Fury Road Promises to Reignite the Mad Max Franchise
By the looks of it they’re sticking with low-budget format. Essential when you’re tackling the gritty structure of a post-apocalyptic setting head on. Tom Hardy has to be one of the greatest acting talents to have come out of the UK in recent years, alongside the magnificent Mark Strong (not in this movie). From the glimpse of Hardy in the trailer his portrayal of Max comes across as a man who has had his humanity battered out of him – a wild dog chasing ghosts across a desert landscape and just asking for another kicking.
I am as excited about this coming out as I was about Star Wars (aged 6) back in 1977. Why the big deal? Mad Max is a hallmark of my 1980s. Not necessarily the same 80s you knew. The threat of nuclear annihilation. Regan versus Russia whilst Frankie GTH funked the radio waves. Hot summers away from school and when not clambering over derelict buildings stripping lead flashing from roofs to melt down into lead figures (I bought moulds from Games Workshop and did quite a trade after painting them up), I was locked away for hours with my RPG compadres playing Gamma World. This is before I discovered the cosmic horror of H.P.Lovecraft and the classic game of Mythos investigation – Call of Cthulhu.
Mad Max fitted snugly into Gamma World (RPG) and both had a profound and long-lasting influence on my imagination. In particular I’m talking about the second Mad Max movie which really grasped the idea of a post-apocalyptic fashion culture with heavy flavours around re-appropriated sports wear as armour, crude custom-crafted weapons (ammunition for guns very rare and so as precious as water) and crazy hair – punk attitude, punk image, precursor to the pre-apocalyptic cyberpunk age. All of this washed into popular awareness with bands like Sigue Sigue Sputnik and a raft of artwork and programming hungrily devoured by a western consumer market eager to fantasize with the idea of it all coming to an end.
Ahead of its time, 20 minutes into the Future, and dwelling firmly in the polychromatic comfort of a virtual reality, was Max Headroom. A fabricated TV presenter. Max Headroom – icon of a Coca-Cola sponsored generation, prophet of the 1980s whispering half-truths that suggested he would still be around even after the cards came down, and the glossy candy coated pill of advanced western industrialised consumerism melted in the shitty bowels of crash capitalism. Tongue tired? Max Headroom didn’t survive – at first – but he lingers on through the sub-strata of digital terrain that stretches back to the first epoch of tape being transferred to disc. And I imagine he will return full force and furious with mocking laughter at some point when a bright spark rediscovers the brilliance of what “he” was and injects it like a virus into the sprawling fibres and Wf-Fi trunks of the Greatest Neural Network in the Solar System: I give you CYBERSPACE 3.0.
At which points the lights go out, the emergency backups on the server nests go dead and everything to do with the digital age goes dark.
Mad, sun-blasted and wearing a perplexed smile beneath a haunted frown as he walks, fleshly and full real into a dawn of a new human era of misery. Max.
Pedal to the metal.
If you got the fuel you can afford to rule.
No fear, no gear, grab what you can at any cost and move on.
Which is when character’s like Max can have the semblance of happiness. The Zen-like state that comes from being in perpetual motion. It is when Max stops that everything comes slamming down like a steel toed boot onto his spine to crush away another gram of human spirit. Raggedy man. Living corpse. That is the tragedy behind the burning tires and stink of spilled oil. The essence of who he is: man on the run. From something he can never actually escape because he is running from himself and every memory that drags along behind him like a tin can scrap yard on strings.
This is the larger-than life metaphor of a state of being that everyone can relate to. Cast against the bleak, desolate backdrop of a landscape as savage and unwelcoming as life itself (for those souls living through torment). The story gleams with the tiniest spark of that most fickle quality: human hope. The chance for redemption and salvation amongst the carnage caused by dark and lesser minds.
Do this one thing, even through coercion, even against your natural sense of self, and you may actually become free.
For a moment that could last for eternity or snuff out in the final shuttering blink of a dead man’s eye.
Connection, reaction, cause and effect beyond the blunt instrument of a human fist.
When Mad Max comes screaming onto our cinema screens we are only a fading shout away from the cavemen who gave birth to our distant grandmothers, and within spitting distance of the barbarians we will become when we abruptly have to rely on growing our own food and finding our own water just to survive.
Who will you be when the time comes?
The hunter or the prey?
The forager or the fallen?
The wolf in a pack or the wolf in sheep’s clothing?
The senses stir.
Scenarios and characters take root like the hardiest of weeds against a howling sandstorm.
So the 1980s left an indelible thumbprint on my brain, like any period that clasps the teenage years of development. Jump forward to 2006 and I find myself staring at the broken pieces of a game I had spent 10 years building. Simply called Game it was an amalgamation of RPG systems developed independently of each other, all geared towards allowing player characters to experience adventure in the fictional universe of my books. Enter Hagen Landsem. Aka GBH. Game Breaker Hagen. Now one of my best mates, back then, nemesis and stubborn nit-picker. He did me an epic favour. By breaking the weak bonds holding this shamble of disparate systems, he forced me to think again. I knew I had something really good lying there, I just had to bring it together cleverly and with a new shape.
Enter all the fun memories of my formative years of RPGing with Gamma World and playing Steve Jackson’s Car Wars. The slightly exotic RPG The Morrow Project. And movies like Red Dawn (1984) and of course, Mad Max 2 and Beyond Thunderdome. The post-apocalyptic flavour was heavy on my tongue. I can remember the moment clearly, sitting in my study in my old bachelor pad The Happy Flat – by now my imagination has been warped by 22 years of exposure to the Cthulhu Mythos. So whatever apocalyptic vision I was coming towards realising, the cosmic disquiet of H.P.Lovecraft was going to feature boldly.
And that was it. Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur. The premise was simple. Some deranged nutcase(s) had brought about a Mythos Apocalypse. Humanity is left reeling by an almost killer blow from outside the veils of Space and Time. Take that as it is and then move 10 years into the future. What do you have left…
The story of human survival.
Viewed through a prismatic lens of distorted colours.
It has led to Yellow Dawn RPG, the globe-spanning campaign Shadows of the Quantinex (reveals the story of what and who caused Yellow Dawn to happen) and three novels: Dog Eat Dog; The Black Lake and The Social Club.
Mad Max is due for general release in 2015. Plenty more teasers to come from the PR machine I expect. I am all for it. I can wait. I just hope the lights don’t go out and the world comes crashing down into rust and dust before I get a chance to see it.