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The Beautiful Mythos of Mad Max

I felt obligated to see Mad Max: Fury Road, honestly. It is, after all, a dystopian movie with a wasteland world.

It turns out it’s also an incredible testament to practical effects and explosions, but what most interested me about the film was the brilliant mythos of the world.

This was my first exposure to the world of Mad Max, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. To sum up, if you haven’t seen it yet: the world has been destroyed, probably by nuclear warfare, leaving the environment a raw desert. The title character, Max, is a taciturn man haunted by the mistakes of his past, reduced to bare survival on his own; he’s practically feral. What little of left of what could be called society is a place known as The Citadel run by a bad, gross dude known was Immorten Joe (he would probably be best buddies with Jabba the Hutt). Immorten Joe has a stranglehold on a reserve of water, and therefore owns all the pathetic, misshapen humans who make up the Citadel.

The brilliance–and my favorite part–is that Joe has begun to develop a religion of sorts, with himself and the high-powered scavenged vehicles at his command at the pinnacle. Immorten Joe has convinced an army of young men–too young to remember what really happened to destroy the earth–that they are righteous warriors for their god (Immorten Joe, of course). Much like the real-world beserkers, or any drug-addicted crazy person in the 20th century, the WarDogs will try insane stunts to prove their valor and earn a place in Valhalla, welcomed by the revered Immorten Joe himself.

This is worth the watch for itself. Director George Miller uses this to answer “why would a man drive into a crazy lightning sandstorm with nothing but a pair of goggles to protect him?” Because, of course, he thinks he’s serving a higher power. He believes, to the core of his being, that his body is worthless, that he has no hope without his leader, and that his life is best served by his destruction.

Without the mythos that is baked into the background of the movie, nothing else would work. It’s not like anyone has to stop and explain any of this clearly complex theology/cult-speak to the viewer; it just happens, and we the audience see the appeal of the smoke, the fire, the shiny chrome of Valhalla and want to see more.

Did you see Mad Max? What did you think?

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