Apocalyptic Mayhem: An Interview with Edwin Page
- by Leo Stableford, 20 May 2015
In "Mad Max: Movies of Apocalyptic Mayhem" Page examines each of the films in the original trilogy and casts his eye forward to the new trilogy, which will begin with Mad Max: Fury Road. He also discusses visionary writer/director George Miller, creator of the iconic Max and the increasingly crazy world he inhabits.
Rather than being a standard film book, "Mad Max: Movies of Apocalyptic Mayhem" contains a twist in the form of two pieces of short fiction. Spanning the gaps between the 1st and 2nd movies and then between the 2nd and 3rd, they help to explain the evolution from the tentative social order evident in Mad Max right through to the post-nuclear holocaust existence seen in Beyond Thunderdome, thus adding to Miller’s dystopian vision.
With the release of "Mad Max: Fury Road" last week, Trash Mutant couldn't think of anyone better to talk to about all things Max.
TRASH MUTANT: Tell us a little bit about "Mad Max: Movies of Apocalyptic Mayhem" and why you chose to write the book.
EDWIN PAGE: The book was inspired quite naturally. I had watched the two trailers for Mad Max: Fury Road that were available online at the time and that prompted me to watch Beyond Thunderdome.
As I was watching it, my thoughts turned to the apparent disparity between the socio-economic conditions displayed in each of the original films, Thunderdome displaying post-nuclear holocaust elements that the previous movies didn't, for example.
It was this that inspired me to write the book, especially as I felt the three films very effectively portray the 'apocalyptic cycle,' which is the decline towards apocalypse, the actual apocalypse and then post-apocalyptic existence. Each of the films portrays each aspect of the cycle, and what is quite interesting is that this happened as much through luck as judgement.
I was also inspired to write two stories to tie the narratives of the films together more cohesively, which, as a fan of the films, was a great privilege.
There aren't very many books about the Mad Max trilogy of the 80s, yet they defined a particular style and milieu. Their look is undoubtedly iconic. Why do you think that the films haven't been examined as much as, for example, the Alien movies?
I also think the fact that the franchise began outside the Hollywood system may have had a bearing on the lack of examination, especially as the first film has more of a B-movie feel. This categorisation as exploitation is not helped by the American dubbing that was conducted in the hope of making it more 'audience friendly' in the U.S.
Another element that could aid in this apparent lack of interest is George Miller's body of work. It is often directors that can help make a film or group of films popular or cause them to be highly regarded, especially if their work has auteuristic qualities, such as that of Tarantino, Burton or Kubrick. However, Miller has directed very few other films and therefore has not become a widely known name.
Amongst those he has had a hand in are the Happy Feet movies, which are far removed from the gritty harshness of the first two Mad Max films.
If we draw on the Alien series again, we find that Ridley Scott and James Cameron directed the first two films respectively, both of whom have a recognisable body of work and are acknowledged for their contribution to cinema, something that helps to make the Alien films that they directed a regular topic of discussion. Miller, on the other hand, has contributed greatly to Australian cinema, but has not had the same impact globally due to his minimal body of work.
Which is your personal favourite Mad Max movie to date* and why? [*This interview was done before the release of "Fury Road" - Ed.]
I actually can't separate films two and three. They both have very different qualities, but ones that appeal to me as a viewer. I enjoy the fuel-injected roar of engines and rawness of Mad Max 2, whereas I enjoy the bizarre and eccentric elements of Beyond Thunderdome, such as the Thunder Dome itself and the character/s of MasterBlaster, along with the children and their unusual ideas and interesting use of language. Had the high-octane been combined with a greater degree of the bizarre, I think the result would have been my favourite.
The Post-Apocalypse genre has, since the making of "The Road Warrior", been defined by that movie, yet spin off products often failed and none even approach the same recognition as the original Mad Max Trilogy. Why do you think that is?
I think it's the same with many hit movies. There have been attempts at spin-off/copycat movies relating to the Alien series, Star Wars and Indiana Jones, along with others, but most have not done well at the box office or been well received by audiences.
This is because they have been created mainly to make money off the back of the originals, not out of devotion to a production and to a vision held by specific individuals (Scott, Lucas and Lucas/Spielberg in the case of the above examples). All had a specific vision and a desire to make it come to life on screen, Miller wanting the first Mad Max movie to be like 'visual rock and roll.'
This vision and desire is not evident in spin-offs or films that attempt to ape the originals. The creators of such films often try to make them in a formulaic way in order to replicate the success, which clearly doesn't work as you remove the passion and they become poor reflections of the iconic originals.
In "Movies of Apocalyptic Mayhem" you give an excellent overview of all the facts regarding the new Max movie "Fury Road". It looks likely to be more a reboot than a sequel. Do you think that was the right choice of direction for the franchise to go?
I think it was undoubtedly the right direction to go. Gibson is too old to step back into Max's leather boots, especially considering that Fury Road is the first of a new trilogy and so it will be some years until filming is complete.
It's also the case that Miller has showed great integrity in his decision to use stuntmen, real vehicles and locations in the creation of this movie, only using computer generated images when absolutely necessary. Not only does this mean Gibson may not have been able to realistically cope with the physical aspects of such an action-packed production, it also means the new movies will retain the wonderfully visceral feel of the originals, something I personally feel many films have lost sight of, looking and feeling more like computer games than reality.
The reported $100 million budget also means that the greatest defining factor of the original films is no longer a concern. All three were moulded more by financial restraints than anything else, Miller never able to give us his full vision of Max's world. Now that has changed. We will be presented with a vision as close to Miller's as it can be, one filled with the roar of engines, wild action and strange characters and situations.
The new trilogy will also be much more cohesive than the old. As mentioned, there is very little continuity between the original movies, and this was largely because the budgets available meant the second the third movies were as much remakes as they were sequels, Miller able to create more of his vision with each successive film. As has been stated, this is no longer a factor, and so the Hardy/Theron trilogy will display much more continuity and truly feel like a trilogy.
I think the fact that this is a reboot also gives the original movies the respect they deserve. Instead of being remade, they are being left to exist as an independent iconic series of films, to always be regarded as genre defining. They are not being replaced, Max is merely being updated and his world fully defined. The use of a different actor in the lead role also helps the two trilogies retain their identity. So, the original trilogy will certainly not be forgotten or superseded, it will remain an important series of films in cinematic history, especially in relation to celluloid visions of an apocalyptic future.
"Mad Max: Movies of Apocalyptic Mayhem" is available to buy on Amazon as a paperback and is also available for download on Kindle. "Mad Max: Fury Road" is out NOW!
More Mad Max articles you may enjoy:
- Cold Steel & Hot Rubber: The Cultural Legacy of Mad Max
- "Mad Max: Fury Road" Review
Tagged: books, movies & TV, TM Interviews.