chris Hemsworth as Dementus too… and the Citadel is a cool set, though it was used with more impact in FURY ROAD.

Overall, though, ROAD WARRIOR is still my favorite Mad Max movie.  FURIOSA and FURY ROAD both had their merits, but I’d still rank them below the second and third Mel Gibson films.    The new ones are bigger and more expensive, and the action scenes are huge… but the worldbuilding, the secondary characters, and the stories cannot compare.

And I miss the epilogues.  The closing scenes of both ROAD WARRIOR and BEYOND  THUNDERDOME are beautifully written, and make me choke up whenever I see them.


I love the bittersweet flavor of the epilogues.   In both instances Max is left by himself, standing alone in the road… which fits the character that was established in the first film, the loner so broken by the death of his wife and child that he no longer wants to be part of any community.   He does not want to be a hero (as Aunty Entity sings in THUNDERDOME), does not want to love again (and lose again, perhaps), but there is still a remnant of the cop he was buried inside him, and he finds himself dragged into heroism regardless.

FURY ROAD and FURIOSA have much darker endings than the earlier films.   They take place entirely in the Wasteland, where no shred of civilization remains.  The Green Place, where Furiosa is born, is seen in the new movie and sought after in previous one, but when finally found only death and corruption remains.   The Wasteland is ruled over by bloodthirsty gangs and their insane overlords.   In FURIOSA the only choice seem to be between Dementus and Immortan Joe… and slavery and death, always  on the menu too.   Is there anything beyond the Waste?  If so no one mentions it.  The earlier Mel Gibson films were much more balanced, their characters painted in shades of grey, even Max himself.   Bartertown and Auntie Entity, Master Blaster, the Lost Tribe (and the legendary Captain Walker), the pilot and his son from THUNDERDOME, and from ROAD WARRIOR Pappagallo, the Gyro Captain, the Mechanic and the Warrior Woman, and of  course the Feral Kid…  some of them die along the way, but more survive.   Max might be might a reluctant hero, but he is a hero nonetheless, and thanks to that  heroism, we get a semblence of a happy ending… at least in the epilogues.

George Miller has talked of wanting to do another film in the sequence, a movie called THE WASTELAND that would tell the story of what Max himself was doing between THUNDERDOME and FURY ROAD.   Having Mad Max in a Mad Max movie seems like a good idea… though less so if all he is going to be doing in wandering the Wasteland again.    Surely by now we have seen enough sand and stone and desolation.

I would be far more interested in seeing what is happening elsewhere in Australia.  How is the Gyro Captain doing as the leader of the Great Northern Tribe  (on the ocean somewhere, presumably, maybe up by Darwin or Townsville).  How long did he rule?  Did he build more gyros?   When did Feral Kid succeed him (presumably after he learned to talk), and what happened then?   And the Lost Tribe from BEYOND THUNDERDOME, they wind up in a ruined Melbourne at the end, lighting the lights to bring the wanderers home, and telling the tell the tell to the next generation so they remember who they are and where they came from (a beautiful speech).   There are stories there that I would love to hear one day, stories richer and deeper and more moving than anything going on in the wastes.

The problem is, Max can’t be part of those stories.  The epilogues made it clear; neither the Lost Tribe nor the Great Northern Tribe ever saw the road warrior again…

Ah, well.   That’s a problem for George Miller and his team.   I have my own issues back home in Westeros and Essos.   Worldbuilding can be a bitch.

I understand that FURIOSA has not done nearly was hoped, so maybe Miller will never get to make another Mad Max film.   That would be a pity, I think.   Whether set in the Great Red Center or the ruins of Melbourne, regardless of which characters it featured, I suspect Max VI would have splendid action scenes.   No one does that better than Miller.

Maybe someone should hire him to do a remake of DAMNATION ALLEY.   We’d finally get a proper Hell Tanner, and Roger would get the movie he always deserved.



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