A guide to all the references in Mad Max: Fury Road
Martyn Conterio | On 21, Sep 2015
What is Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) exactly? Is it a shady reboot or a proper sequel? It’s best to think of George Miller’s film as neither, and more a high-octane hybrid vehicle built from the parts of the original trilogy. To quote Main Force Patrol mechanic, Barry, in Mad Max (1979), when he’s showing off the new all-black V-8 Inceptor to Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) and Jim Goose (Steve Bisley), explaining how he put the gas guzzler together, the director took “a piece here and a piece there”.
With Fury Road out now on Amazon Prime Video, we rev up our geeky engines and look back at all the references made by Miller to Mad Max’s past.
The opening sound montage
MM:FR begins with Max’s voice-over informing the audience his day-to-day life roaming the wasteland is all “fire and blood”. In between Max’s narration detailing his former life as a cop and his tragic past, inserted just in case any newbies haven’t seen the original trilogy and want the CliffsNotes version of the mythology, we hear a sound montage of voices detailing the collapse of the world. Among them, somebody is heard using the word “guzzaline”. That’s Mad Max lingo for petrol/gas.
FR’s intro essentially reworks Mad Max 2’s beautifully done opener, minus the old newsreel footage and old man’s poetic speech. “My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories…” It’s fair to say, MM 2’s opening montage is still the best in the series.
The first car crash
As well as the close-up of the engine fan belt whirling around, a shot directly referencing MM2, the first pursuit sequence and gnarly car crash is reminiscent of how Rockatansky’s prized V-8 came a cropper in the sequel. A gang of marauders tear-arsing after the car cause it roll and it ends up a write-off fit for the pound. That the famous V-8 Inceptor only appears in its original form for about a minute of screen time was something of a shock to fans, but it also served a mighty purpose: Miller is telling us things will be done a bit differently from the old days.
The ghost child
If you’ve seen the other movies, you know very well what made Max mad: the death of his best mate, his wife and young toddler, known as Sprog. But Miller has reshaped the backstory, quite cleverly, so FR doesn’t get bogged down in too much exposition and keeps on moving. The character’s guilt manifests in flashbacks and we see a child taunting him about how he failed to rescue people he said he’d help save. But this does not connect with how his wife and child were run down by Toecutter’s gang. There is a shot, however, of this child mowed by a bunch of vehicles. It’s a strange creative decision, one that doesn’t quite gel with past events. We guess Miller was just after a certain flavour, not the whole sorry saga.
Imperator Furiosa: The new Mad Max
Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) acts more like the old Max Rockatansky we know and love. It’s there to see in her own haunting backstory filled with rage and regret, the quiet anger that burns in her eyes and the way she only speaks when absolutely necessary. Heck, even the way she stares into the wing mirror of the War Rig is reminiscent of a similar shot of Max driving down the rubber road to freedom in MM2. She also ends the movie beaten to a bloody pulp, just like Max in the finale of MM2.
Like Bartertown, the important folk live up high and below, the scum are left to toil. In Immortan Joe’s palace, we see a room with a partial dome structure (clearly a nod to the Thunderdome) and messages of defiance and questioning ‘Who killed the world?’ These painted signs are a bit like the prophetic ‘The vermin shall inherit the earth’ seen on the diesel truck in MM2. When Miss Giddy gets up in Immortan Joe’s grill with her shotgun, it’s a direct recreation of the moment in MM, when pensioner May scares off Toecutter.
Max the blood bag
Max being tied to the front of Nux’s car (the V-8 has been all souped-up, much to its previous owner’s annoyance) is a direct quotation from MM2. The victims from the compound are similarly attached to the front of vehicles. It makes for messy fender benders.
The Doof Warrior
Everybody loved the guitar-shredder on bungee ropes (a la MM:BT), known as The Doof Warrior. Just as Aunty Entity had Ton Ton the saxophone player, Immortan Joe has a blind dude with a flame-thrower-guitar combo.
Hardy’s jacket is near enough identical to the one Mad Mel wore in MM:BT. There are a few very small differences, but most people won’t care about that at all.
The misfiring shotgun
When Max tries to shoot the chain connecting him to Nux with a sawn-off shotgun, Max’s weapon of choice in previous outings, the bullets turn out to be duds. The same thing happens to Max in MM2, when he’s attempting to shoot at the marauders while driving the guzzaline truck.
In both MM2 and MM:BT, there are communities of people dreaming of a place that doesn’t resemble hell on earth. In MM2, it’s a new homeland somewhere in the north. In MM:BT, it’s Tomorrow-Morrowland, which turns out to be a derelict and ruined Sydney that looks way worse than the Eden-like paradise they left behind. Kids, eh? Furiosa and the brides set off for the Green Place.
Furiosa’s concealed weapon
As Furiosa convinces Max to help her and the brides flee from Immortan Joe, and return the mighty War Rig into her, er, hand, she reaches for the ignition switch, but is stopped by the rightly cautious hero. He finds a hidden gun. This moment recreates a similar scene in MM2, where the Gyro Captain senses Max has got a concealed weapon stashed somewhere under the V-8 and threatens to pin Max’s head to the car. The link between scenes is extended further, when Furiosa flips a switch to get the War Rig moving, just like when Max turns off the booby-trapped engine.
More concealed weapons
In MM:BT, Max conceals a knife in a flyswatter. It gets him out of a jam, during the confrontation with Aunty Entity’s henchmen. Furiosa conceals a knife in the gear stick of the War Rig. Basically, concealed weapons can always get you out of a tight spot.
The return of Hugh Keays-Byrne
Bruce Spence played the Gyro Captain and Jedediah the Pilot in MM2 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. So, it’s not really that unusual for an actor to return to the series in different roles. If you want extra geek points: Max Fairchild, who appeared as gentle giant Benno in MM, also cropped up as Broken Victim in MM2. He’s one of the guys tied to Lord Humungus’s vehicle and Wez headbutts him.
Hugh Keays-Byrne memorably played Toecutter in MM and in MM:FR he was cast as Immortan Joe, the tyrant of the citadel. The character is essentially MM2’s Lord Humungus rebranded as a patriarchal, misogynist douchebag with echoes of MM:BT’s Aunty Entity. Like Joe, she built a personal fiefdom “from the ashes of the world”.
Bubba Zanetti’s Luger
Max removes all the guns and ammo from the War Rig’s cabin, and collects them in a pile. Among them is Bubba Zanetti’s Luger. (The peroxide blonde Zanetti is Toecutter’s right-hand man.) The shooter also made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in MM:BT, when Max first enters Bartertown and must hand over his personal arsenal of weaponry to The Collector.
The close-up of eyeballs
Max is asleep in the cabin of the War Rig and is hit by a barrage of imagery, including a shot of bulging eyeballs in close-up. This shot harks back to Toecutter’s death in Mad Max (1979).
Rictus Erectus and the history of hissing
A character hissing is something of a peculiar MM tradition. Fans may recall a scene in MM where Toecutter hisses his disproval at Max, just after the road warrior has blown Bubba Zanetti off his motorbike with his sawn-off shottie. Hissing also occurred in a scene in MM2 (Wez invading the compound) and one of the kids also hisses during a scene in MM:BT. Immortan Joe’s son, and hulking sidekick, Rictus Erectus, continues the trend during his epic duke out with Furiosa, on the back of his Dad’s vehicle.
The Lord Humungus figure
As Max watches Furiosa, the brides and the Many Mothers go off into the salt flats, his guilt manifests again. There is a rapid cut to the child haunting Max throughout the film, and a few frames of a looming figure sporting a black hockey mask appear, and Max flinches. It’s clearly a reference to the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla (Lord Humungus). In a strange piece of foreshadowing, this figure crops up later on, attacking the War Rig, where Max’s sudden flinching and taking a step backwards saves him from being killed. It’s a very strange moment.
One of Immortan Joe’s clan attacks the War Rig with an old chainsaw. This tool also cropped up in MM:BT during the Thunderdome ruck with softheaded beast man, Blaster.
The music box
Toast (Zoe Kravitz) is seen toying with the mechanism of an old music box. The tune is different, but it looks exactly like the one Max finds on the road and later gives to the Feral Kid in MM2.
Mad Max: Fury Road is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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