Study Guide

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road Introduction


Release Year: 2015

Genre: Action

Director: George Miller

Writer: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris

Stars: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy


Imagine, for a moment, your average commute. You're in your average sedan, slowly slumping your way through early evening gridlock, listening to whatever drivel drive-time radio is telling you to care about. You're safe. You're bored. You're home.

Now imagine the total opposite.

Boom, that's Mad Max: Fury Road. As soon as it burst onto the scene in 2015, bearing the legacy of its franchise predecessors, and yet managing to be a tour de force all its own, Fury Road redefined visual storytelling as a thinking man's (and woman's) action flick. It took the road movie and turned it on its head. And then punched it in the face.

How? Simply by being all-out nuts. But in a thoughtful way.

Taking place in an apocalyptic future where the world has gone somewhere hot in a handbasket, 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road follows the adventures of its titular character as he gets roped into a rather drawn out road race. When we meet Max (played by Tom Hardy), years of lonely wandering through a desert wasteland have left him half-crazy. That is, until he meets Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who invites him on a crusade to free five captive women from the oppressive clutches of a local warlord. As Max and Furiosa fight alongside each other, we're treated to an insane extravaganza of explosions, bare-knuckled brawls, and the car chase to end all car chases.

If that sounds like a mindless assault of every action movie trope ever, think again. Fury Road also manages to carefully weave in thematic explorations of feminism, environmentalism, redemption, and survival—all while having even less dialogue than your run-of-the-mill explosive blockbuster.

  

That's because, under the deft hand of director George Miller, Fury Road relies on visual storytelling to craft an intricate, imagery-laden plot that you're not likely to forget anytime soon. Originally scripted using visual storyboards, rather than the standard screenplay format, Fury Road plays out as a series of images and movements, where characters speak only when absolutely necessary. That attention to detail demands a great deal of the viewer—but rewards those who pay close attention. The result is a post-apocalyptic feast for the senses that won just about every effects Oscar the Academy will give out, including:

  • Film Editing
  • Costume Design
  • Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
  • Production Design

That's right; this unlikely action movie won six Academy Awards, and it was nominated for four more, including Best Picture and Best Director. And it's no wonder, given how critically acclaimed the movie was when it was released. With a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Fury Road was hailed by critics as "a large-scale genre movie that is at once unpretentious and unafraid to bring home a message" and "the sort of exhilarating gonzo entertainment that makes even the nuttier Fast and Furious movies look like Autopia test drives."

Based on that critical reaction, it's clear that Fury Road isn't your average early summer blockbuster. It's the kind of action flick that will resonate down through the genre for many years to come. So what are you waiting for?

Step on it.

What is Mad Max: Fury Road About and Why Should I Care?

Ever heard of a little thing called the Bechdel Test?

Invented by literary feminist activist Alison Bechdel, the test calls attention to what Bechdel identifies as widespread sexism in the entertainment world. To pass the test, a movie must meet the following criteria:

(1) It has to have at least two [named] women in it
(2) Who talk to each other
(3) About something besides a man

Sounds simple enough, right? Okay, Shmoopers, try this: we dare you to think of an action movie that passes this test.

It's pretty stinkin' hard, right? So much of the action movie genre is defined by manly men doing manly man things like punching people and blowing things up and shooting guns at other men who are also punching people and blowing things up. Action movies are not exactly female spaces.

Oh, but Mad Max: Fury Road begs to differ. Released in 2015, the movie passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. Female characters talk to each other a ton (or, as much as anyone talks in the rather taciturn apocalypse), and they talk about everything, including, but not limited to, the men in their lives. Immediately, this female focus sets Fury Road apart from its action movie compatriots. And then you've got its kickbutt female star—Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron—whose fierce femininity refuses to truck with the idea that women are just as strong, tough, and powerful as the dudes.

But Fury Road isn't just about how women can kick it with the manly men. In the movie, women are given a full range of roles—mother, fighter, friend. Yet they're also trapped in a male-dominated society in which their bodies—and by extension, their lives—are treated like property, whose only purpose is to serve the needs of men. As director George Miller puts it, "everybody in the story except for Immortan Joe is in some way a commodity."

We've got Furiosa, doing the bidding of Immortan Joe as his Imperator. We've got the breeders—his wives—who are forced to live as his sex slaves. And we've got the mothers—whose milk provides sustenance for the men of the Citadel, and yet who clearly have no freedom or purpose other than providing that milk. Only instead of tolerating that oppression, these women decide to seek their freedom, and then fight back against the forces that have oppressed them.

Seriously, Shmoopers, in the grand genre of action movies, how many can you think of that feature a woman as anything other than a damsel in distress? Probably not many. So however you feel about feminism, Fury Road is worth a look if only to see a movie so wildly different than all the other macho man movies that have come before.

Trivia

Get this. The editor of Fury Road (Margaret Sixel, who also happens to be George Miller's wife) took three months just to watch it all—and that's before she started editing. That's how much footage they shot. (Source).

All those vehicles you see in the chase scenes? They were real cars, built by awesome designers who had to make them both look cool and, you know, run. (Source.)

The actresses playing the Vuvalini? Yeah, they did their own stunts. How's that for kickbutt? (Source.)

Mad Max: Fury Road Resources

Websites

Officially Official
Where better to get the scoop than the movie's official website?

Wiki This
Y'all. Max has his own wiki. The franchise has arrived.

Book or TV Adaptations

Mad Max: Fury Road – Furiosa
For a bit o' backstory, these comic books are worth a read. They trace the lead-up to Furiosa's escape with the breeders, so you can get a closer glimpse into her character.

For All You Gamers
There's a Mad Max video game, although if you're looking to play Furiosa, you'll have to look elsewhere. The game takes place in the same universe, but it doesn't have the same storyline or characters.

Articles and Interviews

For the High Brows
The New Yorker likes action movies, too.

[Censored] Media Explains Mad Max
This article's a good crash course in the movie's ecofeminism.

Not So Feminist After All?
Take a glimpse at an opposing viewpoint.

Disability Theme
If you're curious to see how some folks are interpreting Fury Road's approach to disability and illness, this article provides an interesting take.

Beep Beep
Want an exclusive on the rides of Fury Road? Look no further.

Video

Trailer Magic
We dare you to watch this and somehow not want to see the movie immediately.

Sandstorm Alert
Here's one of the crazier scenes in the movie.

Interviews Galore
Meet the cast of the movie, and get some juicy tidbits from the set.

Behind the Road
We know you love the inside scoop as much as Shmoop, and this DVD extra has plenty of that.

Audio

Radio Magic with Margaret Sixel
Fury Road's editor had a big job to do, and in this interview, she gives us some insight into how she pulled it off.

How About a Little Fresh Air?
This George Miller interview makes for a fascinating listen.

Everything
Here's the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack, in its entirety.

Images

As Seen in Front of Movie Theaters Everywhere
Here it is, the most common poster for Fury Road.

According to the Fans
Fury Road inspired some incredible fan art, including this mock poster. It almost looks like it could be the real thing.

Tom Hardy on a Pole
Yep, you read that right.