Why I don’t need a black and white “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Why I don’t need a black and white “Mad Max: Fury Road” September 15, 2016

Well, it’s happening. After months of rumor and speculation, we’re getting a black and white version of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” It will be coming out in December in a DVD set that also can include the entire series on Blu-Ray for $80 (four films for that price is pretty good). Director George Miller had been hinting that this version existed for awhile, so it was really just a question of “when,” not “if.”

I’m a huge fan of “Fury Road.” I’ve seen it several times, and it was my favorite film of 2015.  George Miller’s just operating on another level throughout the whole thing. The movie starts in motion and never stops. It’s a two-hour chase told with unrelenting speed that still manages to build a detailed world and make points about gender roles, human trafficking and the power of compassion.

But I have to say that while I’m usually eager to check out special editions and director’s cuts, I’m actually not too excited about “Mad Max: Fury Road” without color. Why? Let’s take a look at Exhibit A:


Look at that picture. It looks like something out of a Doritos and Mountain Dew-fueled nightmare. Just describing it feels like you’re talking about a crazy drug trip — “There’s a man on a giant rig that also has about 12 kettle drums being pounded in the back. And in the front, there are ten-foot speakers. And the man is chained to them. And he’s playing a guitar. And the guitar is also a flame-thrower.” The beauty of the movie is that this never feels cheesy or any more over-the-top than anything else onscreen. It’s part of the insane fabric of the world Miller’s created.

Part of the way he sells this reality is through his use of color. The sky is a hallucinogenic teal. The sand almost glowing. Bright orange flames explode with every crash, and evening chases take place in surreal, dark blue. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is dystopian myth-making, taking place in a world where everyone has gone insane. The colors add to the heightened reality, giving it the feel of a fever dream. On the big screen, it’s almost an assault on the senses — the movie is one long, loud scream, and the color is part of the roar. We feel just how off-kilter this world’s become, and we’re willing to accept anything — even fat old men with nipple rings or flame-thrower guitars.

I’m sure a black-and-white version would look good. And there are some films where that change works wonderfully. Frank Darabont’s “The Mist” famously had a black-and-white DVD release a few years back, and I think its use there is perfectly in keeping with the story’s B-movie roots. But I think a black and white “Fury Road” would lose some of the intensity and energy that the current version has. I’m sure some of the action scenes would look incredible; I think black and white is a technique not used often enough. But I think it would have the same effect  that a desaturated, gritty look would have — it would rob the film of the insane, heightened nature of Miller’s vision. The world wouldn’t feel as immersive and in-your-face. We’d lose part of the energy and kineticism that make the film so memorable.

Now a dialogue-free, score-only film? I’d eat that up in a heartbeat. Miller so wonderfully builds his world using minimal dialogue that “Fury Road” already feels like the loudest silent movie ever made.

Note 1: This is an edited version of a post from my old blog that I wrote when this was just a rumor. 

Note 2: I apologize about the dearth of posts lately. I recently enrolled in grad school and it’s consuming a great deal of my time. I’m hoping to get back into a posting rhythm soon, but these first few weeks have taken it out of me. Please be patient, and we’ll be running close to normal again soon! 

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