top of page

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

by Alberto Sclaverano for Citiplat


How the long Mad Max series has gradually included environmental themes


The main focus of the film’s  dystopian future becomes the power associated with the control of resources, especially water. In a decertified world, the majority of people live miserable lives, tormented by hunger and diseases, while a few brutal people rule the territory in a feudal style, controlling the resources and the fuel. It is also made clear that the past wars that have devasted the planet were connected to Earth’s resources’ depletion (the past conflicts that led to this nightmarish reality are explicitly referred to as the “Water and Oils Wars).


Australian filmmaker George Miller has undoubtedly his place in modern pop culture, thanks to his Mad Max franchise, which has been very influential on post-apocalyptic cinema and now belongs to the collective image. Environmental and socio-political themes have become more common in his movies through the decades. Mad Max (1979) was essentially a revenge action film, set in a time that could even be the present Australia, with vague references to a near future in which society has started collapsing due to a global crisis. 


Max Rockatansky (played by Mel Gibson, as in the two sequels), a police officer, seeks revenge on a group of savage bikers that massacred his family, and thus becomes a solitary “road warrior”. The movie, which became a cult film, was in line with the revenge films of the 1970s and was denounced by some critics as reactionary.


In the sequel, Mad Max 2 (1981, also known as The Road Warrior), shot on a higher budget, the future setting is made clearer. The future is a new Middle Age. A nuclear war, combined with Earth’s resource depletion, has led humanity to a feral state. Among the ruins of civilization, clans of warriors fight each other for oil and water, and Max needs to protect a group of peaceful people from a gang of brutal conquerors. A third movie, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1981) followed a style similar to the second.


Miller would return to his saga only in 2015, in a completely different world than the one of the early 1980s. Mad Max: Fury Road was a great surprise when it came out and was received with widespread critical acclaim. Max Rockatansky (now played by Tom Hardy) is the protagonist once again, yet he acts almost as a secondary character in the story. Haunted by the ghosts of a family he cannot save, he is casually involved in the personal feud between cruel, deformed, tyrant Immortan Joe and his former best general, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who betrays him and saves a group of young women he had kept as his wives and slaves.


Furiosa, now paled by Anya Taylor-Joy, becomes the main character of the last movie in the saga, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, a prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road, currently in theaters. Max is for the first time absent, apart from a cameo. We discover that Furiosa grew in the Green Place of Many Mothers, a women-led, democratic society, that was one of the few places in which was still possible to farm and grow plants and seeds. Kidnapped as a child by biker warlord Dementus (played by Chris Hemsworth), and then sold to his enemy Immortan Joe as a slave, she fought for revenge, but also to survive, and to return one day to her home (the same place where she wanted to bring the girls she has freed in Mad Max: Fury Road). It is interesting that what started in 1979 as a male-led revenge thriller, ended in 2024 as a feminist science fiction tale.


The destruction of the environment and Earth’s resources, and the ecosystem collapse, are directly connected by Miller to the rise of wars, violence, humane degradation, and the concentration of power in the hands of few, often evil, people.  These are themes that seem to fit tragically our current reality, and so we can no doubt declare that the Mad Max saga can now be seen also in an environmental perspective, and give us some useful warning for the future we need to avoid heading to.


bottom of page