Now our journey’s end with Max Mad Fury Road. The last in a series of films is also a confusing entry into the lore and events of the other films. Some suggest this film recons the previous films and makes both old stories and new, making it both a reboot as well as a sequel.
Mad Max Fury Road is a decade of effort on film. Originally planned to be shot by Village Roadshow pictures in 2001 as fully digital animation, the project was sidelined after the collapse of the dollar after 9/11. Instead, director George Miller worked on a little animated film involving penguins called Happy Feet. This left more time to get the story and pre-production phases of the film to a golden standard. When you watch this film you can tell the love and care the story has had.
Back in 2014, George Miller said in a Q&A about the choice to do a digital film:
“You couldn’t make this as a CG movie. Even if you did it really well, people would know it. Plus, [now, with digital film] you didn’t have to wait for it – you pull off a stunt, check your cameras, and there you go.”
“Because of the digital cameras we shot – this is ridiculous – we shot 480 hours of footage. That’s three weeks continuous, watching without sleep. With digital cameras, you can just run them through. In the old days, with a high-speed camera, you’d burn up your celluloid in very quick time, here you can run it for 40 minutes at a time. [In the old days] for every explosion you had to get your crew out, the guy who started the camera, you’ve got to get them out. Here you just run the cameras, so there’s a lot of wasted footage. It was dumped in the lap of Margaret Sixel, the editor, who happens to be my partner, who was back in Australia. We said “here.” [mimes dumping a giant box] She had to find the two hours that made up THAT. [gestures back towards screen where Fury Road was just projected]”
This makes for some interesting stories about the stunts as well. Miller continues:
“We had Guy Norris, who did second unit directing and principal stunt coordinating. He was a 21-year old on Road Warrior, and partly because of the delay in the weather we were able to rehearse all the stunts back in Australia. Every stunt you see we’d rig up an old wreck, get all the weights right. He’s one of those who uses a lot of computers, goes through engineering and really tests it on the computer, and then tests it in reality.
So when that big war rig rolls at the end we not only had to pull that off safely, but we had to land it right on the spot with the cameras. So they rigged up something like that and were able to do it. it was very painstaking preparation and work.”
Held by the production crew on trying to get the perfect shot, George Miller states:
“Guy Norris was chasing a shot which required sun to match it. It started to cloud over, and Guy had to get this shot. I was in the edge arm and I was listening to him squawking, and he said “I’m going to go inland to try to catch the sun. He went inland, and every so often I’d hear him as the squawking got more faint, and more faint. He traveled 25 miles inland in Namibia, and then I heard him yelling “yeah, we got it!” I call him “the man who chased the sun.”
From what we now understand about the film, George Miller’s vision had more to do with comic books than novels. In the massive preproduction phase, Miller took the time to make a massive storyboard with each of the elements of the film drawn in splendid detail. Over 3500 drawings were used to tell the tale.
“I got in touch with Brendan McCarthy, a wonderful artist who had sent me some terrific drawings of Mad Max. I asked if he wanted to come down and work on it. We worked with Mark Sexton, Peter Pound, two other fine storyboard artists I’d worked with in the past. We sat in a room and basically laid out 3500 panels, which, so much of the movie is what you saw today. The big dimension that’s missing is time, those rhythms you’re finding in the performance and ultimately in the editing suite.
The storyboards were great because you don’t have to write direction or camera movement, you knew where you were. Even the cast had the storyboards, and knew where they were meant to be at any given moment. Those storyboards were a very useful tool, and people were able to build on that.”
The cars are equally impressive. Time, love and care was put into the designs and construction of each of these cars giving them the soul of post-apocalyptic design. Each was made as part of the storyboards and turned into live action props and fully functional cars by one man and his team of engineers.
Let’s start off with Max’s ride from the start of the film. Max still drives his black 1974 XB Ford Falcon Coupe made famous in the first films. Without giving away too much, we can say it gets souped up at the Citadel (the movie’s villainous lair) with four-wheel drive and dozens of weapons. It also gets a massive new engine, new chassis, and buffing to a matte silver, thanks to the War Boys. This remade car gets dubbed the “Razor Cola” in the production notes.
Furiosa’s War Rig is a massive vehicle as much of a character in the film as any – so it makes sense that it’s driven by the movie’s real hero, bionic-armed Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). It’s a Czechoslovakian Tatra and Chevy Fleetmaster fused together into a six-wheel-drive 18-wheeler powered with twin V8 engines. It also has a long, bulky fuel tank and a fuel pod trailer hanging off the end. Welded to the hull are Volkswagen Beetle and Track cabin shells that are like mobile forts for the War Boys to hang onto during supply runs and battle missions. The rig also has racks of tools and concealed weapons along its entire body, along with such details as a wirework steering wheel affixed with a skull.
The last one we should talk about is the Big Bad of the film: Immortan Joe’s Gigahorse. Joe’s car is made of two 1959 Cadillac Devilles split, widened, and mounted with jacked-up fins along the side and rears. It’s a car made for a despot because well, he is one. (Actor Hugh Keays-Byrne also appeared in the first film). His beast has a custom gearbox, with two V16 engines and two-meter-high double-wide wheels. It has a whaler’s harpoon and a flamethrower along the rear, too.
The head vehicle engineer said the tail of the 1959 Cadillac stood out to him as something exceptionally beautiful and worth salvaging. “In a world where nobody had one of anything, it seemed a fait accompli that he would have a pair of 1959 coupe DeVilles. We spent two months making them operational.”
If you haven’t seen these films I’d recommend making a marathon viewing of all in the series. They’re classic car films that should be in every car lover’s back pocket. You might need some subtitles as the Australian accent is a tad thick in some of the characters but it’s where part of the charm comes in. Sit back, strap in for some automotive mayhem.