This is not a comprehensive guide to the world of Mad Max but a start that will get you through this book.
BASIC FILM INFO: Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth in a film series that spans thirty-six years and has garnered dozens of awards and a total worldwide box office revenue of over half a billion dollars.1 It is also the focus and subject of a broad array of fan fiction that is both franchise-approved as well as apocryphal. Additionally, widely embraced plot developments are found in graphic novels, a video game, and various websites. Each film release after Mad Max (1979) has relied to some degree on these non-film sources to propel the story-in-between, and this is certainly the case in Mad Max: Fury Road.
The world of the wasteland is too complex to sum up briefly, but it suffices to say that across the films the constant vision is of a world that is dry, fragmented, and violent. The apocalypse that is the setting for the films is never fully explained in the films, but Mad Max: Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) offer vague references to a nuclear war that ended oil-based civilization. Events in these two films as well as Mad Max: Fury Road also provide implicit evidence of nuclear fallout in the increased cancer rates and environmental damage.
- Max Rockatansky is the title character of the series. We first meet Max working as a Main Force Patrol Officer in an early postapocalyptic Australia. He is already struggling with his emotional health in the first film (Mad Max, 1979), and the murder of his wife and child propel him on a violent quest for vengeance, beginning with the theft of “the last of the V8 Interceptors,” his famous car through all four films.
- Furiosa, introduced in the fourth film of the series, Mad Max: Fury Road, was born to the Vuvalini in the Green Place, but she and her mother were attacked and abducted about twenty years before Fury Road. Her mother died shortly after the abduction, and Furiosa grew up in the Citadel, eventually being traded to Immortan Joe to serve as one of his Wives. Because she proved barren, Immortan Joe turned her over to one of his Imperators, who trained her as his replacement.
- Immortan Joe (formerly known as Colonel Joe Moore) is a veteran and hero of both the Oil Wars and the Water Wars. He claimed possession of the Citadel and the aquifer it contains after a bloody battle in which he and his followers defeated the Citadel’s former citizens. He then expanded his empire to include trade alliances with an oil refinery (Gas Town) that produces guzzaline and a former lead mine (Bullet Town) that produces weaponry. These three key resources—water, guzzaline, and bullets—provide the foundation for his power, which eventually grows into a cult in which he is worshipped as a god by the War Boys.
- War Boys are the paramilitary and engineering arm of Immortan Joe’s cult of followers. They are most often selected as children from among the Wretched (the mass of people seeking protection and resources from the Citadel) and raised to become soldiers and mechanics. They worship Immortan Joe as a god and consider death in his name to be the greatest honor; after Immortan Joe, the most fervent object of their idolatry is the car, and specifically the V8 engine, which they salute and carve onto their bodies. They are almost all sick with cancer, most commonly lymphoma, which is one of the reasons why they seek stragglers from the Wasteland to use as “blood bags.”
- The Wives, sometimes referred to as “brides,” are selected by Immortan Joe for their beauty and healthy bodies to be breeders for his children, and there are five wives in the film. They are kept separate from the rest of Citadel society in a biodome (a former bank vault) to protect them from other men and keep them “pure” as breeders. Furiosa is assigned to protect them. Angharad the Splendid becomes Immortan Joe’s favorite when her pregnancy is confirmed, and this status also leads to her leadership role among the Wives during their escape.
- Mother’s Milk is milk gathered from lactating women hooked up to milking machines. Mother’s Milk is considered an elite beverage, offered to Rictus Erectus, and Immortan Joe uses Mother’s Milk to trade for other resources with Gas Town and the Bullet Farm. Mother’s Milk, of course, provides both hydration and important nutrients, but its constant production wears out the bodies of the women hooked up to the milking machines.
- The Green Place is Furiosa and the Wives’ original goal. Furiosa, who lived there as a child until she was captured by War Boys, describes it as a place of hope and respite. However, after their trial-filled and dangerous trek across the wasteland to get to the Green Place, they find it completely destroyed and abandoned, forcing an existential crisis on Furiosa and propelling her, the Wives, Max, and the remaining Vuvalini to risk returning to the Citadel.