'Fury Road': The Challenge Facing 2 'Mad Max' Sequels

Mad Max Stunt - H 2016
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Franchise creator George Miller says both installments are already written, but can they surprise audiences like the 2015 hit?

We don't need another hero, as Tina Turner once so passionately hollered in the theme song for Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. As the director of that franchise, George Miller, would have it, she was right — we need another two. Or, at least, another couple of Mad Max movies.

"Somewhere, if the planets align, there will be two other films," he told The Independent about future prospects for the series following 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road. Screenplays for both projects apparently already exist, written by Miller and Fury Road co-writer Nico Lathouris. "We dug down deep into the subtext, the backstory of all the characters, and indeed the world," Miller explained, adding, "without really thinking about it, we wrote two other screenplays just as part of the bible of the stories."

It's possible that some of that material has already surfaced, as Lathouris and Miller worked on three comic book tie-ins to Fury Road published by DC's Vertigo imprint around the release of the movie, detailing the backstory of Furiosa, Immortan Joe and Nux.

The first of the two movies, Miller said, would be called Mad Max: The Wasteland, and might end up going deeper than expected in terms of apocrypha for Fury Road. "If we get to make another movie, the Doof Warrior will be there!" Miller said, referring to the figure with the flame-throwing guitar from the last movie. "I know who his mother was. I know how it was that a man who is mute and blind survived the apocalypse. I know his story very well!"

It's difficult to know how to react to Miller's enthusiasm; on the one hand, Fury Road remains one of the most memorable and unique blockbusters of recent years, and the prospect of more of the same is on some level an exciting one — especially given Miller's own excitement about continuing to explore the world he built for the movie.

But at the same time, part of what made Fury Road so impactful was how unexpected it was, and how unlike everything else it seemed. Visually, but also in terms of narrative, Fury Road stood out against a backdrop of superheroic movies with muted, busy palettes and similar, male-centered stories. How could audiences resist seeing Furiosa and the Wives of the Citadel flee into something that was at once more bold, more empty and more compelling than everything else around? The problem for a follow-up — or two follow-ups, in this case — is simply this: Can they have the same impact of first contact when Fury Road already exists?

It's possible that Miller will have time on his side in working out the answer to that question. He told The Independent that he plans to make another movie before any return to Mad Max, in order to "reboot the brain." Given that Fury Road took almost two decades to get made, it's possible that, even if Miller fast-tracks a fifth Mad Max, it might take so long for it to reach screens that audiences will be unprepared once again for what's in store.