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Earthling Cinema Examines ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

Hooray for Earthling Cinema for taking on the very recent 6 Academy Award-winning Mad Max: Fury Road. As is their usual pattern, the first part of their look walks through the plot of the film in humorous ways, often hitting on keen insights pitted within mistaken assumptions about a long dead (to them) culture.

Then they get into the meaning-making, exploring the film as part of the Dieselpunk genre and then digging into the objectification of women and men in the Wasteland. As always, the short video leaves the viewer feeling entertained and edified.

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Movie Review: The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story

Bastian is a young boy who lives a dreary life being tormented by school bullies. On one such occasion he escapes into a book shop where the old proprietor reveals an ancient storybook to him, which he is warned can be dangerous. Shortly after, he ‘borrows’ the book and begins to read it in the school attic where he is drawn into the mythical land of Fantasia, which desperately needs a hero to save it from destruction.

Most of my friends love The Neverending Story. It’s one of those moments in time or something. They have fond memories of Falcor. Just mentioning the Swamp of Sadness can make it a little dusty in the room. I don’t.

I never saw it. Well, until this weekend. When I was telling our preschooler about it last week I described the luck dragon as a sock filled with soup. For your information, that sounded as amazing to a child as it sounds derisive to you. Part of being an insufferable hipster parent is getting away with that kind of thing.

Anyway, one of our local theaters did those of us with offspring a good turn and offered a morning showing of this 80s classic. On a Saturday. Manna from heaven, provided you have some spare currency.

It’s scary as hell. I meaThe Neverending Wolfn that. Thirty minutes into Mad Max: Fury Road, I was talking to our preschooler about the metaphorical significance of hanging Max upside down for the blood transfusion and how it was similar
to Doc McStuffins. Thirty minutes into this Fangoria nightmare a tiny face had been burrowed into Mama for quite awhile already.

I don’t know if we just didn’t have nice things in the long ago. I remember everything but the gelflings in The Dark Crystal being kind of gross and weird, too. And now their porcelain faces might be the most uncanny thing in the movie. In, say, The Lord of the Rings, though, the creatures, even the baddies, are polished smooth and shiny. Palatable.

The Neverending SnailThe rockbiter and the racing snail and the bat are undoubtedly nice. But they’re hard to empathize with. And there’s a bit of a flaw in the overall design when the sound and visual effects of the giant are the same as the cataclysmic world-shattering earthquake at the end.

So, in the positive column the personalities and characteristics and motivations come through pretty clear. In the negative column there’s a lot of hard to look at frightening monstrosity going on.

I should do some reviewing, though. It’s a decent movie with some magical moments and the dragon riding effects definitely provided a series of frell yeah moments for young viewers. The ellision between reality and fiction is shown rather than overexplained and it, according to our preschooler, works remarkably well.

It is, however, probably the worst adaptation of a book I’ve ever seen. I try to be cool about that and I’ve mentioned here several times that I’m very accommodating. Even so, the gearhead lurking deep in my brain started complaining immediately. Scenes are cut, combined, or altered to such an extent that very little of what makes the book so good remains. It’s The Neverending Story retold by a ten year old.

Aha. I get it. That’s why all my friends love it from when they were kids. If it hadn’t been so ominous, I bet ours would be begging to go back. In point of fact, the theme song is already a favorite.

Still, if I had to recommend one or the other, I’d recommend the Michael Ende book to any ten year old. Even in translation, it solidly porThe Neverending Fierotrays the bookish child experiencing the loss and confusion of life’s upheavals. It’s
almost a primer on existentialism presented with humor, puns, and a reasonable retort. And it employs many of the same storytelling tricks as Midnight’s Children.

Um. Three stars. A must if your friends or your child’s friends have seen it. A pass if not. Seeing Inside Out first provides a sort of emotional playbook to compare stuff to.

Recommended for fans of Labyrinth, Beetlejuice, and The Last Unicorn.


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Mad Max: Fury Road in Shiny Black and Chrome

Do you remember when Mad Max: Fury Road came out? I do. It was pretty much the last thing we did before our second child demanded to be witnessed. The following week is a bit of a blur. There was a tiny human being. Lots of yawning. And articles about the movie.

If I tried to do anything else, like, say, read a book, the tiny human being declared le fin du monde. As long as I read about Fury Road on my smartphone everything was okay. Good times, really.

c'est joli n'est-ce pas

One of the most exciting things I remember reading is this article at /Film. Here’s the relevant bit:

A while after this talk, during a post-film reception, I spoke with Miller about his affinity for that black and white version of Fury Road. He said that he has demanded a black and white version of Fury Road for the blu-ray, and that version of the film will feature an option to hear just the isolated score as the only soundtrack — the purest and most stripped-down version of Fury Road you can imagine.

We’ve known for awhile that this actually wasn’t going to happen. As soon as the option to pre-order was available, folks decried the relatively standard set of bonus features. Because that version of the film exists. For whatever reason, Warner Bros. refused to release it.

Black and Chrome

Unlike most of us, one blogger has taken action. The individual behind Mad Max: Black and Chrome has painstakingly created the best possible approximation of what should have been. It looks like the edit preserves tonal range, shadows, and highlights rather than simply being desaturated. The artist provides the following explanation and disclaimer.

George Miller has said that the best version of his film is in black and white, with no dialogue. BLACK & CHROME is an attempt to realize Miller’s alternate vision. The cinematography, the editing, the sound design, and the score, are now represented in a completely new experience.

I do not own the rights to this video. All rights belong to its rightful owner/owners. No copyright infringement intended. This is merely an exercise and study of the art of filmmaking.

The exercise includes the soundtrack without dialogue. In places it’s just fantastic. In others, it showcases the craft the actors brought to bear amidst the chaos. Well worth the watch.


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Mad Max Monday: Madventure Time

ImmortanKing

THE KING by Ryan May

Mad Max: Fury Road was released for digital download last week, and of course we got it, but also, of course, we haven’t had a chance to rewatch it due to toddler illness and infant infantileness. However, the download sparked our excitement for the film again, and when “Madventure Time” crossed my path, I was primed to enjoy the heck out of it.

“Madventure Time” was animated by Egor Zhgun, who was inspired by the Fury Road-Adventure Time mash-up art done by Ryan May. Taking the mash-up ideas of May and adjusting the art for animation ever-so-slightly, Zhgun remade the Fury Road trailer with the beloved Adventure Time characters. The result is an odd-ball mix of tones that I’m sure both George Miller and Pendleton Ward would be proud of.


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Mad Max Monday: ‘Road Wars’ Fury Road/Star Wars Mash-up

I’ll say it again–the one skill I wish I had, besides being able to snake my own drain, is being able to edit video. Alas, that’ll have to wait a few years. Until then, I’m grateful for the myriad geeks out there who do have this skill and put it towards making awesome recombinatory videos. (Recombinatory culture is the academic phrase for something like a mash-up that combines two or more different cultural elements.)

roadwars

In “Road Wars: The Imperator Strikes Back,” Krishna Shenoi, a 20-year old movie-maker, poses the question: What if Mad Max: Fury Road took place in the Star Wars Universe? In short, the answer is: It would be an awesome excuse to return to Tatooine.

Not merely a mash-up of the two trailers, Shenoi has actually digitally spliced aspects of Star Wars–sound effects, lightsabers, ships, moons, the Death Star–into scenes from Fury Road. It works surprisingly well.


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‘Mad Max: Fury Road’: Another Modern Fisher King Myth, Part 4: The Hallows

Not all contemporary Fisher King stories fold in the four hallows from the feast procession, but Mad Max: Fury Road does. In the classic Fisher King tale, the Grail Knight finds the Grail Castle and goes inside to find a feast taking place. As part of that feast, there is a grand procession that features four sacred hallows. You know what a hallow is thanks to Harry Potter. These are sacred objects, perhaps with magical properties, and, in this case, all have a part to play in the Fisher King’s injury or healing.

Since the Fisher King myth is all about fertility, two of the hallows have phallic shape two have yonic. The masculine hallows are the spear and the lance. The spear is a tool to break the curse. The lance is often the weapon that injured the King, but it’s also crucial to his release/healing/death. The feminine hallows are the dish and the grail. The dish will take many forms, though always flat: a platter, chessboard, or shield. Finally, the grail has the qualities of a horn-of-plenty. It provides sustenance and healing. It is a life-giver.

The way that Fury Road incorporates the hallows is rather ingenious. Rather than making these hallows objects, they are fluids. This didn’t occur to me until I read another film scholar’s take: “Public Seminar: Fury Road” by McKenzie Wark. Part of his analysis concerns four symbolic fluids crucial to the structure of the film: fuel, blood, water, and milk. I’m not doing a structural analysis but an archetypal one, so I’m going to slant the significance of these four fluids to the myth structure at hand.

nux

Our two phallic/masculine fluids are fuel (Guzzoline) and blood. Fuel, as far as it is used to both transport the wives away from the Citadel (and back) and also as a trade for passage, fits the description of a tool for healing the curse. In traditional stories, the spear appears frequently as a magical sword, you know, like Excaliber. Here, since the weapon of choice is vehicular, fuel is a clear symbol for the war-oriented phallus. A character that embodies this is Nux.

Likewise, blood is a masculine-coded fluid and aligns with the lance hallow. Since the lance is often associated with the injury itself, blood makes sense. Embodied in blood-bag Max, we see how he is emblematic of the Wasteland itself through his wanderer status, lack of family, and even shots like his “resurrection” from the sand after the storm rolls through. He initially donates blood to Nux, fueling the War Boys and Immortan Joe’s efforts. Of course, he is also the one who leads them back to the Citadel, and he acts eventually as a healer for Furiousa, who will finally kill Joe and revive the life-death cycle.

maxblood

Moving to the yonic, feminine hallows, we have water and milk. The two are both so strongly connected to fertility, it’s difficult to decide which is the proper dish and which is the grail. Water and milk appear early on in the film, both tightly controlled by Joe. Water is crucial to growing seeds and sustaining life of most kinds. When the heroes’ war rig returns to the Citadel with Joe’s corpse, the release of the water to the people is the great symbol that the injury (his caustic reign) has ended. It is, of course, important to note that the water is released by the wet nurses.

Milk is clearly embodied in the wives and wet nurses–the women who are fertile. The grail is meant to be life-giving and sustaining. A woman’s reproductive system is both. The uterus itself is cup shaped, it grows life when a woman becomes pregnant, and then after birth, a woman’s breasts become the cup that sustains the life with milk.

furiosa and wives

 

All four of these fluids are key to the breaking of the Fisher King’s curse and the returning of fertility to the land.


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Warning! Incoming Reboot Reboot

Reboot Logo

There’s been a lot to be excited about in the last month or two. I’m a little late in talking about upcoming Reboot, uh, reboot, but I feel okay about that. I was a little late discovering it the first time around. I’m pretty sure I first heard about it from the amusing titled Cyberpunk Handbook: The Real Cyberpunk Fakebook.

Reboot Cyberpunk Handbook

Despite my inauspicious initial contact, I came to love the show with the same kind of immoderate enthusiasm that drives our engagement with Once Upon a Time.  There is, in fact, a Mad Max themed episode designed by Fury Road‘s co-writer and story boarder that features the villain as a war rig hauling Mainframe’s equivalent of gasoline. It’s a post-neo-meta-reference or something.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the original. And it’s being celebrated in the traditional way, with a brand new update. Corus Entertainment has ordered 26 episodes of the “hybrid live-action/CG-animated series” with “a groundbreaking multi-platform experience.”

Like most reboots, this one seems to have only the most tenuous relationship with the original.

Transcending age groups with appeal to kids, tweens and teens, ReBoot: the Guardian Code is an adventure-comedy series about four teens (Austin, Parker, Grey and Tamra) who discover that they’re next-gen Guardians with a mission to save the world, by defending it in cyberspace. The Internet revolutionized the world, but it also left it vulnerable to attack. With the help of VERA, the last surviving cyberbeing from the original Reboot new posterGuardian Program, our heroes stream into cyberspace where they use their awesome code-based powers to battle viruses that have been unleashed by a ruthless hacker. Known only as the Sourcerer, he seeks to rule the world by controlling cyberspace. Original fans of the show will be happy to hear that Megabyte will be back and he’s getting a major upgrade. ReBoot will showcase leading edge technologies and bring coding into the mainstream for kids.

When Austin, Parker, Grey and Tamra are not trying to stop viruses from overloading a nuclear power station, or remotely opening a dam to flood a city, or playing Criss Cross Crash Hour with a city’s transportation grid, our heroes are being typical teens: arguing with their parents over curfews; dealing with crushes; or trying to avoid getting suspended for skipping class when they’re really on a cyber mission to save the world!

But, like most reboots of stuff I liked once upon a time, I choose to remain cautiously optimistic. The original series is available on DVD. And you can keep up with breaking news at Reboot Revival.