The black and white remastering of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road brings out the best in the film, as well as maybe a few new things.
Like it was for many people, I’m sure, watching Mad Max: Fury Road was like journeying back to an, artistically, better time for me. Initially I thought that time was the 80s; a time I never lived a day in but knew very well from its vivid films, music and style. I knew it was weirder and kind of grotesquely greedy but it had some good qualities too, not least of which were high-concept sci-fi rigamarole and some revolutions in female representation on screen. The film garnered a great number of comparisons to James Cameron’s Aliens and Charlize Theron’s, now iconic, character, Imperator Furiosa, a great many comparisons to Ellen Ripley. In a hurried attempt to make sense of its clear and immediate impact on popular culture, Fury Road has been favourably compared to almost everything. The more I watched it, though, the more I understood about something it was trying to homage. Something that Mad Max: Fury Road Black & Chrome makes very clear.
To call a film “timeless” may sound like a very broad and meaningless thing to do but, if you know enough about film history, you’ll understand that it is, in fact, possible. A so-called Master of Cinema could make a film in the 1920s that feels like it was made today. Filmmaking is a discipline and disciplines have quantifiable qualities. Mad Max: Fury Road is a timeless film because it demonstrates a mastery of not just visual but specifically cinematic storytelling. All of the Mad Max films have been exercises in precise story structure and characterisation. Black and Chrome is able to really bring this to the forefront by cutting down on the informational chaos of each shot.
Now, personally, the insanely vivid colours, adding to this kind of sensory overload, was part of what I liked about Mad Max: Fury Road so, effectively, watching Black & Chrome is like eating my favourite meal with one fewer of the main ingredients. But it does create this clearer, aforementioned, sense of homage to a film that I cannot be the only one to draw parallels to.
When dissecting the simplicity of Fury Road‘s plot in relation to the overall sense of satisfaction it gives, it’s hard not to compare it to Buster Keaton’s The General; another timeless film about moving forwards in a straight line and then going back the same you came while defending your transport with some awe-inspiring stunt work.
Certain scenes are given an added meaning in black and white. Near the beginning of the film, where Miller removes every other frame to make the playback more jittery, you would assume that creative choice was made to induce a sense of anxiety. But in black and white you can see more clearly the emulation of that 1920s style. There are other instances where it gels less so. As timeless as it may be, overall, there are some stylistic anachronisms placed in there that bounce off of the more modern aspects, like the computer generated effects and the Junkie XL portion of the score, that aren’t well complemented by the simplicity implied by a black and white look. Like I said, Fury Road worked great as it was.
Seeing it in this format, whilst certainly still very enjoyable, isn’t much more than a novelty. But, importantly, it never feels cheap. It’s a lot like all the different cuts of Blade Runner. I grew up with the Director’s Cut and watching the original theatrical cuts later in my life made me feel like the original, tacked on, narration was like giving the film training wheels; and I mean that in the nicest way. A lot of it was genuinely enlightening. Black & Chrome had a similar effect. By simplifying what your brain is processing you’re able to more easily see the framing and mood of each shot. Fury Road is a very overt film so to what degree you may require that greater sense of ease is debatable but it certainly doesn’t spoil anything. It’s a fun revival of a fun film. If you think you’ve seen all that Fury Road has to offer then this may give you something else but, if not, it is still the same great experience you had before only distilled. All truly great films deserve to be seen in a theatre so if you didn’t catch the original theatrical run, please, do catch this one.
Mad Max: Fury Road Black & Chrome will be released in select UK cinemas on April 30th.