Study Guide

Mad Max: Fury Road Music

Music

Junkie XL

Junkie XL. That's the name of the composer responsible for the Mad Max: Fury Road score. And oh, how we love how much that makes sense. It takes a man with a crazy name like Junkie XL to provide the soundtrack for a movie as crazy as this one.

Fury Road's score features a mixture of classical and heavy metal, giving it a decidedly rock opera feel. In fact, that's just how Junkie XL, a.k.a. Tom Holkenborg, describes it in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:

I knew when I saw the film that we needed to come up with something that is a completely over-the-top rock opera. The wasteland George created and the caricature of the dictator Immortan Joe, the look of the war boys, the cars—it's so over the top. The music needed to match that.

And match it, it does. Throughout the movie, we've got an ominous and repetitive low cello note, which conveys approaching menace. We hear it, for example, when Max and Furiosa finally take off together in the War Rig. As Holkenborg explains it in the same interview,

When he is in that big truck with the women, the women don't know if at any moment, "Is he going to explode? Is he going to shoot us? What is he going to do?" So I wanted to come up with a very simple motif on a cello that plays, Dah-DAH. Or it plays three times. Or it plays five times. Or just once. You never know how many times. So that was kind of the musical statement that he could be dangerous. Then, where the situation seems to stabilize and he's actually now collaborating with the women, that now becomes only two cello notes in a row—constantly two. Two feels more stable. It feels more grounded, so it feels more safe.

That's just one example that gives you a sense of how the soundtrack enhances the storytelling in Fury Road. And there are countless others: the frenetic strings we hear during Max's brief flashbacks, the kick-butt heavy metal guitar that the Doof Warrior uses to thunder up the war party, the soft orchestral sounds of the Vuvalini. In Fury Road, the music makes you feel whatever it is George Miller and Junkie XL want you to feel in that particular scene. It mirrors the characters' states of mind, and invites you into empathy with them.

The score received a fair amount of critical praise, including from the acclaimed film composer Hans Zimmer himself. In an interview with HitFix, he called Holkenborg's work on the film "absolutely phenomenal and mind-blowingly brilliant."

We'll let Hans have the last word.

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