Figure 1, Mad Max: Fury Road [Poster]
Exploitation cinema has a very loose definition and has more to do with the audience's perception than with a film's subject matter. However, the movies of exploitation cinema still have some common characteristics which differ accordingly to the current time period and social situation. Movies defined as exploitation are generally low quality B-movies using cheap and easy ways to attract a huge amount of money. They are aiming for a wider range of audience by exploiting controversial or taboo themes such as drug use, violence, sex, slavery, rebellion or current society fears. Exploitation cinema got widely popular in 60s and 70s after the relaxation of censorship rules in USA and Europe, but its roots goes as far as early 1920s. Movies of exploitation cinema are often combining two or more exploitation subgenres such as Biker movies, Ozploitation, Women in prison and many others.
Despite that exploitation movies tend to be low quality there are a few exceptions to high-quality movies referring to current social anxieties and using characteristics of exploitation cinema subgenres. Such an example is George Miller's latest sequel to his Mad Max movies franchise about survival and redemption 'Mad Max: Fury Road'. While the original 'Mad Max' (1979) movie is mainly pointing out to the global oil crises that happened only a few years before the movie was released, the new 'Mad Max: Fury Road' (2015) is focusing more on water shortage which was a hot topic in California around the releasing time of the movie.
Miller twists the plot and main issues of the movie with every new Mad Max instalment whilst still maintaining the essentials of exploitation cinema. 'Miller has redefined his vision of the future yet again, vibrantly imagining a world in which men have become the pawns of insane leaders and women hold fiercely onto the last vestiges of hope. ' (Ebert, 2015) As Ebert said in his review of 'Mad Max: Fury Road', Miller re-wrote again his picture of the astonishing near-future apocalyptic world and looked at its kingdom worshipping masculinity from a whole new perspective.
The post-apocalyptic world in the near-future of Australian desert is dominated by cruel and insane Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). He is a combination of the worst characteristics of the patriarchal governor. He treats women as things needed only for reproduction. Surrounding of his kingdom is drought and its citizens are dying of thirst but Immortan Joe keeps all the water away from them because he believes that water is addictive. He has also a personal army of violent machine-like guys, The War Boys, who worship him and would do anything to satisfy him. They drive across the desert in trucks supercharged with all kinds of weapons, exploding and destructing the environment throughout the movie. Essential characteristics of Ozploitation subgenre as for instance respect of masculinity, men attitude towards women, apocalyptic desert, explosions and destruction of environment can be also found in the original 'Mad Max' from the late 70s.
Figure 2, Explotions and destructions in the desert [Film Still]
Joe imprisoned a selection of women as his wives in The Citadel kingdom and keeps them there for breeding purposes. Meanwhile, one of his best soldiers and driver of The War Rig, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), is sent out to deliver Guzzolene to the Gas Town. However, she decides to stop Joe's oppressive patriarchy and instead of fulfilling the task, Imperator Furiosa frees Joe's five wives and heads with them in The War Rig towards her birth land, The Green Place to get them to the safety. The rebellious female character of Imperator Furiosa with her appearance similar to Joe's War Boys and her abilities to handle a gun, ride war vehicle and be as much violent as War Boys, are contrasted with fragile-looking five wives who look like supermodels dressed in lingerie and who already accepted patriarchy.
The motive of women being owned by men is very common in Ozploitation movies and also in Women in prison exploitation subgenre, but unlike women in Fury Road, female prisoners in Women in prison movies were always guilty of committing some kind of a crime. Women in Fury Road are portraited as a blameless and pure (Five wives) or morally strong and rebellious (Imperator Furiosa). The director of Fury Road decided to look at Women in prison movies issues from more of a feminist point of view and create the character of Furiosa as the main protagonist. Female character as the main hero is very unusual compared to the previous Mad Max movies driven by male characters. In a mad masculine world, Furiosa is the sane one, she is the strong moral role model who is in charge of the mission. On her way to The Green Place, she meets Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) who is still attached to one of Joe's War Boys, Nux (Nicholas Hoult) and serving him as his blood bag. Both men join her after a while and help her to defeat Immortan Joe but since Miller changed the typical positions of men and women in the action movie, Furiosa is their leader. '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)
Figure 3, Women prisoners [Film Still]
Another very common elements of low budget exploitation cinema and original Mad Max movie are motorcycle gangs and road warriors. Fury Road is full of breathtaking stunts on motorbikes, road fights on the top of the vehicles going full speed. The influence of the 60s and 70s Biker movies in new Mad Max movie is best seen in The Rock Riders motorcycle gang. The Rock Riders are bandits and guardians of the only pass through the wall of mountains and they catch and strip from any valuable parts every vehicle that dares to try pass through the mountains. Furiosa, in order to get to The Green Place, has to pass through the wall of mountains. She makes deal with Rock Riders to exchange 3000 gallons of Guzzolene for letting her pass through the mountains. However, Rock Riders are sure that the original deal included not only Guzzolene but cars as well and that's when another amazingly insane road fight of a motorcycle gang chasing justice begins.
Figure 4, The Rock Riders [Film Still]
'Mad Max: Fury Road' is full of hyperactive editing, constant car chase and explosions, entirely over the top yet it never gets repetitive or boring. Every fragment of the movie is intense and gut-punching. 'Miller knows when to let the pace coast when it needs to, which is rarely, and then he pushes the pedal down and plasters you to your seat.' (Tallerico, 2015) The director managed with his new Mad Max instalment to successfully refer to a current social issues and burning questions whilst keeping the essentials of the first original low budget exploitation movie from the series. However, this time it's not a low budget movie at all. It's full of brilliant stunts, beautiful production design (by Colin Gibson) and high-level sound design (Tom Holkenborg alias Junkie XL). 'Miller hasn’t just returned with a new instalment in a money-making franchise. The man who re-wrote the rules of the post-apocalyptic action genre has returned to show a generation of filmmakers how they’ve been stumbling in their attempts to follow in his footsteps.' (Ebert, 2015) After a 30 years from the last Mad Max movie, George Miller returns with a new perspective on patriarchal post-apocalyptic desert and makes sure that no one can do it better.
Berlatsky, Noah (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road is less radical than, its B-movie influences
At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/26/mad-max-fury-road-less-radical-exploitation-influences (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Bradshaw, Peter (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road review – Tom Hardy is a macho Mr Bean in brilliantly pimped reboot At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/11/mad-max-fury-road-review-tom-hardy (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Lane, Anthony (2015) HIGH GEAR: 'Mad Max: Fury Road
At: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/25/high-gear-current-cinema-anthony-lane (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Macnab, Geoffrey (2015) Mad Max Fury Road review: Charlize Theron's Furiosa is every bit as mad and bad as Max
At: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/mad-max-fury-road-cannes-film-festival-2015-movie-review-charlize-therons-furiosa-is-every-bit-as-10242492.html (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Tallerico, Brian (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road
At: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/mad-max-fury-road-2015 (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Figure 1, [Poster] Mad Max: Fury Road
At: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/hammerandthump/the-dark-brutal-ritual-and-romance-of-mad-max-fury-road/ (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Figure 2, [Film Still] Exploitions and destructions in the desert
At: http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/entertainment/news/a24471/mad-max-fury-road-teaser/ (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Figure 3, [Film Still] Women prisoners
At: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/zoe-kravitz-wives-mad-max-fury-road-article-1.2213982 (Accessed 19th Dec 2017)
Figure 4, [Film Still] The Rock Riders
At: http://motorcycleboy.fr/en/2015/09/mad-max-fury-road-2/ (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)