The Mad Max monstrosity still pleases the hordes

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
May 19, 2015 /

Click here to view original /

So there’s some people in their desert. Some look as though they’ve stumbled in off the set of Powder. Others – those in the modesty gauze with the lashings of luminizer – look like they’ve just wrapped up a Victoria’s Secret shoot.

Someone’s claiming to be seeking redemption, another is after hope. The rest, I’d like to think, are desperately searching for the script.

So they’re driving and setting things on fire and stabbing people, all the while some guy is playing an electric guitar powered, I’m guessing, by the stench of garbage cans full of burning cash. And they get halfway “there” – a vague concept if ever there was one – and they chuck a u-ey and go right back where they started from. Because, the tinman always had a heart, and the lion always had courage … and something, something fire, crash, bang, kaboom!

To say I’m dropping the Mad Max carpark off my Campus Highlights tour feels like a small but important stepping stone in my recovery.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a film I wholeheartedly despised but one that I think perfectly balances Australian filmmakers’ unshakable fetish for the landscape with a true understanding of the wants of the 2015 audience.

Despite the fact that most of us live in cities and ‘burbs, filmmakers here love nothing more than a good long scenic wank. It’s what makes our films laborious and self-indulgent and why spending $20 on a ticket to see yet another endless panorama is often completely laughable.

Fury Road is in fact all desert, all of the time. Of course it’s not our desert, but Namibia, and rather than the camera lovingly – and endlessly – stroking its dunes, its plains, we’ve got nipple rings, Hannibal Lecter masks and chastity belts. And let’s not forget a cast taught elocution by Khal Drogo.

On the other hand, Fury Road thankfully, is much more the desert. Not much more in terms of script or quality acting or any semblance of a storyline – let’s not go crazy – but it’s certainly more in terms of beautiful cinematography and, most importantly, its exploitation of every single contemporary pop culture fad imaginable.

In a post-apocalyptical wasteland…

Where lone wolves are fighting for survival…

Where resources are scarce…

Where steampunk is the aesthetic du jour…

Where values are forsaken and humanity is compromised…

We know this material. They’re the tropes hacked up in every young adult novel-turned-blockbuster. They’re at the heart of an endless procession of cable TV cash-cows. They’re themes apparent in pretty much every single project green lit by Hollywood.

Stir in some folks with missing limbs, Megan Gale naked and a splash of lactation and we have a film that audiences want to pay for.

George Miller achieves something few Australian films ever do: he gives the people precisely what they want. Rather than cursing their failures to achieve orgasmic rapture at yet another treatise on the ominous/mystical/tumultuous ache of our bushland/desert/coastline, instead, we’re just given a beautifully filmed monster truck rally.

And it’s worked, and the wretched monstrosity has already made $136 million at the box office and the session I went to was crammed to the gills.

While my tastes lean towards the quieter, more gut-wrenching Australian gems like Angel Baby, Alexandra’s Project and Jindabyne, I also appreciate that on occasions the industry needs to make some money and recoup some esteem. If that must involve copious cannulas and mumbled dialogue and no discernible storyline whatsoever, them’s the breaks.

© Lauren Rosewarne