Miller expands ‘Mad Max’ mythos in comics

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Mad Max: Fury Road’s Stunt Guy Went Out With an Epic Bang.

Whereas the first Mad Max films were inspired by the ’70s oil crisis, Fury Road is an unabashedly feminist manifesto about women’s ownership over their bodies. As a teenager, Mad Max: Fury Road’s supervising stunt coordinator Guy Norris toured with old-fashioned “thrill shows,” death-defying acts that traveled across Australia.”There was always a clown act with high falls and exploding fake toilets,” says Norris. “Cowboy fight scenes. The Mad Max franchise’s lasting legacy is, first and foremost, one of post-apocalyptic scenario and style—not to mention vehicular insanity pulled off without CGI gimmickry. Australian auteur George Miller’s seminal series has paved the way for the past 30 years’ worth of after-the-fallout sci-fi, imagining a world of dust and grime, of chaos and mayhem, in which roving packs of animalistic marauders roam the land scavenging for necessities and raping and pillaging along their malicious way.

Fire walls.” If a local fair paid enough, they’d crash cars and motorbikes. “Those days, we thought you could eat four-inch nails for breakfast and wipe our bum with sandpaper,” he says. “We thought we were bulletproof.” In 1980, Norris turned 21 while preparing for his first film gig: George Miller’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior—a movie, he says, that “took all those stunts we did in Evel Knievel-style thrill shows and put them on steroids.” Mad Max 2’s low-budget, brutal action style grabbed sci-fi by the scruff of its neck and dragged it down from the space opera stratosphere. “I was George’s go-to guy,” says Norris, who performed as Mel Gibson’s driving double and menaced as the marauder Bearclaw Mohawk. “Essentially every character that jumped onto the tanker was me. After announcing the fourth Mad Max film in 2003, Miller battled a spate of financial difficulties and security concerns over plans to shoot in Namibia before bringing audiences back to the Wasteland. The original, released in 1979, was a low-budget movie featuring Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky, a former cop and lone wolf who sets out to stop violent motor gangs and marauders in a dystopian Australia, where society has broken down following an energy crisis.

Then put on different wardrobe and jump again from a different position.” One day, Norris suggested a trick he’d done dozens of times before: a “cannonball” motorcycle stunt. He would ride a speeding motorcycle straight into a wrecked dune buggy, then soar into a ditch filled with what one behind-the-scenes documentary accurately claimed was “the most reliable and advanced cushion yet devised: a huge mound of empty cardboard boxes.” Only, instead of flying over the wreckage like Superman, Norris’s knee clipped the top of the buggy and he whirligigged like a marionette shot from a catapult. Things begin when Max (Tom Hardy) is captured and made a universal blood donor for the pale-skinned “War Boys”, led by the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who, in a nice touch, is played by the original film’s villain, Toecutter). Despite the boxes, he says. “I broke my femur.” (Still, Norris limped to the set a couple days later and shot his final fight with Mel Gibson, propping his broken leg on a box just outside of the camera’s frame.) In the 34 years since, action cinema has evolved, and so has Norris. “When I first started, if you were ballsy enough to do it, you could do it,” says Norris, who’s worked on everything from Moulin Rouge to Superman Returns and David Ayer’s upcoming Suicide Squad. “We were doing things that were within the bounds of what a fit individual could physically do: Real high falls, real crashes.

His skin covered with pale white powder and breathing through a skull-mask inhalator, Immortan Joe also owns specifically selected women to give him children. George Miller’s tale concerns cop Max Rockatansky (a fresh-faced Mel Gibson, in his first lead role), who patrols suburban Australian streets—as well as those that stretch into the vast, forbidding Outback—that have been taken over by gangs of criminals driven by a hunger for anarchy and a thirst for oil for their roadsters and motorcycles.

However, he grows enraged when learning that his five prized breeders have fled with the help of a trusted lieutenant, the one-armed Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). But more universally, it’s portrait of a forthcoming world starving for the very energy—oil—that powers its infrastructure helped the film resonate on a grander scale, in that such a premise stemmed directly from the global gasoline calamity that had taken place only a few years earlier. What they want to see superheroes do goes way beyond what any mortal can physically do.” But Miller still felt that audiences—thrilled by MMA, fights, and Jackass-style stunts, and fight videos on YouTube—were craving old-school action. “George foresaw that people were getting tired of CG,” says Norris. “You know, the Charlie’s Angels upside down on a motorcycle with explosions behind them: There’s just no base in reality, no peril.

The 1973 oil crisis came about when OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) chose to punish the U.S. (and many Western allies) for their support of Israel by instituting a petrol embargo—a decision that led to vast shortages and, famously, serpentine lines of cars waiting for a few drops of precious fuel at nationwide refill stations. The Matrix movies were very good, but a little soft.” So Miller conceived of Fury Road as an old-school action film, with practical effects and stunts, only filmed on the vast scale that audiences have come to expect from tentpole franchises.

A stark reminder of not only our dependence on oil, but of how that dependence makes our society vulnerable in the event of political disputes, Mad Max preys upon fears that we might be one geopolitical disagreement away from calamity and ruin. The shoot, one of the most elaborate in history, was plagued by delays and racked up a reported $140 million budget—about 1,000 times the budget of Mad Max 2. And moreover, that in such a situation, it wouldn’t necessarily be the fittest who survived, but those who were able to acquire, or had access to, the gasoline that could provide them with the means to stay alive.

It required Norris’s massive team of stunt drivers, performers, and riggers (which peaked at 150 on some days) to collaborate for months with special effects, visual effects, and design teams for months on a total of 303 stunts sequences including seventy mainline (or particularly dangerous) stunts. “Nowadays, I’d say we do high-risk illusion,” says Norris, noting that the stunts profession is now more of a collaborative science. “You have to be very clever. In that framework—also involving the larger concept that oil was a fundamentally exhaustible commodity which would eventually run out—Mad Max’s sci-fi wasn’t just thrilling and haunting because of its brutal highway crashes and rugged violence, but because it felt ripped from our own collective nightmares. You combine all the tools available to you as a filmmaker to make the action sequence look amazing but be as safe as you can possibly make it.” Now 54 and a father of two teenage sons who both worked on his Fury Road stunt crew, Norris feels “it’s been an incredible full circle,” since The Road Warrior. Miller’s sequel opens with a newsreel-y recap of the prior film that, in effect, recontextualizes that earlier story as having taken place in an oil-starved post-apocalyptic world, thus setting the stage for a new adventure about Max competing with hordes of face-painted, spike-adorned psychos for the barren Outback’s last gallons of gasoline. The film’s dialogue is minimal, embodying Miller’s vision of a film that can be understood by non-English speakers without having to read subtitles.

Nicholas Hoult stands out as Nux, a young and unhinged Immortan Joe soldier, more than willing to crash himself into an enemy’s car or set himself on fire in hopes of reaching Valhalla in the afterlife, as promised by Immortan Joe. Recasting Max as a reluctant Western-archetype hero, Miller’s follow-up operates like an ominous fable about how our continuing need for oil threatens to send us back to a more primitive age. Straddling the line between the past and the present, all while providing a slew of stunning images and set pieces the likes of which had rarely been seen before, it remains a classic of adrenalized allegorical sci-fi.

While the series’ third entry, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, boasts its own politicized ideas about capitalist enterprise and have-vs.-have-nots dynamics, its devolution into Peter Pan-style fiction renders it a moderately interesting misfire at best. Aside from Furiosa’s struggle, the film tells about the five ethereally beautiful women, who wage a fight for freedom and challenge their broodmare status.

With his latest, the 70-years-young Miller confirms that he’s the undisputed maestro of auto-lunacy, delivering what amounts to a largely uninterrupted two-hour chase sequence full of more mind-boggling, startlingly visceral car craziness than just about any film in history. Directed with a precision and clarity that’s astounding, it’s a summer spectacle that truly must be seen to be believed—and to see it, one realizes that just as Miller has not lost his touch for road rage, so too has he not lost his interest in pressing political commentary.

Fury Road commences with news report soundbites about oil shortages blaring over its opening credits, thus firmly situating the film in familiar territory. Yet even more than those undercurrents, Fury Road ultimately bolsters its gonzo vehicular warfare by turning its story into an all-too-relevant treatise on reproductive rights. Her mission is one of rescuing female prisoners from their male owners, and in doing so, to re-imbue them with agency over their own lives and bodies.

It’s a mission that draws the ire of King Immortan Joe, a paternalistic fiend whose interest in enslaving women as veritable baby-making cattle (and, in the case of his other captives, milk-producing cows) is presented as the future’s true evil, which must be combatted by both women and all those (including Max) who believe in female sovereignty of both a political and corporeal nature. He refers to them as “my property,” while their mantra is, “We are not things.” Consequently, Fury Road functions on a distinctly feminist wavelength, championing feminine revolt against a society that would place control of reproductive rights in the hands of tyrannical men. And in the process, it turns its real heroine, Theron’s icon-in-the-making Imperator Furiosa, into the embodiment of the politically charged spirit that, decades later, continues to define Miller’s incisive Mad Max saga.

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