The Revolution Will Not Be Filmed

Mad Max: Fury Road has sparked something in a lot of us that write about films, and that’s a good thing. I am estatic that so many film lovers, both professional and amatuer, have found something that most of us can agree on and enjoy.

But, and it’s a Kardashian sized one, there has been a lot of talk about how Fury Road is the first shot in some kind of filmic revolution. I wish that was the case, and if I am wrong, which I hope I am, I will admit it. If anything, Fury Road was a one off; an anomoly that is as rare as Hally’s comet.

Fury Road isn’t that different to the original Mad Max trilogy. Those films were something totally out of left field. They arrived at a time when all most of the rest of the world knew about Australia was kangaroos, koalas, and Olivia Newton-John. Writer/director George Miller gave us these bizarre movies filled with characters that looked like someone took the audience from a punk rock concert, a heavy metal show, a leather bar, and a BDSM dungeon, and dropped them off in the Outback. For the most part there was very little dialogue, which is just as well since the American distributor felt the need to overdub the dialogue in Mad Max since it was believed that most of us had would have no clue as to what they were on about.

The Mad Max films were influential in that they had a number of immitators; mostly low budget affairs or the occasional music video. Blade Runner was an influential movie as well, and that spawned sci-fi films that looked like they were shot in the dark. The biggest takeaway from Blade Runner seemed to be the soundtrack by Vangelis, which led filmmakers to hire their cousin with a Casio keyboard to score their movies. As a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I have been subjected to more than my fair share of these soundtracks which is the definition of “deep hurting.”

In my previous post, I discussed the feminist aspects of Fury Road. In short: I am all for them. Still, I don’t see Hollywood rushing out to make action films with female leads. Notice I didn’t say “strong female leads,” for strong is implied and inherent.

The box office success of Lucy still hasn’t motivated Marvel Studios to greenlight a Black Widow movie. Yeah, I am still going on about that. Lucy was directed by Luc Besson, who twenty-five years ago(!) gave us La Femme Nikita. That movie inspired an American remake (Point of No Return) and two television series. It seems that if you want see a female secret agent kick some ass on a regular basis, you need to turn on your TV. See also: Alias, and Covert Affairs.

Fury Road was made with a minimal amount of CGI. If you consider ten percent minimal. It is, compared to most films. I am not anti-CGI; it has its place. I don’t see the Russo brothers strapping rockets to Robert Downey Jr for Captain America: Civil War. If they had, he probably would have landed in my yard, since they are shooting in Atlanta. And I cannot see Zack Snyder telling Henry Cavill to jump off a roof and method act his way to the ground.

Probably too much has been made of J.J. Abrams using mostly practical effects on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. CGI was not the problem with the prequels. As for it being shot on film? I think it’s kind of cool. Abrams, along with Quentin Tarantino and a few other directors have the ability to make that call, while studio heads tell others, “David Fincher shoots digitally, you can too.” Last time I checked, there was only one David Fincher.

Fury Road benefitted from not being tied down to a release date. It was made three years ago and then they went back for extensive reshoots. There was a time when that sort of thing would be a bad sign, but it happens more than you know. World War Z had a totally different ending prior to reshoots, and Marvel schedules them for all their movies.

I know I am oversimplifying things, but Warner Bros. pretty much gave George Miller $150 million, at least, and told him to come back when he had something. Miller even convinced Oscar winning director of photography, John Seale, to come out of retirement. The thing is: Miller did all this with some storyboards and a vague idea. Admitedly, this is more than Michael Cimino had when he made Heaven’s Gate. But not by much.

After making the masterpiece that is Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller could have dropped the megaphone and walked off. No one would blame him, he is seventy years old. He has been talking about a sequel called Mad Max: Wasteland. Good on him. No one else can make a film the way he does.

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