Remakes and adaptations of old movies have a tendency to be very disappointing to people who knew the old material, and displeasing or simply boring to the rest of us. This predominant failure may have to do with the fact that in some cases the older production was already of very little worth. More often than not, however, when the original movie had a certain promise as ground for intellectual and mystical elaborations, the remake inspired on it tends to fall on the superficial side, appropriating only visuals, or vague ideas that are enhanced in cartoonish ways, while the former idea that lay beneath is forgotten or overlooked.
George Miller brings to us in Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie that, while certainly more palatable to mainstream tastes, preserves and strengthens the core and abstract concepts of the original idea. It consists in the stripping down of the outlying traits, the more explicitly demented, confusing and shocking elements. These were still represented, but in a way that did not take the focus away from the center. The portrayal of the primal ordeal is nonetheless present and is brought clearly to the fore without nonsense in a way that builds up and extends. Rhythm is never broken but flows.
Characters are made simple without this detracting from the value of the movie as a whole. These are like the characters in myths and legends, and in good pulp fiction: they are either meant as symbols or as placeholders for the point of view of the audience. In Mad Max: Fury Road in particular, every single character, including the main personages, is reduced to little beasts scrambling for their lives in an uncaring universe: ONLY DEATH IS REAL.
While the obvious allegory of the modern world (which can be taken as the warning of a possible future) would seem to some to be attacking status quo in a deformed and simplistic way that makes use of leftist critique of power, this is not all there is to the story. Also, it must be understood that what is decadent and deformed in the modern world and in the world of Mad Max, was not so in the original traditional world whence some of the ideas were born. The tortured reality of unimaginably twisted beings we see in the world of Mad Max is just an evolution of the decanted modern civilization. This is a selfish and utterly disgusting ruling class controlling resources for themselves while using everyone else simply as instruments of their pleasure. This is no true aristocracy.
The idea of the warrior that attains divinity through warlike activity is not a ploy by the aristocracy to manipulate the people into sacrificing themselves to keep them in power. In a traditional setting, the King himself is a slave to the people, not as a mundane servant, but as the incarnation of the higher faculties of the collective mind. It is the decadence of the Dark Age which betrays all ideals, so that only a few exceptions in the modern world mirrored this ideal faithfully –and they were mercilessly destroyed by the rest of the world and condemned as barbarians.
In Mad Max: Fury Road, we see today’s humankind, albeit exposed in extreme ways, but not the total possibility of mankind. The modern art critic would only see two options, a life of slavery and oppression or a life of “freedom” (they usually have hedonism in mind) and goodies for everybody. In truth, there is a third way, a way that has long been forgotten but which some of us still keep in mind. This is the way that seeks meaning, and faces reality for what it is while being moved from within, establishing connections with the whole of reality –including its aspects of change, dissolution and Death.
From the point of view of natural selection and psychology, this movie gives us a pretty interesting insight. A human specimen such as the two main characters, must have gone through countless trials were others who were less excellent in some ability were cut down. They were tried in body and in mind, and none of them are the conventional hero of modern legend, but the real hero that must surmount trying ordeals with honor but practicality, that is, addressing reality. Skeptics, especially those who have never engaged in actual trials of perseverance in body and mind, will argue that no person could be this “perfect”, or this lucky. A hero is not perfect, otherwise he is no hero, he simply is. The outstanding abilities rare individuals of this kind may bring together are simply the result of an expected probabilistic outcome. This is readily obvious for anyone with basic dominion of the concepts of probability and how it translates to our reality. And with regards to the element of luck, near misses in real life are more common than couch potatoes imagine, and some people really do tend to be outliers even in luck, which gives us a glimpse of something else.
Arguably a more fancy and theatrical production, Mad Max: Fury Road deserves applause for the artistry put into it in its subtler elements in complete subjection to the overarching idea. This is a dense movie that appears simple because of its single-minded vision, its intense focus. If we are to judge each product, not by its intention or the reaction of the (mostly ignorant and stupid) audience, but by the degree of meaning it contains and by the significance of its parts in interaction, we may see in George Miller’s remake of Mad Max a monument to power and will.