I feel like the world has spent so much time being nerds about Frank Miller, it’s a name that this week especially, in the wake of Comic-Con, is hard to escape. But we aren’t here to talk about Frank Miller, we are here to talk about a brilliant visionary that innovated the world of action cinema through subtlety, interesting use of angles and creating a dynamic modern version of the lone wolf hero by the name of Max Rockatansky. We are here to talk about George Miller.
If you look back to The Road Warrior you’ll find perhaps the pinnacle of modern action films. It was a first, in many ways, it was the first film in that action sub genre to do what it did; to push almost non-stop action, fused with tight angles, little exposition and a lot of implications that the viewer is to put together themselves. The thing is, it was done so well. It has been imitated so many times over the years and I’m not sure that it’s ever been done better than The Road Warrior.
For those curious as to why The Road Warrior is still the height of action cinema, look no further than the handling of the scene where two cars break away from the refinery, only to both be intercepted. A woman is dragged violently from the car, raped, shot and her body dragged behind a vehicle. Even by modern standards this is brutal, an awful scene and something that would require very careful handling. By modern standards it would be done close-up, it would be visceral, it would leave nothing to the imagination.
In The Road Warrior during this scene Max is on a hillside, telescope in hand, darting back and forth between scenes of horror. You never quite see it all, you actually don’t see much, but the handling of that scene in particular is done in a way to project the panic, the horror, the madness. It sets the perfect tone for how depraved Lord Humongous’s crew really are and does so by forcing you to use your imagination.
So the question is; Can George Miller recapture the glory of the Mad Max franchise twenty years later? Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was a good film, unable to live up to the previous two, but still worthy in its own right. Now twenty years later Miller will return to the silver screen with Hollywood as his muse. Miller is doing this following commercial successes outside of action, actually making a name for himself with films like Lorenzo’s Oil (not Lorenzo Fertitta, okay?), Babe and Happy Feet. This is his return to the brutal. This is his return to the wasteland.
Our society is inundated with what we believe a hero should be. It’s full of rich men in expensive costumes with fancy gadgets, aliens that fell to earth to be sworn protectors and the bad asses with their one-liners. Max Rockatansky is the hero that always stood out, he was the Man with No Name for a new generation and now a new generation needs that hero again. This generation needs to be shown, not told, of what a man with nothing left to live for does when he finds a reason to keep going. The wasteland is calling.