Book Review: The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road by Abbie Bernstein

It is sure to illuminate and inspire.
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One of the most anticipated films of 2015 was Mad Max: Fury Road.  After 30 years since the uneven Beyond Thunderdome, and with Tom Hardy taking over the lead role from Mel Gibson, there was understandable trepidation from fans about returning to the apocalyptic future that is Max Rockatansky’s Wasteland.  However filmmaker George Miller, who has overseen the entire series, proved the doubting Thomases wrong with a sensational action film for the ages that is arguably the best of the series. 

Fury Road finds Max entering the fiefdom of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Bryne), a cruel ruler who controls the region’s water supply.  Max is taken prisoner to become a blood donor for the sickly War Boys, specifically Nux (Nicholas Hoult).  Eventually, Max works to escape alongside Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is running off with Joe’s “wives” to take them to safety in the green place.  But Joe doesn’t give up his property easily and has a lot of servants, allies, and equipment at his disposal. 

Part of the film’s great success is due to the work done during preproduction, and Abbie Bernstein’s The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road offers readers a marvelous peek behind the scenes.  The book is filled with amazing images throughout, both drawings and photography, which won’t be done justice by words because the work is of such high caliber.  Co-screenwriter Brendan McCarthy, Peter Pound, and Max Sexton are responsible for the original storyboards and concept art with additional concept art and designs by Paul Jeacock, Olivier Powels, and Maeda Mahiro.  Jason Boland was the film’s unit photographer and additional production photography was shot by Colin Gibson.         

Rather than go the usual route of creating storyboards from a finished screenplay, the “storyboarding, concept art, and screenwriting were all woven together in a visually driven process-one which became increasingly refined as each new contributor joined the team.”  This is because Miller wanted the action to be well planned.  The chapters focus on aspects like characters, locations, and vehicles, and readers can see how things transitioned from early ideas (drawings) to final product (photos). 

The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road is very informative, revealing a world of great depth and detail created by the crew, even for characters given little screen time.   The only knock I have on the book is a couple of times the text can be difficult to read, such as with the storyboard drawing on page 38 where white letters are imposed over the yellow land surrounding the Citadel.  

For fans that enjoy a peek behind the curtain, this book provides what McCarthy descirbes in the Afterword as, "the work of a multitude of talented artists, designers and craftsmen and women who have advanced and expanded the unique world of Mad Max."  It is sure to illuminate and inspire.

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