F**k me! That was good!


(c) Kennedy Miller Mitchell


For many years, I had sat through crap superhero movies, and crap cloned dinosaur movies, and crap teenage vampire movies, and crap identikit zombie movies, and crap Adam Sandler movies, and crap Vince Vaughan movies, and crap every-other-sort-of movies, and felt sad.  I felt sad because I didn’t want to see any of those crap movies.


What I really wanted to see was a movie where Tom Hardy and a gang of leathery, take-no-shit-from-anyone motor-biking old ladies fight off hordes of albino skinheads with chainsaws on top of a giant truck that’s driven by a prosthetic-limbed woman in racoon make-up and has big jaggy metal bits sticking out of its sides and roars through a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland at a hundred miles an hour.  But nobody had ever made this movie or was ever likely to.  And that’s why I felt sad.


But now the Australian director George Miller, who’s 70 years young, has come along and made a movie called Mad Max: Fury Road and guess what?  Tom Hardy is in it!  And so is a gang of leathery, take-no-shit-from-anyone motor-biking old ladies!  And they have to fight off hordes of albino skinheads with chainsaws on top of a giant truck!  And the giant truck is driven by a prosthetic-limbed woman in racoon make-up!  And it has big jaggy metal bits sticking out of its sides!  And – you guessed it – it roars through a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland at a hundred miles an hour!  Oh, and it contains no trace of superheroes, cloned dinosaurs, teenage vampires, identikit zombies, Adam Sandler or Vince f***ing Vaughan.  Thanks for that, George.


(c) Kennedy Miller Mitchell


Yes, Mad Max: Fury Road, which I saw a few days ago, is upon us.  And it’s a thundering, snarling, crashing, colliding behemoth of a film that makes rival summer blockbuster Jurassic World look as miniscule as a flea circus.  It has everything – the afore-mentioned Tom Hardy in the title role; and Charlize Theron playing Imperator Furiosa, the afore-mentioned prosthetic-limbed woman in raccoon make-up; and a desert-dwelling speed tribe called the Vuvalini, who are the afore-mentioned motor-biking old ladies and whose number includes 78-year-old actress Melissa Jaffer, whom I remember from the early-noughties Australian / American sci-fi show Farscape.  It’s also got two hours of non-stop vehicular mayhem, but that goes without saying.


And it’s got a white-skinned goon called Nux, who has a car engine engraved on his chest and a pair of tumours nicknamed Larry and Barry growing out of his shoulder.  Playing Nux is Nicholas Hoult – the very same Nicholas Hoult who was once little Marcus Brewster, the lad with the unfortunate pudding-bowl haircut whom Hugh Grant befriended in About a Boy (2002).  See what hanging out with Hugh Grant does to you?


(c) Working Title

(c) Kennedy Miller Mitchell


And it’s got the People Eater, a corpulent chap with elephantiasis and a tin nose, who drives a modified stretch Mercedes Limousine and is played by John Howard – whom I assume isn’t the same John Howard who was Liberal Party prime minister of Australia from 1996 to 2007.  It’s got the Bullet Farmer, a lunatic whose teeth have been replaced by bullets and who drives a Valiant Charger mounted on a tank chassis.  And best of all, it’s got the Doof Warrior, a bloke who stands atop a giant rig, before a wall of speakers, playing a flame-throwing heavy-metal guitar whilst accompanied by a rhythm section consisting of half-a-dozen guys bashing away at taiku drums.  At this point I could shout, “Rock ‘n’ roll!”, but it would sound a bit pathetic.


(c) Kennedy Miller Mitchell


One of the many good things about Mad Max: Fury Road is that it doesn’t stomp over the memory of the original three Mad Max movies that Miller directed between 1979 and 1985 and that starred Mel Gibson.  The first was an admirably rough-edged ‘Ozploitation’ feature.  The second, 1981’s Mad Max 2, was an out-and-out action classic that influenced everyone from Duran Duran, who in 1984 incorporated its post-apocalyptic leather-clad punk-Mohican aesthetic into their Wild Boys video, to the makers of scabrous animated TV show South Park – its hero Stan Marsh has a Mad Max 2 poster hanging in his bedroom.   Alas, the third instalment, Mad Max beyond Thunderdome, was disappointing.  Its first half was solid, but then the sanitising influence of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking began to creep in, most obviously with the introduction of a horrid Disney-esque tribe of lost children.  Byron Kennedy, producer of the first two films, died before the shooting of Thunderdome and I suspect his sad absence had something to do with the third film’s inferiority.


With Mad Max: Fury Road you can almost believe that Hardy’s character is a direct continuation of the one played by Mel Gibson.  The only thing disrupting the continuity is how Hardy is assailed by harrowing flashbacks / phantoms of his dead wife and child, and these clearly aren’t the same wife and child who were slaughtered by the bad guys in the first Mad Max.  (In Fury Road, the child is a young girl whereas in the first film it was a baby.)  Fury Road does, though, stay true to the anarchic spirit of the originals.  For one thing, despite its massive budget, Miller has kept the CGI to a minimum and crammed in as many authentic physical effects and as much authentic stunt-work as possible – things that made the original movies so eye-watering.


I suspect Miller got to make Fury Road his own way, with little interference from Hollywood and the money-men, because he’d been trying to get it off the ground since the 1990s and during that time the franchise’s image had become tainted through its association with Mel Gibson.  This was thanks to some loathsome and well-publicised anti-Semitic comments that Gibson spewed out in the mid-noughties.  After that, I’m sure, the studios wanted to keep all things Mel-related at arm’s length, including Miller and his new Mad Max project.


(c) Kennedy Miller Mitchell


One nice nod to the original movies is that Fury Road’s big villain, the skull-masked Immortan Joe, is played by English actor Hugh Keays-Byrne – who played the Toecutter, the original big villain in the original Mad Max movie.   It’s just a pity that Miller didn’t cast the gangling New Zealand actor Bruce Spence in Fury Road too.  Spence was marvellous as the demented gyro-captain in Mad Max 2.  In fact, the only thing that could possibly make Fury Road even more awesome would be the appearance at the movie’s finale of Spence’s gyrocopter, swooping down from the heavens while Spence drops poisonous snakes on top of Immortan Joe’s head.


Meanwhile, feminists like Laurie Penny and Tansy Rayner Roberts have embraced Mad Max: Fury Road in admiration of its strong female characters.  Charlize Theron’s Furiosa kick-starts the plot when she snatches away five young ‘brides’ whom Immortan Joe has kept imprisoned for breeding purposes; and as the six of them make a break for freedom, with Joe and his hordes in hot pursuit, she keeps that plot in motion.  Whereas Max merely reacts to events – even after he forms an alliance with Furiosa, it’s still her who calls the shots.  The motor-biking Vuvalini rate high on the tough-gal scale too.  And even the five brides, the film’s least kick-ass female contingent, aren’t depicted as simpering eye-candy, as they might have been.  They never develop into warrior-women but, gradually and endearingly, their characters become more idiosyncratic and more proactive.





Mad Max: Fury Road goes against other Hollywood stereotypes as well.  It shows people who are mentally and physically disadvantaged – good guys like Max with post-traumatic stress disorder and Furiosa with a missing arm, and bad ones like the elephantiasis-stricken People Eater and Corpus Colossus, Joe’s telescope-wielding lookout man (played by Quentin Kenihan, a sufferer from brittle-bone disease in real life) – but who simply shrug those issues off and get on with things.  And with the Vuvalini, the film rebukes the ageism that’s rife in mainstream Hollywood.  The Vuvalini could have been played for laughs — “Look!  Hell’s Grannies!  Ha ha!” — but Miller presents them as having a wisdom and serenity that comes with old age, combined with a badass-ery that defies assumptions about old age.  The sixty and seventy-something actresses who played the Vuvalini performed their own stunts, which makes me love them even more.




(c) Kennedy Miller Mitchell


It’s heartening that a major science-fiction movie with such attitudes should appear at a time when the Hugo Awards, the most prestigious set of prizes that the sci-fi community hands out to the genre’s best literary and dramatic works each year, have been engulfed in controversy.  The Hugo nomination lists for 2015 were stuffed with works forwarded by a bloc of right-wing fans who believe that sci-fi should be about Caucasian alpha-male humans zapping inferior alien species with futuristic weaponry, and not involve women, ethnic minorities, social issues, ecology or general liberal wussiness.  (And it shouldn’t be, you know, too literary.)  Organising the hijacking of the Hugo nominations were conservative writers Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia and the monumentally-reactionary arse-pipe Theodore Beale – a man who’s argued in the past that rape within marriage is legitimate, that the Taliban were justified in shooting 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, and that giving women the vote is a bad thing because women tend to favour anti-gun legislation.




I trust these cave-dwellers found Mad Max: Fury Road as welcome as someone dumping a tanker-load of manure over them.


Already Miller is talking about a sequel to Mad Max: Fury Road, but it’s impossible to see how a further movie could top this one.  Unless, of course, George heeds my advice…  And brings back Bruce Spence!


(c) Kennedy Miller Productions