Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Side By Side: MAD MAX (1979) vs. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

Welcome to another installment of SIDE BY SIDE, where we dissect the differences and similarities between two films, be it a remake/reboot with its original, a sequel with its original, or two similar movies. This week we will be looking at the differences and similarities between the 1979 independent film MAD MAX and 2015's critically acclaimed darling MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.  Enjoy!

As a half-Australian, I have a strong affinity towards the original film, as it's one of the most successful films to come out of Australia, grossing just over 100 million USD worldwide, making 400 times it's budget of around 250,000 USD, making it the most profitable movie ever made until 1999. (Spawning a strong sequel and a weaker third film before the reboot)

Meanwhile, when the sequel/reboot Mad Max: Fury Road was announced, I was interested, it had been 30 years since Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (admittedly worse than the first two) and wasn't sure what to think, and although many were won over by the trailers, I still wasn't convinced. However, by the time the movie rolled around, myself along with many others were immersed into George Miller's mad world once again.

The Titular Protagonist:

Mel Gibson, love him or hate him, would not be the movie star he is without the original Mad Max, I do like his performance as the revenge seeking cop, the script he had is simple and effective but it isn't the strongest performance I've ever seen. Albeit, he does carry the movie in parts due to natural charisma, and I have to say I did miss the classic interceptor from the original.

In the sequel, Tom Hardy was written a character that I now consider completely different to the Max from the original, but in a lot of ways, I liked his performance more, I thoroughly believed the pain that the character had gone through with very little dialogue in the entire film. The theme about Max going insane was carried directly from the original, and was played up nicely at the start of the film with Hardy growling "It was hard to know who was more crazy... me... or everyone else".

The Antagonist

It's one of the most interesting casting choices I've ever seen, but in my opinion, in both cases, a brilliant one. Hugh Keays-Byrne plays the main antagonist in both films and does a different but brilliant job in both. In the original, he plays Toecutter, a leader of a gang called the acolytes, he is a simple villain, but provides a strong motivation for Max.

In 2015, 36 years later, he returned, to play an entirely original character in the form of Immortan Joe, a man who we don't know much about, but is practically worshipped by his war boys and has complete control over the domain, his presence is much more threatening, his motivations are clear, simple, and primal. The performance is fantastic, especially considering he had to wear a mask throughout the film.

The Supporting Cast (debatable):

Jessie Rockatansky (played by Joanne Samuel) along with Sprogg, are the two characters most important to Max in the first film, they drive him to become who he is, along with his friend "Goose". Joanne Samuel really does give a strong performance in this film and honestly I liked how she wasn't just a wife, she had motivations all of her own and I really felt for her, she really up a fight against the odds to save herself and her young son.

The reason I put the word debatable in the sub-title of this section, is due to the brilliance of Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, she gave one of the strongest performances of the year, and in my opinion (and many others), was the main protagonist of the film, she gave the motivation for what was happening in the film and pushed along the story, a character who was strong due to some great writing as a character who could put up a fight but you could still feel for as you know this is the last remnant of hope that she has left in her life. It would be insane not to mention Nicholas Hoult's performance as well that was entertaining and energetic, while all of Immortan Joe's wives gave strong performances too.


Both are films that I love, and they are honestly very different films that are difficult to compare especially considering the difference in budget. Although, Mad Max was George Miller's directorial debut, it's understandable that he has developed and improved as a film-maker over time. Visually, Fury Road blew me away, it's so difficult for films to make an impression like this film has on an audience considering the current day and age of special effects but the combination of practical effects and mostly subtle CGI, to the point where I often couldn't tell what was real and what wasn't, stunned me.

The original film in question here, is a testament to what can be done on a small budget, and I'm sure it inspired a number of aspiring film-makers to try their hand and do it without the other kind of constraints of a large-budget studio. It's a film filled with tension, and feels so real, it is visually grimy and this creates a world that allows the audience to feel as though that world is a possibility.

Mad Max: Fury Road would have been my favourite film of 2015 if not for a little movie called Star Wars but I have to admit that Fury Road is an almost flawless film. I hope that it has made an impact on what action movies will be over the next few years and want it teaches film-makers and studios a thing or two about how to do an action movie with stakes and characters that the audience can care about.

The Scores:

Mad Max (1979): 8/10

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): 10/10

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