Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Explained: George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is the fourth installment in the post-apocalyptic action movie franchise Mad Max. Australian filmmaker George Miller and Australian producer Byron Kennedy initiated the Mad Max Franchise in 1979. Made on a budget of $350,000, the first Mad Max movie collected over $100 million globally, making it one of the most profitable films ever made. Fury Road was first conceived as an idea in 1987, after the release of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). 

But it was stuck in the development hell for decades, and the production, after many hiccups, eventually started in 2012 with Miller recasting Mel Gibson’s titular role – Max Rockatansky – with Tom Hardy. Fury Road was a box-office success and got nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning six, including Best Editing. Editor Margaret Sixel had to go over 470 hours of footage to create the 120-minute running time of Fury Road.

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The original Mad Max Trilogy (1979-1985) was conceptualized from the 1973 oil crisis and the conflicts in the Persian Gulf after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. In Fury Road, it’s hinted that the post-apocalyptic wasteland is a result of ecocide and nuclear holocaust. In the original trilogy, Max Rockatansky is a quiet, animalistic, yet altruistic police officer in dystopian Australia. He loses his wife and infant son to a nefarious biker gang. What starts as Max’s vengeful journey through the Outback eventually leads him to regain his humanity while becoming the protector of the vulnerable from the vicious forces.

The original Mad Max Trilogy unfolds between mid-1980 and 2005. But it’s unclear when exactly Mad Max: Fury Road is set within the franchise timeline, although Tom Hardy’s Max looks deeply traumatized and haunted by people he couldn’t save. Some theories say ‘Max’ in Fury Road is different from Gibson’s Max Rockatansky in the original trilogy. Whatever it is, Mad Max is one of the prominent archetypes in cinema who might enjoy his longevity like a few other pop-culture icons. Now, let’s delve into the dystopian desert universe of Mad Max: Fury Road and explore the themes and conflicts of this action-packed blockbuster. 

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Spoilers Ahead.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Plot Explained:

The Nuanced World-Building of Fury Road

Action blockbusters aren’t supposed to be subtle, and there are many moments in Mad Max movies where it’s not-so-subtle. However, in Fury Road, George Miller does an incredible job of world-building without much exposition. Miller and his co-writers, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, use very few dialogues and provide intriguing visual clues to piece together the characters’ pasts and the social setup of ‘Citadel’ in Fury Road. Moreover, there’s a fascinating use of slang words in Fury Road, further expanding this dystopian world’s lore. 

Mad Max: Fury Road opens with Max (Tom Hardy) getting captured by Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) men. Wearing a skeleton-smile mask and plastic armor to cover his sores, Immortan Joe is one of the tyrannical and powerful warlords ruling the wasteland. The Citadel is the stronghold of Immortan Joe, who uses boys and men suffering from radiation sickness (called ‘half-life’) to be his ‘War Boys’ – the paramilitary force. The War Boys believe they attain their life’s meaning by sacrificing themselves and enjoying an ‘eternal ride’ with Immortan Joe in Valhalla – in Norse Mythology, it’s a place of paradise for the honorable and glorified warriors dying in combat. 

Since beastly, mutated vehicles play a pivotal role in the warlords’ pursuit of power and resources, the War Boys’ cult-like worshipping of Immortan Joe revolves around all things machine. Before embracing their alleged glorious death, War Boys paint their mouth with a chrome spray to remain ‘shiny’ and ‘chrome’ forever in the decaying sand-blasted world. 

The Objectified and Dehumanized Community of Immortan Joe

Aqua Cola (water) is pivotal to Immortan Joe’s control over Citadel. Water – a very scarce resource – gives Joe the leverage to negotiate for other precious commodities: ‘guzzolene’ (gasoline) and ammunition. Most importantly, language and words play a foremost role in dehumanizing the populace. While words like ‘half-life’ and ‘war boys’ delimit their nature and duties, healthy young women are referred to as ‘breeders.’ The common people of Citadel look starved, and they seldom receive water. But the other common source for hydration and sustenance in the Citadel (particularly among Immortan Joe’s warriors) is ‘mother’s milk’ – a group of overweight women are pumped by a machine for their breast milk. 

After his capture, Max is called ‘full-life,’ which means people who aren’t affected by radiation poisoning. Blood transfusions are vital for the survival of Immortan Joe’s half-life war boys. And since Max is found to be a universal donor, he is used as a ‘blood bag’ for Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of the many fanatical and sick war boys. Therefore, apart from water, gasoline, and bullets, all ‘valuable’ people in Citadel are used as commodities to maximize Immortan Joe’s power and authority. 

Where Is Furiosa Heading To? 

Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is one of Immortan Joe’s battle-hardened lieutenants. Her missing left limb is replaced with a mechanical prosthetic arm. She drives a ‘war rig’(a heavily modified & militarized truck) and leads a small group to Joe’s neighbors and allies for trade. The party is supposed to trade aqua cola and produce for guzzoline and ammunition from ‘The People Eater’ and ‘Bullet Farmer.’ But soon, it becomes clear that Furiosa is taking a different route than usual. Joe realizes something is amiss and runs to a vault where his ‘Five Wives’ are locked inside. The Five are gone, fleeing with Furiosa in the war rig. 

An enraged Joe calls for his whole army of war boys to go after Furiosa and reclaim his ‘property.’ Although the war boy, Nux, is sick, the prospect of a glorious death in the service of Immortan Joe pushes him to make the trip while taking his ‘blood bag’ with him. Max is strapped to Nux’s car as a fierce chase unfolds despite an oncoming scary sandstorm. Immortan Joe also joins forces with People Eater (John Howard) and Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter) for the hunt. Meanwhile, Furiosa’s getaway plans are briefly interrupted as she passes through ‘The Badlands.’ The Russian-speaking ‘Buzzards,’ who live in underground burrows, emerge above with their vehicles covered in rusty spikes. Furiosa’s men kill the Buzzards with hand-grenade spears, and Morsov, a war boy, sacrifices himself to explode a Buzzard vehicle. 

How does Max Join Furiosa’s Party of Rebellious Misfits?

Soon, the fiery sandstorm engulfs all the vehicles. Furiosa almost ditches all her pursuers except for the wildly excited Nux. Just as Nux tries to kill himself to blow up the rig, Max stops him. Unable to cut the metal chain binding him to an unconscious Nux, Max sees Furiosa’s war rig in the distance. He finds Furiosa repairing the minor damages to the rig. Also, he sees the Five Wives: Toast the Knowing (Zoe Kravitz), a heavily pregnant Angharad, aka Splendid (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), Capable (Riley Keough), The Dag (Abbey Lee), and Cheedo the Fragile (Courtney Eaton). 

Mad Max Fury Road (2015) Explained
A still from ‘Mad Max Fury Road’ (2015)

Max overpowers Furiosa with Nux’s help and frees himself from the chain. But when he tries to steal the war rig, the vehicle halts after a few meters. A set of kill switch sequences – set by Furiosa – stops the truck from moving. Left with no choice, Max gathers Furiosa and the women’s guns, reluctantly agreeing to join them in their journey. When Nux tries to sneak and kill Furiosa, he is thrown overboard. 

The war rig reaches a canyon controlled by a biker gang. Furiosa has agreed to give the gang the fuel in exchange for safe passage and to detonate the canyon walls to block access to Furiosa’s pursuers. The biker gang leader, however, is furious at Furiosa for bringing a large war party to their lands. Since Immortan Joe’s army moves closer to the canyon, Furiosa decides to flee the place without giving the gang its fuel. This leads to a more epic chase and attack scene, where Max and Furiosa disintegrate the biker gang. 

Did Nux Succeed in His Mission? 

Although the biker gang manages to blow up the canyon walls, Immortan Joe’s monster truck quickly drives over the blockade and catches up with Furiosa’s rig. Immortan Joe is accompanied by his doltish yet terrifyingly muscular son, Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones), and Nux, who, upon being blessed with the gaze of God-like Joe, promises to kill Furiosa and bring the Five Wives to him if Joe helps him board the rig. Rictus throws Nux to the truck. But during the deadly attack, Angharad slips from the rig and is run over by Joe’s monster truck. Joe’s pursuit is temporarily halted as the ones in the rig lament over Angharad’s loss.

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Furiosa’s plan is to take the ‘Five Wives’ to the ‘Green Place,’ a fertile region in the wasteland where she spent her childhood before Immortan Joe kidnapped her. The place is supposed to be inhabited solely by a group of women known as ‘Vuvalini’ or ‘The Many Mothers.’ It’s still a long night journey in the east to reach Green Place. When Capable is sent to the back of the truck to look out for any approaching war parties, she finds a disheartened Nux. He believes he has let down Joe by not saving Angharad and by allowing his ‘blood bag’ to help Furiosa. Capable sympathizes with Nux, who is deeply indoctrinated in the myth of Immortan Joe. 

Where Is the Green Place?

After dark, they reach the swamplands, and the war rig gets stuck. They also see Joe’s war parties in the distance. To slow down the progress, Max sets mines in the swampland. The Bullet Farmer rides a car that’s embellished with makeshift tank tracks. Hence, he and his guys can easily navigate their way through swampland. Meanwhile, Nux emerges from his hiding place to help drive the truck to the high ground. Furiosa shoots at the spotlight of the Bullet Farmer’s car, and the shattered glass takes out his vision. The enraged old man goes on a senseless rampage, firing in the dark. But soon, Max moves into the darkness to single-handedly kill the Bullet Farmer and his men. 

Though we don’t see how he confronted them, the blood on his face and the bag of guns and ammo show how efficiently brutal Max can be when the situation arises. In the morning, Furiosa talks to Max about the Green Place. Subsequently, she sees a familiar landmark and believes they have reached their destination. The all-women clan (most of them are old) comes to greet Furiosa, who has been taken away as a child. In the ensuing conversation, Furiosa is devastated to learn that the sour swampland they passed in the night used to be the Green Place. Moreover, only seven of the Vuvalini have survived from the large clan. 

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Movie Ending Explained:

What Is Max’s Hopeful Plan?

In the night, one of the Many Mothers shows Dag a plant and reminisces about the good old days. Furiosa decides to ride through the salt pans that are ahead. She hopes to find a new home or ride until the fuel runs out. Furiosa also invites Max to join them if he wants to, but he denies the offer. However, as Furiosa and her group set out in the vast salt flat in the morning, Max follows them with an idea. He catches up with Furiosa to convey his clever plan. Instead of riding through the never-ending salt pans, he asks them to return to the undefended Citadel through the canyon, using the war rig to block the canyon pass completely and trap Joe and his men. 

They will most definitely suffer losses in this pursuit, but there’s hope in this plan as they might reach and govern a place that has crops and water. Despite the initial skepticism, everyone agrees with the plan, including Nux. Joe is surprised when he sees Furiosa’s war rig heading back to the Citadel. He instantly understands the strategy and calls his men to go after them. A long and breathtaking action sequence ensues, involving the Pole Cats – the masked Gas Town members who swiftly abduct people from swinging poles fixed to the moving vehicles. 

Did Furiosa Return to the Citadel?

A Pole Cat captures Toast, and five Vuvalini are killed. Furiosa is also grievously injured in the battle. Joe’s monster truck gets in front of the war rig to slow it down. But Max and Furiosa move to Joe’s vehicle to confront and kill him while Nux drives the war rig. Max fights the bulky Rictus Erectus to save Toast, and the wounded Furiosa manages to kill Immortan Joe. Nux makes the ultimate sacrifice by deliberately wrecking the war rig and blocking the canyon passage. Later, Max saves Furiosa’s life by transfusing his blood. 

They eventually reach the Citadel and show the despotic Joe’s corpse to a rejoiced populace. While few of Joe’s men hesitate about the plan of action, the War Pups (little boys in Joe’s militia) are in favor of Imperator Furiosa. As Furiosa and the others are lifted to the Citadel’s fortress, Max exchanges a friendly glance with Furiosa before moving into the jubilant crowd. 

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Themes Explained:


Mad Max: Fury Road envisions a post-apocalyptic landscape that’s a result of a civilization squandering its resources. Though the nuclear holocaust possibly hastened the societal collapse, the wasteland is the result of the deplorable and myopic decisions of a few authoritarian rulers. One of the memorable phrases in Fury Road is “Who Killed the World?” (written on the walls of the vault and later uttered by Angharad). The words, though directed at Immortan Joe’s tyranny, also can be seen as a jibe at the ruthless, power-hungry monsters who go to extreme lengths to maintain the status quo and, in the process, destroy our precious world. Even though Miller’s apocalyptic vision might be deemed unrealistic, the notion of a few powerful individuals committing ecocide and controlling the scant resources isn’t that far-fetched. 

Patriarchy and Violent Masculinity 

Considering the robust and prevalent feminist themes in Fury Road, “Who Killed the World?” can also be read in the context of patriarchy and toxic masculinity. The cult of Immortan Joe is similar to that of a dogmatic father figure who encourages a heightened masculine dynamic to sustain his hold on power. The kind of violent masculinity enacted by individuals like Joe and his cronies becomes a symbol of destruction, whereas Furiosa, the Five Wives, and the Vuvalini preserve life (carrying seeds, a plant, or a life in the womb). There’s a sort of democracy and rational discussion within Furiosa’s group, unlike the empty bravado and rigid hierarchy among Joe’s men. 

At the same time, Miller’s Fury Road doesn’t offer a shiny dream of a feminist utopia. It might be what Furiosa sought when searching for the Green Place. But such a utopia doesn’t exist in the wastelands. Therefore, she goes back to change the place where she is from. Beneath the rose-tinted ending we get, we know there might be a lot of challenges for Furiosa in governing the Citadel. Yet there’s a strong feeling that she won’t fall into the trap of dogma and hero worship like Immortan Joe. 

The two dominant male characters in the narrative – Max and Nux – align themselves with this female perception of what’s wrong with the world. Capable’s compassion brings about a change within Nux, whereas Max, who often haunts the land as a lone wolf, gets a chance at redemption by aiding the women to attain their liberation. And let’s not forget the fascinating visual moment when Max washes the blood from his face with the mother’s milk. 


Redemption is at the core of the journey embarked on by Furiosa and Max. Though the past that’s haunting Max is left ambivalent, he gradually becomes a reluctant hero from being a nonchalant opportunist driven by his quest for redemption. Max’s trauma manifests in a very real manner that he often succumbs to his survival instincts. Yet, he eventually finds purpose in standing for the oppressed. 

Furiosa is on her own mission to make up for her past mistakes. We don’t know what kind of a dark past led her to be chosen as Joe’s trusted lieutenant. Her atonement and redemptive arc begins with her decision to free the wives from captivity. Even Nux liberates himself from the harmful dogma. He sacrifices himself for his newfound community of friends, not for the sake of frivolous concepts like glory and honor. In fact, Fury Road is the tale of the seemingly irredeemable coming together to do the right thing. 

Overall, Mad Max: Fury Road (120 minutes) is one of the most spellbindingly crafted and meaningful action films in the history of cinema. 

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Trailer

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Movie External Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Movie Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Riley Keough, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoe Kravitz, Nathan Jones, Abbey Lee, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Courtney Eaton.

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