With worldwide adoration, nearly unanimous critical approval, and ten Oscar nominations, Mad Max: Fury Road has been heralded as the greatest blockbuster of the 21st century. So it has been a frustrating couple of years, watching creator George Miller being blocked from making more carmageddon glory. And the reason for that has everything to do with bullets and gasoline -- or in our timeline, money.
After years of quiet desperation, Miller announced this week that he's finally able to work on a sequel for Fury Road's main character, the biggest badass on four wheels: Furiosa. And so as not to upset all those armpit-sniffers who were outraged that women were allowed to speak in an action movie, that Max guy is also getting two sequels. That's three new Mad Max movies in near-pole position. And fans will gladly tell you the supposed reason it's taken this long: a lawsuit between Miller and Warner Bros. over the studio refusing to give Miller and his crew a big million-dollar bonus for somehow crashing a gazillion cars in the Namibian desert and still coming in under budget.
But why on Earth would Warner quarrel over a couple of million dollars? Well, despite the fanfare and fan's fares, Fury Road busted more engine blocks than box office records. There's a quick and simple rule for studio profitability that says a movie has to make at least twice its production budget to actually be worth it. And in that department, Fury Road proved to be very mediocre, making "only" $370 million off a $150 million budget. That's not good blockbustering. That year, it got out-earned by the likes of Hotel Transylvania 2, San Andreas, and Terminator: Osmosis -- a movie so forgettable you probably didn't realize that's not its actual name. Meanwhile, Jurassic World, with an identical budget, made over a billion dollars more, and that movie's biggest spectacle was good ol' fashioned garbage filmmaking.
Fury Road was a risk -- an incredibly expensive old-school action spectacular based on a B-movie franchise most people only remember for Tina Turner's haircut. And that risk didn't pay off enough that Warner Bros. was just going to hand out bonuses to George Miller for netting them each half a yacht down payment. And that's not Miller's or even completely Warner's fault -- it's ours as well. By the time Avengers: Endgame's 16th special edition leaves theaters, people will have thrown around three billion dollars at that overinflated Disney ride. And if we keep going to safe franchises ten times as much as anything new, we'll get ten times as many of them as anything else, and it'll take ten times as long before George Miller makes enough money that he can outright buy Australia and turn it into one big movie set, like Peter Jackson did with New Zealand.
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