May 21, 2015

Cinema Theory - Mad Max: Fury Road

There may be some spoilery things within...

While scrolling through my Facebook feed on my lunch break today, I came across a piece by Devin Faraci at Birth.Death.Movies. In it he discusses and shreds a fan theory regarding Mad Max and how this current Max is not the same character as the Mel Gibson character in the original trilogy. The theory says that this Mad Max is the Feral Kid from The Road Warrior. It is a similar idea to the theory that James Bond is a code name used for the top MI6 agent. It is an interesting idea that could work, but does not hold up to the canon of the films.

Similarly the theory as it relates to Mad Max does not hold up. We know what happened to the Feral Kid, as he is the narrator of The Road Warrior. There is also the look of our Max's, specifically the leg brace that he wears as a result of being shot in the knee during the finale of the original film. So, while it can be fun to talk about, there is no way this will ever be canon. At the same time, I think it is great to think of ideas like this, continuity issues aside.

With any film of this type, isn't it fun to wonder about the world and how the pieces fit together? This is the fun stuff, talking about these cinematic worlds with your friends. The problem these days is that we get too much “official” information, want too much canon, more, more, more. Enough is enough. Don't you realize that with every little piece of stuff we get from official sources shrinks the world we get to play in?

With that said, I have had some brief discussions of the Mad Max world with some friends and how the movies could fit together. It is not an easy thing as the series has very little continuity. How do we get from the impending collapse of Mad Max to the establishing new world of Road Warrior, or then the community of Thunderdome? To say nothing of what we get in Fury Road.

I can see where they are going with the original trilogy, Road Warrior could be fifteen years or so past Mad Max, where the world has gone to hell and a new society is forming. Then there was the apparent nuclear war that occurred prior to Thunderdome. Using this as a loose framework, I would put Fury Road in between Road Warrior and Thunderdome, after the nukes go off. Another idea is that Fury Road is a direct sequel to Mad Max and ignores the other two, it does have flashes of his murdered family and the leg brace, indicating the events of the original happened. Of course, this could be a full on reboot of the franchise with no connection to the other three. Writer/director George Miller says he does not have a specific timeline for the films, but sees Fury Road happening after Thunderdome. So there's that.

Those are all viable ideas that could be explored, but I have a different idea. It is somewhat related to some of my thoughts on 300. I saw that film as the creation of a myth, a tale told as propaganda to get folks riled up to fight, an inspiring tale that is told not as fact, but as the beginning of legend. Pair that idea with the fact that The Road Warrior is told by a different character as a story, not as fact. This leads me down the road of Max being a character of legend, a real person around whom fantastic tales have been told, embellishments of reality. Perhaps even a touch of that terrible Hercules movie with Dwayne Johnson, where Herc would send his hype man ahead to tell big stories of his exploits as a way to sell his services.

Do you see where I am going? All four movies are the same universe and have the same reality, but the only story that was real in that world is the original Mad Max. The other three films (including Fury Road) are real stories (in the Mad Max universe); however, they have been embellished, they have become the Legendary Tales of Max Rockatansky. For me, the key is the Feral Kid telling the Road Warrior story. It is clear he is telling it as an older man and I can sort of see it being told to a room of kids like Star Wars was told by Christian Bale and Gerard Butler to a bunch of kids in Reign of Fire.

So, to bring this ramble to a close (thanks for sticking with me), I am against large amounts of canonical information, I like the discussions of these worlds and the varying ideas they can bring to the table. At the same time, I love hearing that Miller has a written history and reason for everything we see in Mad Max: Fury Road. It is part of the process, like actors creating back stories for their performances. All of this helps make the world feel that much more alive. Living, breathing movies are a good thing and Mad Max is a fascinating piece of world building full of possibility. Hopefully Mad Max: The Wasteland becomes a reality.

Also, don't forget to check out my review of the latest Max film!

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