by Cormac O
The carsploitation movies that raced out of America during the a.i.p. era during the late sixties and early seventies expressed a sense of liberation and rebellion that were prevalent in the counterculture. Pictures such as Vanishing Point and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry reflected the urge for change and escape from a repressed society that was rapidly becoming ever more claustrophobic, pulsing with paranoia. Audiences related to the freedom and carefree attitude of putting the pedal to the metal, hitting the open road and leaving their troubles behind.
Meanwhile in the land down under, a dark vision was brewing within the mind of George Miller, a medical doctor from Sydney, who came face to face with death during his stint in the E.R. These horrific images he witnessed, blended with desperate reactions to the oil crisis of 1973 became the recipe for what would become Mad Max.
Miller’s vision of the open road didn’t correspond with that of previous exploitations. He traded in the optimistic youth, who went searching for America for the nihilistic nomads ravaging a dystopian Australia. There was no sense of hope in Miller’s vision, only Darwinian sensibilities among oil hungry tyrants, who roamed the stark highways on motorcycles terrorising anyone or anything that came across their path.
Mad Max was definitely an interesting premise and ambitious vision, incorporating social and economic issues into an action packed genre piece, but it was the execution of craft and style that propelled the movie in gaining its massive international success. The visceral kinetic action that Miller employed in the film, along with violence bordering on the surreal, generated incredible energy on the screen.
The interesting thing about the Mad Max trilogy is that the three films vary so much, but the intensity remains the same. The genre evolves nearly as much as Max Rockatansky does. The original merges elements of a Hitchcockian thriller, The Road Warrior gives a nod to the western with its vehicular cattle drive , while Beyond the Thunderdome is like a Philip K. Dick/J.M. Barrie molotov cocktail. George Miller was constantly trying to create new ways to excite audiences through long, orchestrated action or fight sequences as if he was contemplating how to entertain mobs at the colosseum.
The franchise is notorious for its rapid motion and breathtaking stunts that spawn adrenaline soaked entertainment for audiences. The new instalment out this week looks like it will enhance this action to the utmost. Mad Max: Fury Road has been a long time in the making, bridging a thirty year gap since its predecessor Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome. In an industry that has become reliant on big budget remakes and reboots, where does George Miller’s new project fit into the scheme of things?
Firstly, the fact that George Miller is directing will cause fanboys to utter a sigh of relief. There is comfort in knowing that the Mad Max universe will be looked over by its mastermind, accompanied by the filmmaker’s skill and style, lifelong fans will feel like they are in good hands. Secondly, we must take into account the new audience, who have never seen the previous films nor give two happy feet who George Miller is. The new audience is essential to Fury Road’s prominence, so if they swarm like bees to a hive then we might be seeing a lot more of Max.
Action movies today are in a current state of cgi saturation, leaving audiences docile and immune to stretching their imagination because it has already been done for them by the stretch of a finger. If Fury Road raises the bar in spectacular stunts and crushes the box office it might lure audiences away from the formulaic generic blockbusters of today and leave them thirsty for a true cinematic experience. Actions speak louder than words and I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that George Miller’s latest escapade will leave many speechless.