As the prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road, Furiosa faces some of the highest expectations in modern memory. George Miller’s fourth post-apocalyptic action epic earned due praise for every creative choice, but perhaps most notably its use of practical effects. Fury Road used plenty of VFX, but fans appreciated the film’s commitment to tremendous feats of tangible on-screen chaos. The Furiosa trailer showed off CGI that frightened and enraged some viewers, sparking a debate about technology in modern movies.
Furiosa Will Likely Match Fury Road’s CGI
In an excellent interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Mad Max: Fury Road cinematographer John Seale spoke on the green screen used in the film. Seale led a fascinating career across nearly six decades. He won an Academy Award for his work on The English Patient 19 years before claiming the nomination for Fury Road. Filmmaker Magazine asked him about Fury Road‘s green screen, to which he responded, “There was an enormous amount of green screen. The 40 to 45 percent of the film with the beautiful Charlize Theron and five beautiful girls in the backseat who are all involved in getting that truck to a certain point and back again is done without the truck moving.” Fury Road used plenty of CGI, and Furiosa will likely do the same.
We all love the practical effects in Mad Max: Fury Road. There’s no debate that the film wouldn’t be the same without tangible explosions and car crashes. However, Miller’s epic wields CGI substantially better than most. Many modern blockbusters rely obsessively on VFX, putting the weight of the project on the shoulders of underpaid artists. Marvel earns due criticism for abusing its second-unit teams while demanding unnecessary digital backlots to accommodate last-second changes. The VFX teams behind Fury Road enhanced practical effects with their work. The difference lies in application and volume. Fury Road boasts 2,000 VFX shots. To put that into perspective, Avengers: Endgame delivered almost 2,500 despite being an hour longer. The lesson we hoped Fury Road would teach the industry is that a modern blockbuster should bring digital and practical effects in a complementary way. Furiosa should learn from its predecessor and use CGI wisely, but some feel the Mad Max prequel shouldn’t use it at all.
CGI Is Water, Studios Are Immortan Joe
There’s a ceiling on what can be accomplished with practical effects. Legendary examples stand out, while less impressive feats of costuming or fabrication fall into the cultural waste bin. It’s a double standard that catalogs bad CGI while ignoring terrible tangible scenes. Watch a few low-budget horror films and you’ll see some moments that a professional could fix in post. CGI itself isn’t the problem – it’s a tool to be used as well or poorly as any other. I argue no modern blockbuster is complete without the hard work of artists adding impossibly detailed visual effects.
Furiosa will feature an abundance of VFX, but the trailers have only shown the earliest version. The fear surrounding the film’s first trailer suggests a combination of high expectations and widespread sickness with CGI. Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and the other major cinematic universes have created antipathy toward every visual effect. Instead of cutting out CGI, Furiosa could live up to Fury Road‘s example by using it properly. The aesthetic serves the storyline rather than the alternative. With an appropriate execution, Furiosa can change the conversation around digital graphics in a similar way its predecessor did.
I understand why practical effects are valued more highly than VFX. They used to be the default, but years of technological evolution further shifted away from the art of tangible effects. This is the natural consequence of any innovation in the hands of major corporations, but the clear visual signifiers make it easy to complain. Furiosa will use CGI because it’s a prequel to a Mad Max film full of it. Fans fed up with Marvel and DC ruining the art form should rejoice when they see someone passionate take the reigns. Fury Road and its ilk, assuming the final product lives up to its expectations, should be celebrations of everything that can be accomplished through a massive blockbuster budget that uses all tools available to serve the artform. Don’t hold back just because other people get it wrong.