Should Mad Max Drive the ‘Fury Road’?

Mel Gibson as Mad Max
Photo: Warner Bros.

When I heard George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road was going into production last year, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Especially now that it will be rebooted with recent Inception co-star Tom Hardy in the lead. I know one thing, I wasn’t upset when I heard last week the film was pushed back to next year.

My indecision concerning the film isn’t because the original Mad Max was a perfect film. It was a strange little Aussie flick that flew under the radar when it came out. I first heard about it in a rock club in Seattle in the early ’80s only because a local band wrote a song about it. At the time I’d never even seen the film.

I can remember where I was when I first saw the The Road Warrior, however. My pal Joe and I went to Westwood to see the film all our friends were talking about. After it was over, Joe and I spilled out onto the sidewalk in front of the theater. I was doubled over, trying to catch my breath. I looked over at Joe. He just shook his head. We had never seen anything like it. The best action film we had ever seen.

That was 28 years ago and a lot of other films have come and gone since that day back in 1982. Many of those films have borrowed liberally from The Road Warrior‘s post apocalyptic palette. But I had a chance to see The Road Warrior again last year on a 70 MM print at the American Cinematheque here in Hollywood and I was still impressed with the power and pacing.

I was not as impressed with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985. Like many sequels, Mad Max 3 was overstuffed. The film featured two directors, a boring storyline and an over the top performance by pop culture artifact Tina Turner as the villain Aunty Entity. It had the stink of development all over it. I tried watching it again a couple of years later and couldn’t make it through the first half without shutting it off.

The proposed fourth Mad Max feature, Fury Road, was first pushed back in 2003. Back then Mel Gibson was slated to reprise the lead role. They were actually in pre-production in Africa when George Bush invaded Iraq and the studio decided it was too dangerous to film with the world in so much turmoil. I think the insurance companies had something to do with the decision as well. Seven years later the film is now in pre-production and also suffering from a delay, only this time it’s being pushed back so it can be filmed in 3D.

I know a little bit about this new version of Fury Road. A pal of mine, Brendan McCarthy, worked on the script with George Miller and he was thrilled when it went into pre-production. According to a recent interview with Brendan he doesn’t know how much of that script is left. But according to multiple sources it is the same film and now there’s even talk there will be two films and WETA has confirmed their involvement.

In interviews while promoting Inception, Hardy was asked about Fury Road and its story and was quoted saying:

It’s a relaunch and revisit to the world. An entire restructuring. That’s not to say that it’s not picking up or leaving off from the Mad Max you know already, but it’s a nice re-take on the entire world using the same character, depositing him in the same world, but bringing him up to date by 30 years. Mel would be perfect for it but, for some reason, he’s not doing it and I am. You can expect the same amount of grit and rawness and authenticity and performance, I hope to deliver… I think it’s going to be much more about how you deal with action. These things are going to be really there. Big rigs, big explosions, big car crashes. Big violence, you know. It’s going to actually happen as opposed to doing a 2D turned to 3D screen. It’s going to be an adventure, let’s put it that way. We’re shooting for a year.

Why Mel wasn’t set to play Max again when the film first went back into production is beyond me, but I think we all know the “some reason” Mel won’t be playing the role now.

Gibson’s career has taken a bit of a slide recently culminating with the ongoing series of audio installments highlighting his profanity riddled tirade with his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. (Fear not, it looks like Mel and/or Oksana will still get paid. His film company, Icon Entertainment, is listed as a producer.) He’s also getting long in the tooth for an action hero. So it only makes sense that the producers would be on the lookout for fresh blood.

Everything said, I can’t get over the fact Max is an iconic character. Having someone other than Gibson playing the title role begs comparison to the young Gibson and I’m not sure that’s a comparison Thomas Hardy’s reps want fans to make. It’s a losing proposition. Like trying to have someone other than Harrison Ford reprise Han Solo. Even George Lucas wouldn’t front fans like that.

I’ve seen several films Hardy has appeared in and to be honest I can’t say I have any memory of him. He got good reviews in a UK film called Bronson (pictured); a movie that looks very reminiscent of the Aussie film Chopper, and one I now understand Brad loved. Unfortunately I haven’t seen it. It might be great, I just don’t know.

Along with Hardy, Fury Road is currently expected to co-star Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz and Adelaide Clemens.

My biggest worry, however, is that George Miller is filming this new version of Mad Max simply because the Australian Film industry needs product. Miller is emptying out his sequels right now with Happy Feet 2 in post and Babe 3 in pre-production. Can Lorenzo’s Oil 2 be far behind?

From what I can tell the entire Australian Film industry is completely dependent on Miller’s largesse now that Nicole Kidman has decided to be a house frau in Nashville. The Aussies seem to be more dependent on Miller than the New Zealanders on Peter Jackson – Lurhmann certainly didn’t help with Australia. At least the Kiwis have those Jemaine Clement indie flicks to work on.

Other than the grips and gaffers in Queensland, I don’t personally know anyone who thinks we need another Mad Max movie at this time. The last one wasn’t very good and most people in the prime 18-35 year old movie going audience weren’t even alive (or didn’t care) when it came out. The original Feral Kid probably has kids in that age range by now.

Plus the film itself was rooted firmly in the legacy of the Cold War. I’m not saying we can’t nuke ourselves into oblivion in this day and age. It just isn’t foremost in world’s current consciousness. People are more worried about declining property values than the threat of a nuclear wasteland. It’s one of the reasons I think the now-delayed Red Dawn remake was so silly. Who exactly are the Chinese attacking this go around? The folks at Google?

I know this film is likely to get made with Hardy saying he’s heading to Australia for stunt-training, but nevertheless here’s what I suggest for Miller. Since he’s already pushed Max into next year. Go straight from Happy Feet 2 to Babe 3 without passing go. That way we can all remember Max the way he was meant to be. A young, buff, blue eyed Mel Gibson sans the racist tirades.

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