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Dissecting Director George Miller!

05.12.2015by: Jake Dee

DIRECTOR GEORGE MILLER!

Few visionary filmmakers have stamped their own brand-name on a truly original body of work as fiercely as Australian born George Miller has. Really. Miller and MAD MAX are synonymous, interchangeable even, likely due to the abject creative control the filmmaker has held over the property since 1979. Remember, Miller conceived of, wrote and directed MAD MAX and its subsequent chapters; ROAD WARRIOR, BEYOND THUNDERDOME, and now, the 3-decade anticipated follow-up, FURY ROAD. But you know what? That's not all Miller has done over the years. For instance, did you know ol' Georgie produced and served as Assistant Director on the Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill thriller DEAD CALM? I love that f*cking flick!

And that's just scratching the surface my good friends. So in honor of this week's release of FURY ROAD, we're fin to fire George Miller under the bus and see what the mofo is made of. Friends, proceed with caution, we now Dissect the surprisingly diverse career of Mr. George Miller!

BEST WORK

Get MAD MAX Here

No need to over-think this one. MAD MAX and its manically ante-upping first sequel, THE ROAD WARRIOR, stand alone as George Miller's magnum opera. No doubt about it!

Let's kick it off with the OG. When MAD MAX dropped on the scene in 1979 at the tail end of the American auteur film movement, it had been unlike anything we'd seen before. Sparse in dialogue yet abundant in action, the film conveyed its messages through its own filmic language. At once futuristic yet dusty and desolate, the barren Aussie outback and deserted road-scapes felt like a world we simply had not been privy to onscreen. At its heart is a revenge tale about a heartbroken cop out to avenge the death of his beloved partner. But it's the aesthetic that separates it from being just another redemption song. Part western, part science fiction, part racecar road movie, part post-apocalyptic scourge...the sum of its varied parts, headlined by a breakout turn by Mr. Mel Gibson, is truly what makes MAD MAX a wholly unique experience. The value of which, unlike most movies, actually appreciates over time.

Get MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR Here

And speaking of skyrocketing value, few sequels have been so unanimously praised for surpassing its original the way THE ROAD WARRIOR has. Again, it's EMPIRE STRIKES BACK to A NEW HOPE.

Why do you think that is? Well, THE ROAD WARRIOR not only picks up where MAD MAX left off, it elevates in every conceivable way a sequel should. It's slightly longer, more action packed, more confidently directed, better acted, and most important in our eyes, foists a topical allegory about the scarcity of gasoline that transcends mere genre cinema and crosses over into a worthy message movie. Not preachy, mind you, but substantive. Mindfully meaningful. So when you have such a clear worldview as the supporting spine of the entire piece, the off-the-rails action sequences and gnarly automotive dustups can be driven to the absolute brink of madness and still retain a level of potency that may otherwise be unachievable. Oh, who am I kidding, it's Vernon motherf*cking Wells' presence that seals the deal!

WORST WORK

Get MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME Here

I suppose the less we say about Miller's involvement in both BABE and its sequel, PIG IN THE CITY, the better. But in a single word. Bollocks!

On we move therefore, to a piece a little more AITH pertinent. Now, the realization that what is about to be put forth flirts with utter blasphemy is not lost on us, but so be it. We speak the truth around here. And it's with that we posit that the reason we've had a 30 year gap between now and the last MAD MAX movie is because BEYOND THUNDERDOME is clearly the weakest link in what still holds as a wildly original and explosive post-apocalyptic trilogy. Real shit, it's the RETURN OF THE JEDI of MAD MAX movies!

But instead of fuzzy little Ewoks and a forest full of muppets, BEYOND THUNDERDOME is hamstrung by its overlarge cast of young kiddies, resulting in the most anodyne entry in the entire franchise. MAD MAX and ROAD WARRIOR were both Rated-R, rightly so, but BEYOND THUNDERDOME aimed for too wide of a mainstream target and veered off into silly, PG-13 family fare. And to that end, the casting of Tina Turner was a gross miscalculation in our minds, as it felt more of a gimmicky, cross-promotional tie-in than a legitimately inspired performative choice. Put it this way, how many movies has Turner done since THUNDERDOME? A whopping one! Case rested. Also, compared to its two superior predecessors, THUNDERDOME is simply too damn long. If you recall, MAD MAX and THE ROAD WARRIOR came in at 88 and 94 minutes, respectively. THUNDERDOME stretches out to a needless 107 minutes. The only reprieve we can offer Miller is that he shared a co-director credit with George Ogilvie.

TRADEMARKS

Get DEAD CALM Here

The most glaringly obvious cinematic association with George Miller has to be the four MAD MAX films he's responsible for, but after digging a little deeper, there's another consistent trait stitched throughout his career. I'm talking about Australia!

As a native of the land down under, Miller has never once turned his back on where he grew up in favor of the sunny shores of Hollywood. After setting the film world ablaze with MAD MAX and THE ROAD WARRIOR with his first two full length features, the opportunity to sell out and move to California must have been ample. And I'm not saying he didn't move to LA for a brief time or still have a place here, it's just that, in all his work, Australia remains front and center. Whether it's non-genre fare like BABE or HAPPY FEET he directed, or various movies and TV projects he produced such as DEAD CALM, THE CLEAN MACHINE, FLIRTING, THE DIRTWATER DYNASTY, BANGKOK HILTON, etc., Miller has and continues to support filmmakers reigning from the same land. A national folk-hero, he most definitely is!

HIDDEN GEMS

Get TWILIGHT ZONE THE MOVIE Here

Be honest. Of the four following names, which seems the most inconspicuous : Spielberg, Landis, Dante or Miller? Exactly. That said, the one credit that rises above all else from the ill-fated 1983 TWILIGHT ZONE MOVIE is Miller's soaring adaptation of "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." Talk about a goddamn showstopper! Clearly saving the best for last, wisely so, I'm still personally scarred from the childhood trauma of seeing John Lithgow haunted by a demon clinging to the wing of airliner he's riding on during the 4th and final segment of the movie. Can't take it. The panic, the paranoia, the claustrophobia, the sheer terror! Great tension mounted by Miller and a great performance elicited out of Lithgow in a way that eliminates the campiness of the original Shatner episode and ups the "oh-shit!" quotient by tenfold.

Get THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK Here

As for breathtaking, how about Cher, Sarandon and Pfeiffer in sexy witch-bitch tandem. Good gravy! Of course, I'm talking about THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, which, if it isn't Miller's most hidden, is certainly the most unlike anything he's ever done. Let's face it, comedy isn't normally Miller's forte, but with ol' Jaaaaack relishing in his devilish delight (not to mention a hilarious turn from Richard Jenkins), EASTWICK is a that rare breed of black-humor-horror that actually works more often than not. Growing up clocking this sucker on HBO all the time, I have a personal fondness for the flick. It's sexy, scary, attractive and off-putting, yet has a dark sense of humor that I've come to develop as my own. Also, just in terms of breaking the stride, EASTWICK was the first flick Miller made post-THUNDERDOME, freeing himself from the shackles of unrealistic expectations a major burgeoning franchise could incur. It only took 30 years, but thankfully he returned!

NEXT PROJECT

Don't front like you don't know, this week is all about the blessed road less traveled. FURY ROAD!

Finally open for business an even 30 years after that last MAD MAX iteration, BEYOND THUNDERDOME, with this new film Miller clearly has at his disposal a level of technological advancement that simply wasn't available back in 1985. As such, the imagination of the insane looks cranked up to a volume 10 of excess and exorbitance. And good god we cannot wait!

Here's the gist this time out, of course with Hardy in for Gibson, and my girl Charlize looking all dirty, bald and sexily punk-rock:

An apocalyptic story set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and almost everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world exist two rebels on the run who just might be able to restore order. There's Max, a man of action and a man of few words, who seeks peace of mind following the loss of his wife and child in the aftermath of the chaos. And Furiosa, a woman of action and a woman who believes her path to survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland.

FURY ROAD winds into theaters this Friday, May 15th. We'll see you there!

OVERALL

Get The MAD MAX BLU-RAY TRILOGY Here

What can we say, George Miller is an international treasure. Not just in America. Not just in his native Australia. We're talking the global cinematic community. He's not only blessed us all with one of the most iconic screen characters of all time in Mad Max Rockatansky, he's weaved in and out of the horror and sci-fi genre with efforts like THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK as well. Now, after 30 long years, Miller makes a full circle return to home, as he's now set to lift the bulwark and unveil the newly constructed FURY ROAD. Let's hope the movie shows no signs of Miller slowing down!

Extra Tidbit: Which is your favorite Miller movie?
Source: AITH

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