The sound team for Mad Max: Fury Road is cleaning up at every award show. They tied with The Revenant for Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects & Foley in a Feature Film at the MPSE Golden Reel Awards and brought home the two most prestigious awards at the Oscars for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing (one of which we predicted). The sound direction for the film comes from Supervising Sound Editors Mark Mangini and Scott Hecker. The two and a half hour, post-apocalyptic, car chase has been widely successful because of the careful consideration for sound in post-production by visionary director George Miller.
The sonic and symbolic genius begins right at the opening credits. Just like the MGM Lion roars at the start of a production, the Warner Brothers’ WB rolls on screen in sync with a starting car that rips and roars like a metal monster. This intense sound, symbolic of the start of the chase, sets the tone. Along with a dark monologue by Tom Hardy featuring the gritty, industrial sounds of this hard world and the creeping voices that haunt him.
The overall sound of Mad Max: Fury Road is in your face and over the top; but pairs perfectly with the insane characters, aggressive stunts, and expansive visuals. It’s a classic tale of good vs. evil but on steroids. It features the teaming up of Mad Max and Furiosa vs Immortan Joe and his clan of high-octane, crazy War Boys. Each team is given their own sonic theme.
The sonic theme for Max is minimal in approach but massive in effect. A man of few words, his emotional expression is heard through powerful moves, hits and grunts all added after the original performance. These sound effects and sound bites hit hard and help the audience feel the insane struggle to survive. In strong “Max Moments” the film’s composer uses low, heavy hits from a cello to identify the character and create feelings of strength and terror. He is the sound of madness.
In a world filled with dirt, death, and destruction, only the strong survive. The tough sounds of Furiosa include her metal robotic arm, hard impacts while fighting, and the blood curdling screams of a woman giving everything she has to survive. Furiosa is characterized musically with heavy and emotional strings that crush the audience’s heart in the moment that she realizes the Green Place no longer exists but builds back hope as she rips off Immortan Joe’s face with her prosthetic arm. “REMEMBER ME!” She is the sound of strength and hope.
From the costumes and makeup to the catchy one-liners, the V8 worshipping/half-life living, War Boys seal the deal thematically. The War Boys are lead to battle by an army of tribal drummers and a blind/albino/heavy metal guitar/flame thrower playing lunatic. This is an extreme version of the old days of battle where men were lead by the sounds of a snare drum or trumpet. The Film’s composer, Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL, worked hand in hand with the sound team to help develop a consistent theme. The war boys are aggressive and fearless and the sounds of their weapons and explosions match. These boys embody the sound of war.
Supervising Sound Editor, Mark Mangini, had the idea to treat each of the war ready vehicles like it’s own individual character. Each vehicle is able to express emotions of terror and strength like an actor through layered sounds of cars and animals like lions, bears, and whales.
The use of anthropomorphic sound is executed to perfection with Furiosa’s War Rig. It is a living, breathing beast throughout the movie. You can hear its pain as engines go out or feel its strength and weight as it tears through a car. Nux sacrifices himself for the group and flips the War Rig into a bridge that consequently stops the rest of the chasing war party. As the War Rig is flipped and the slow motion sequence begins, pitched down whale sounds are used to create the sounds of a dying beast. The blending of real world and made up machine sounds creates a sense of human attachment and provides emotional depth through sound.
Mad Max: Fury Road’s final mix took a whopping seventy-five days to complete. This time and attention to detail shows through in the final product and did not go unnoticed. After winning so many awards, it is clear that taking the time to develop sonic themes for the different moods and characters of a movie helps tell the story. Thank you, George Miller, for showing us the way in the post-production/post-apocalyptic universe.
The Sound Jack offers sound editing, sound mixing, sound restoration and sound design for all video, film, and podcasts. If you like this article please share it or leave us a comment. For more sound help, check out our other articles on sound editing, sound mixing, sound restoration and sound design.