5 Lessons All Movies Should Learn From 'Mad Max'

Years after the fall, as future civilizations sift through the sands and dusts of what was once our world, some group will eventually find a blu-ray of Mad Max: Fury Road. After they watch it in good old-fashioned 2D (because they're an advanced civilization, see), they'll sit back, cross their five arms behind their three heads, roll their eye-stalks around to look at each other, and say, "That was really good. Maybe we shouldn't have eaten the humans after all."

But this movie is more than just an instigator for post-gluttony remorse for our eventual conquerors -- in fact, it just might save movies as we know it, provided Hollywood is able to figure out that ...

#5. The Star Doesn't Have To Be The Star

Despite his name being in the title, Max is not the protagonist of Mad Max: Fury Road. Instead, it's Imperator Furiosa, which is good, because her story is compelling and rad. She wants to rescue some sex slaves from the bastard child of Sweet Tooth the Clown and Darth Vader, and she's willing to take on a post-apocalyptic war party to do it. And despite what some random assholes on the Internet think, this isn't a problem with the story. It's the best part. You know why?

Because we already got Max's story. In a movie called Fucking Mad Max.

As much as I love superhero movies, the fact that they're so tightly focused on Character Whose Name Is The Title is like a brick around the neck. Say we stay interested in Iron Man after he gives up alcohol, works out any lingering problems he will ever have with Pepper, gets over his PTSD, and makes his inherited business ... uh, even more The Biggest Business in the World. Then what? All we're left with is a perfectly well-adjusted dude who also owns a murder suit. Sorry, I don't care about that at all. I want my protagonist to seem, in at least one way, shittier than me, or I'll just get jealous. So why not hold-off on his personal growth for a little while and, instead, make him the catalyst for a bigger, weirder adventure that -- though he's involved -- isn't ultimately about him? That's the point of good world building, right?

This is also the big thing killing the Star Trek movies right now. The first Star Trek was cool; it patiently and effectively got the team together, building up to a final shot where Kirk, Spock, Bones, and The Gang are ready to take on anything that comes at them. But then Star Trek Into Darkness stumbled into the room and, like a drunk idiot interrupting a conversation, forced everything back to square one. Because they didn't know what to do with the characters.

Hey, how about this: Make them help some other characters on an adventure. It worked for Mad Max (clearly) and, incidentally, almost every episode of a little show called Fucking Star Trek.

#4. Make The Behind-The-Scenes Stuff Awesome

Every time I read a behind-the-scenes story about Fury Road, I get happier. I'm sorry if that's a low-key reaction by Internet standards, but I'm not gonna do a disservice to my feelings by saying "ALL MY MEMORIES OF TRANSFORMERS ARE IMMEDIATELY ERASED" or "I GET AN ERECTION THAT THEN CATCHES ON FIRE," because Internet hyperbole is stupid and the truth is just better. I get happy. That's way better.

Why? Well, for one thing, there's 18 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage of Fury Road, and it's bubbling over with stuff like this:

Everyone in that car died, probably.

Compare that to the behind-the-scenes footage from Age Of Ultron, which is all about the ...

... ballet?

Which, look, that stuff is fine. I had a lot of fun watching that footage too, because it's neat to see how goofy The Avengers looked without special effects, but I had way more fun watching the Fury Road stuff because they did it all for real. I mean, I seriously think those guys in those images up there are dead, because how can they not be? That was fire!

And it's not just the dangerous stuff; here's some trivia about how the cars were designed. Specifically, this unholy abomination of metal and raw testosteronic evil:

That car was custom-built in real life for the movie. First they stuck a Chrysler Valiant Charger body on top of some mining equipment. But then they realized that the car couldn't keep up with 60 MPH chases (Oh, special note here: All the cars were involved in real 60 MPH chases), so they took out the diesel engine and put in a water-cooled V8.

Then there's the Doof Wagon, a semi-truck crammed full of speakers, amplifiers, and drum sets that plays rock and roll during the entire chase -- which, again, they really built.

And yes, those speakers are really playing, and yes, that guitar really shoots fire.

Look, I understand that movies are too expensive to take risks on stuff like "story" and "real human emotions" anymore, and have to have a huge element of raw spectacle in order to get people to care. And what better way to get people to care than by doing as much as freaking possible in real life?

#3. Sticking To Rules Can Make A Huge Difference

Part of what makes Mad Max so satisfying is that we're getting Fast-&-Furious-sized action setpieces that are populated with actual human beings. If someone gets thrown off a car, or shot, or takes a chainsaw to the neck, then they're either going to die or come damn close to it. So when (spoilers) Charlize Theron gets stabbed in the side near the end of the movie, we all understand right away why that's a problem (It's a problem because abdomens are important).

Compare that to the end of Furious Seven, when Dom crashes his Dodge Charger into a helicopter and (spoiler alert) almost dies. I had no idea that he was in any trouble until the other characters started to panic, then my first thought was "He drove a different Dodge Charger off a fucking mountain like 20 minutes ago. Why is this suddenly dangerous?" If we hadn't cut to Michelle Rodriguez and The Rock looking concerned, I would have had no idea Dom was in any trouble. I would've expected him to just climb out of the wreckage and start high-fiving everyone for having finally saved the day and killed everyone in Los Angeles.

Our ... hero? Recklessly firing a Minigun a quarter mile from my apartment?

And here's where the apologists come in: "Who cares about that shit? These movies are all about balls-to-the-wall action!" But that's clearly not how it works, and you fucking know it, you goddamn liar. Revenge Of The Sith had more balls-to-the-wall action in the opening sequence than most other movies, but no one remembers it because it never felt real. There was no weight to any of it. It's the same problem with the Transformers movies: Way more stuff gets blown up, but none of it matters because none of it seems to impact the plot.

Fury Road proves that you can have that kind of insane action without making your characters invulnerable superheroes. It's possible to make a movie where you know a character is in trouble because of what you see happen to them, not because you cut to a different character looking worried.

But instead of picking up on that ...

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J.F. Sargent

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