George Miller and the Aussie cinema legacy of ‘Mad Max’

Sponsored: Distinctly Australian. Released in 1979, Mad Max changed the face of Australian filmmaking.

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George Miller and The Aussie Cinema Legacy of Mad Max

Back in 1979 something quite remarkable happened. Mad Max hit movie theatres and completely wowed audiences around the globe. With an intriguing new take on the dystopian post-apocalyptic theme, Australian director and writer George Miller completely reshaped the action cinema genre, creating the seminal work that would pave the way for an enduring legacy.

The Original Mad Max Trilogy

Having only previously directed short films during the early 1970s, little could George Miller have imagined how successful his first major feature would be, particularly given the tiny budget and relatively unknown cast. Incredibly, Mad Max (1979) went on to become one of the most profitable films in Australian cinema history, and propelled lead actor Mel Gibson to international stardom.

The premise is one of societal breakdown in Australia, loosely set in a dystopian “near future” of the time period Mad Max was released. Max Rockatansky played by Gibson is an officer in what little remains of law enforcement, his world beset by fuel shortages and violent crime. On the verge of quitting, the murder of his family by a biker gang sets Max on the path of high-speed pursuits and revenge.

Although the graphic violence was questioned by critics, the box office success quickly led to a sequel, with Mad Max 2 (1981) now firmly a post-apocalyptic tale. Society has now collapsed, and settlements battle for survival against hordes of marauders. But after spending so much time on the fringes of humanity, Max finds himself on the road to redemption, becoming the reluctantly heroic Road Warrior, as the film was also known upon release in the United States.

The third release was Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, turning the Aussie cinema success into Hollywood hot property, and with Miller still at the directorial helm. This time his post-apocalyptic vision was given an impressively large budget, and included Tina Turner as the main antagonist, opposite Gibson reprising his role of Max for a third time.

The Influence of Mad Max

Far beyond going on to become such a cherished piece of Aussie cinema, the Mad Max franchise has made its mark in popular culture. The visual style and work of Miller has directly inspired others in his craft, including James Cameron, who acknowledged using similar camera angles and shots in the Terminator films. Other film luminaries, including Guillermo del Toro and Zack Snyder, have also cited Mad Max as their favourite movies.

Video games have also been hugely influenced by the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max. They range from car-themed titles like Twisted Metal and Carmageddon, to shooters including Borderlands and the Fallout series. Even the spinning reels of pokies in Australia have been crafted around Mad Max. They now feature all manner of themes and are easily found at the best online casino review sites.

The dusty leather-clad image of Max Rockatansky, the violent action and vehicle chases, alongside the post-apocalyptic setting, have all fed the ideas of various musical artists. Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx once stated that Max inspired the band’s costume designs, while the video for Duran Duran’s hit “The Wild Boys” was almost a homage to the movie trilogy, heavily inspiring the costume design and action.

Fury Road and Beyond

After working on projects diverse and varied as The Witches of Eastwick (1987) and Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), plus family hits like Babe (1995) and Happy Feet (2006), George Miller finally came back full circle to Mad Max. Nevertheless, it hadn’t been for the lack wanting more additions to the post-apocalyptic franchise. Miller was keen to tell more stories about the character and get new productions off the ground.

Three whole decades passed between Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1986) as the previous instalment, inevitably turning any new project into a reboot of sorts. However, earlier attempts to produce the movie had failed in 2003, with Mel Gibson was originally due to reprise the role. By the time production finally began in 2012, Tom Hardy was hired to fill the dusty but cherished leathers of Max Rockatansky.

Movie critics and audiences alike loved the frantic pace of Fury Road, rewarding the concept of more action and less talking, that Miller had wanted to deploy. His idea was that of a continuous chase through the wasteland, and his cinematic approach was roundly praised. Charlize Theron also treated viewers to another main protagonist, bringing the powerful female character of Imperator Furiosa to life.

After four instalments of the franchise based around the adventures of Max Rockatansky, the titular character in the series, Furiosa is due to hit our screens in 2024. This will be the first spin-off movie, and the first story without Max as the protagonist, based instead around the origin story of Imperator Furiosa. But exploring different stories doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last of Max or his next adventures. Far from it.

When Will Mad Max Return?

Regardless of whether Furiosa succeeds or fails at the box office, George Miller is already pressing ahead with the next instalment with Max Rockatansky behind the wheel. Currently in pre-production, while the release date hasn’t yet been announced, we do have some indications about the plot for Mad Max: The Wasteland from IMDB.

Miller apparently developed lots of backstories for characters and locations, during the production of Fury Road, and while that film was hit with delays. This gave him time to come up with the basis of the Furiosa story, plus another tale featuring Max Rockatansky. One premise is the story beginning prior to Fury Road, tying Max’s past and possibly the original trilogy, to the modern-day cinematic releases.

The story obviously still needs work and is not yet fully evolved, according to Miller himself, while preparation for another Mad Max prequel/sequel would also take time. Back in 2015, Tom Hardy was also contracted to appear in three more movies, indicating that he would be back for any forthcoming production. At the best guess, we could be looking at another three to four years, but in the meantime, we can at least relish the arrival of Furiosa in 2024.