Thursday, 24 November 2016

Exploitation Cinema: Mad Max: Fury Road

It is common for films to use exploitation to attract a larger audience and attain as much money as possible. In cinema there are many different subjects that can be exploited such as violence, gore, sex, monsters, and natural disasters, and there are also exploitation films based on nationalities such as Ozploitation (Australian films that are often horror, comedy or action). One example of Ozploitation the film series Max Max, including the recent Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) directed by George Miller.

Fig 1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Exploitation films are often thought of to be low quality due to their cheap ways of getting an audience and low production quality. However, this is not the case with the most recent Mad Max instalment, "The first point at which Fury Road draws breath - an eerily beautiful wide shot of a flare sputtering out in the desert darkness - comes after half an hour of virtually continuous chaos. Most films aren't built this way for all kinds of sensible reasons. But when they are, and it works - what a rush," (Collin, 2015). It is clear from the start how much work went into this film, even just the knowledge that George Miller made sure that practical effects were preferred over CGI. The number of cuts in certain action scenes reveal how difficult the film must have been to shoot.

While the stunts, explosions, fight scenes, car chases, and strong characters are the focus of the film, one must look deeper to see how much time and effort went into making Fury Road. Often sound effects and music score are forgotten, people seem to never notice it unless it is absent or poorly designed. However, in Fury Road the sound doesn't just catch your attention - it demands it, "Watching Mad Max:Fury Road is the cinematic equivalent of putting your head in the bass-bin at a death-metal concert...we even get sonic assault vehicles armed with drummers, speaker stacks, and a mutant axe-man wielding a guitar-slash-flamethrower...the shooting/editing style is designed to make you feel like you've been run over while being shouted is an orgy of loud and louder," (Kermode, 2015). The combination of practical effects, tasteful CGI, intelligent sound design, the sped up frame rate, and the chaotic editing makes Fury Road a hard film to ignore.

Fig 2. Coma The Doof Warrior
However, there are many more elements than sound, cars, action, and violence in Mad Max that are exploited. Fury Road has brief moments where it exploits sex/women/nudity but also manages to appeal to feminism. While the film is named after the character Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), the focus is without a doubt on the other characters. The whole plot revolves around Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) trying to capture his Five Wives after they escaped with the help of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). While Furiosa was immediately commanding and dominant, at first the film exploits the Wives, "our first glimpse of them bodes ill: limber beauties, draped in muslin underwear and hosing themselves down in the middle of nowhere but winds up as a testament of female resilience, thanks to the Vuvalini - a small leathery tribe of matriarchs, described by the film's production designer as 'lovely old bikie chicks'," (Lane, 2015).

After this initial exploitation of the Wive's sexuality and beauty, they quickly recover and show their personal strength, intelligence and bravery. This is also the same with the Vuvalini when we first meet them, one of the members is naked and being used as bait, however once they recognise Furiosa this all changes. In Fury Road, Max is not the protagonist but Furiosa is, she brings out the best in the other characters including the Wives, Vuvalini, and Max himself. There is a specific moment in the film where, "our hero aims at a searchlight, in the distant gloom, but misses. Only one bullet remains. Furiosa takes the gun and hits the target, using Max's shoulder as a rest. The tough guy is nothing but a cushion," (Lane, 2015). This is how the film not only was able to exploit the female characters beauty while also being able to use feminist ideas to their advantage and appeal to more people.

Fig 3. Don't Breathe
Overall, George Miller's exploitation feminism, sexuality, violence, car chases, action, and the Australian landscape managed to make an Oscar winning film instead of a low-quality B-movie. Admittedly, having a larger budget than his original Mad Max (1979) helped increase the quality of the film, but George Miller obviously had an eye for the Ozploitation world of Mad Max. Mad Max: Fury Road was a successful example of exploitation and chaos cinema that managed to appeal to multiple groups of people, being way over the top but in a strangely satisfying way.

Collin, R. (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road review: 'a Krakatoan eruption of craziness' At: Accessed on: 23/11/2016
Kermode, M. (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road review - beware of battle fatigue At: Accessed on: 23/11/2016
Lane, A. (2015) High Gear "Mad Max: Fury Road." At: Accessed on: 23/11/2016
Tallerico, B. (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road At: Accessed on: 23/11/2013

Illustration List:
Figure 1. Mad Max: Fury Road [Poster] At: Accessed on: 23/11/2016
Figure 2. Coma The Doof Warrior [Film Still] At: Accessed on: 24/11/2016
Figure 3. Don't Breathe [Film Still] At: Accessed on: 24/11/2016

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