We've got three things to deal with here:
- the Mad Max part
- the Fury part
- and the Road part.
Let's break it down, shall we?
This may be the first time Tom Hardy has played the role, but we're here to tell you, Shmoopers (in case you didn't know already), that Max and his madness have been around a long, long time. Mad Max: Fury Road is a part of a franchise that includes three other flicks: Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
But here's the thing: all those other Maxes? They starred Mel Gibson. So what gives? Well, director George Miller wanted to rejuvenate the franchise a bit by casting a younger actor, and since Mel Gibson was oh, 59, when Fury Road came out, we can't say we disagree with his choice. Still having Mad Max in the title firmly establishes the flick in the franchise canon, reminding viewers that a favorite character has returned to fight the evil forces of the apocalypse once again. Max is back—and he's madder than ever. Where he used to be just plain mad, now he's mad, as in crazy.
It's worth taking a moment to consider how Fury Road stacks up against its Mad Max predecessors, and where it falls in the chronology of the four movies. It's a bit tricky to place Fury Road in the Mad Max chronology, mainly because it's a very different Max played by a very different actor.
But Shmoop thinks the best theory—and the best way to make sense of events—is to consider Fury Road as taking place after the events of the other three movies. After seeing civilization fall in Mad Max and The Road Warrior, and battling a post-apocalyptic war-based society in Beyond Thunderdome, Max has finally had enough. How to cope with the craziness of the world? Grow your hair out and let yourself go insane. After three movies of total despair, Max is at the end of his rope, and the world is in the worst shape yet.
So if it takes place after the first three, does Fury Road take up the mantle? Yes, but in a crazy kind of way. Fury Road reinvents the franchise, giving it a decidedly 21st-century approach, what with its centering around oil and water wars and the politics of environmentalism. Fury Road ratchets up the crazy of the original movies to 100, and then turns it up some more. It's more violent, more explosive, and more…orange.
Why So Furious?
What puts the Fury in Fury Road?
Before we look at the movie itself, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that in Ancient Greece, the furies were female spirits of punishment. They go around punishing the guilty with attacks of conscience and other nasty things like, say, plagues. That allusion sets a pretty fitting tone for Fury Road, don't you think? After all, for much of the movie, Furiosa, the wives, and the Vuvalini act as vengeful spirits, at first fleeing Immortan Joe's oppressive clutches, and then punishing him for his misogynist crimes.
A Few Furious Details
The movie's got some more answers for you, too:
- The female star? Her name is Furiosa. So yeah, any road she drives is gonna feel the wrath of her fury for sure.
- Nux says he wants to "die history on the Fury Road," so we know it's a phrase that has meaning in Immortan Joe's crazy world.
- Max is mad—furious, even.
Whatever meaning we settle on, we can't forget that this movie has a whole lot of anger in it. Furiosa's angry with Immortan Joe for robbing her of her childhood and making her someone in need of redemption. The wives are angry at Joe for treating them as his own personal sex slaves. And Max is mad at himself for his failures. All that fury manifests in a whole lot of violence and explosions that all take place—as you may or may not have noticed—on the road.
What Kind of Road Movie Doesn't Actually Have a Road?
You also may have noticed, however, that there isn't much of a road in Fury Road. The War Rig books it across salt flats, sand dunes, muddy wastelands, and everything in between, with not a speck of pavement in sight. We're guessing sometime around the alluded-to nuclear apocalypse, roads went the way of water and oil. They're few and far between.
Nevertheless, Fury Road is a road movie through and through. It all takes place on the road, features the classic trope of main characters chasing their dreams (of redemption), and those oh so wide open spaces we come to expect from the genre. For more on this, check out "Genre" and "Setting."