Shades Were Made For Lovely Days Like This: A Look at Mad Max: Fury Road: Black & Chrome
Director George Miller states in a promo video for the release of Mad Max: Fury Road: Black & Chrome that he believes this is the best version of the film. Having seen a black and white dupe of The Road Warrior during post-production, he was intrigued with how the removal of color made the movie feel more “abstract” and “iconic." Decades later, Miller went to his colorist on Fury Road and asked to see some scenes in black and white. He was so impressed with the result that he pushed for the release of a black and white version of the six-time Academy Award winning picture. Currently in a limited run in select theaters, and soon everywhere on Blu-ray (12/6/16), the new colorless Fury Road is now available for all to see.
Does Black & Chrome change the way we see Fury Road for the better or for worse? Well, that depends on how you feel about the unaltered Fury Road. If you believe the movie is flawless in its visual execution, wherein the assault on the senses feels absolutely intentional and necessary to drive home the nature of its sun-bleached, radiated backdrop, then you’ll most likely find nothing beneficial in the black and white version. However, if you need a respite from the dust storm of colors being thrown at you, then Black & Chrome just might be you’re looking for.
Black & Chrome’s removal of color heightens aspects of the movie that may have been overlooked or underappreciated during initial viewings. Having seen the unaltered movie five times, Black & Chrome delivers a welcome new perspective into the film’s plot and characters.
Removing the color from Fury Road creates an even starker world for these characters to inhabit. Max feels more at ease in a world stripped of color. Like the anti-heroes of any number of film noirs, Max maneuvers through shadows and dust (in place of fog) in a indiscriminately cruel world.
Close-ups of Max, Furiosa and Immortan Joe turn into striking silhouettes against the desert sand. Normally, viewers would be drawn to Charlize Theron’s striking green eyes but now I’m made to focus on other details, like how the high contrast brings out her cracked, sun-damaged complexion.
Black & Chrome makes the Fury Road experience just a little better. Like putting shades on during a sunny day, it makes you appreciate things you might not have focused on before because you were squinting just a tad too much. All that said, John Seale’s Academy Award-nominated cinematography still pops. The night sequences do suffer and aren’t as striking as the unaltered version, but overall it’s still quite effective.
Would this black and white process work with other films? Perhaps. But very fews films have as many elements worthy of the deconstruction Black & Chrome accomplishes.