Mad Max: Beyond Thunder-DUNE

Guys, I know you won’t believe this, but I saw a lot of Dune in Mad Max: Fury Road. I will bet you $55 that someone in this production read God Emperor of Dune. Now, I might be the guy who talks about Dune all the time, but I might also be right, so hear me out.


#8. Hydraulic Monarchy

The concept of Hydraulic Monarchy is that the rulers of a society control and important substance like, say, water. The basis of their power is that they can cut the population off from the supply of that thing. The Mad Max Earth appears to suffer from an extreme lack of clean water so Immortan Joe’s literal hydro-monarchy is obvious here. Immortan Joe turns the water off and on at a whim, thus controlling the masses.

In God Emperor of Dune, Leto II is the last source of Spice in the universe. He can deny people access to the Spice which is a death sentence for many if they’re cut off. Immortan Joe and Letos’ governments are both based on control of an essential substance required for survival.

#7. Religion

Immortan Joe has constructed a religion around himself and uses this religion as a secondary method of controlling the populace, specifically his mutant half-life War Boys. He portrays himself as an immortal to his War Boys, and promises them glory in an afterlife, conditioning them to sacrifice themselves eagerly at his whim.

In Dune, Paul Atreides harnesses the power of the religious Fremen, placing himself at the top of their religion, to turn them into weapons for him. Later on in God Emperor of Dune, Leto Atreides continues this tradition by declaring himself a god, and raising an all female army called the Fish Speakers who are warrior fanatics willing to die at his command.

Both Immortan Joe and Leto II portray themselves falsely as immortal gods to their followers, and use that religion to control an army of zealots. In this case I see the War Boys as both the Fremen and a kind of reflection of the Fish Speakers.

#6. Breeding

Immortan Joe has isolated full-lives humans from the population and is obsessed with the idea to breed a “perfect” human. The two sons we see in the movie are portrayed as either flawed mentally or flawed physically. A son is born to him that a doctor declares “perfect” but is killed in the escape attempt of the mother.

Both Dune and God Emperor of Dune have eugenics in them. In Dune the Bene Gesserit are trying to breed the kwisatz haderach, a man who is sort of a singularity of abilities, and through him control the universe. In God Emperor of Dune, Leto has been breeding humanity for rebellion, creating finally Siona, a human being who cannot be seen, and therefore not controlled, by psychic beings.

Here, like in the religion, we see a little subversion of these ideas from Dune to Fury Road. Immortan Joe’s obsession with breeding a perfect human, and the way he goes about it, are clearly derivative of the kwisatz haderach eugenics of the Dune series, and even more reflective of an Emperor trying to secure his legacy, a la God Emperor of Dune.

Immortan Joe would clearly place his “perfect” child at the head of his religion and further secure his ruling elite over the masses around the Citadel, thus doubling back on the religious parallels.

#5. Environmentalism

Dune is an environmentalist novel in some ways, from the 60s. You see a lot of the ideas from Dune transported to Fury Road. First there’s the obvious scarcity of water, and the perpetual desert that the people seem to inhabit.

“As the world broke each of us in our own way were broken,” says Max. In a very 60s way I think the director was showing that the environment determines the trajectory of our lives. I think that George Miller is reinforcing this by showing a world incapable of supporting life and alternately dead or poisoned. Immortan Joe is the symbol of an old dying Earth, twisted and mutated.

It just comes down to the simple idea of scarcity, and what that scarcity (through environmental damage) drives people to.

#4. Specialization

This is not immediately obvious but it’s something I think is there. In Fury Road we see that there are several societies that are specialized around a few commodities. The Citadel pretty clearly is focused around water and agriculture, the Bullet Farm farms bullets, and Gasoline Town makes gasoline.

We see the same kind of specialization in Dune: the Spacing Guild provides transportation, the Tleilaxu make genetically altered creatures, and the Bene Gesserit provide education. I think this is an organic outgrowth of the world of Fury Road, since each monarchy we see is clearly like the hydraulic monarchy of Immortan Joe, just the commodity that is controlled is different.

#3. Bene Gesserit

The Bene Gesserit were an all woman society devoted to education, religion, and the kwisatz haderach breeding program. The Vuvalini of Fury Road are another all woman society I think often referred to as the Many Mothers, which I think echoes the title of Bene Gesserit women: Reverend Mothers.

The important connection here is that the Vuvalini, without meaning to, are the source of the Fury Road kwisatz haderach. They are also the guardians of the seeds (for a new world) and possess a high level of skill, which I think is a kind of symbolic stand-in for Bene Gesserit powers. The Bene Gesserit karate of Dune is morphed into the Snipers of the Vuvalini.

#2. Kwisatz Furiosa

Though Immortan Joe had a “perfect” baby boy, that boy was not the kwisatz haderach. If anything, that boy represents the flaw in Immortan Joe’s scheme to breed the perfect human, because he was blind to the fact that the kwisatz haderach of the Fury Road world could have been a woman. And that woman is Furiosa.

The kwisatz haderach of Dune was the fusing of the masculine and feminine into one being. Furiosa, in Fury Road, is both kind of a War Boy (a kind of mutant warrior for Immortan Joe and physically “flawed”) and also a warrior woman of the Vuvalini and a whole-life. The reason why she rules in the end is because she’s the kwisatz haderach.

If Immortan Joe represents the corruption and death of the Old Earth, Furiosa is the hope of a new world, not “perfect” in the eyes of the Old World, but alive and more importantly: perfectly human. She’s human in that she never lost her ability to be compassionate. She retained her humanity in a world of madness, and that’s what Immortan Joe never understood, the perfection he sought was physical, but Furiosa’s perfection is quasi-spiritual. Furiosa is the redeemer.

“Who broke the world?” asks people in the movie, but Fury Road is really about, “Who will fix the world?”

In Furiosa is a world that is different but it’s a world with a hope for a better life for everyone.

#1. Mad Duncan

If Furiosa is the kwisatz haderach, then who is Mad Max? I argue that Mad Max is Duncan Idaho, the man of many lives. The unwritten rule of Dune is that every Dune novel must have a Duncan Idaho, and the Mad Max universe I think (given the name at least) operates much in the same manner. Moreover we need Max and Duncan.

Max and Duncan are our connections to the old world. Max, despite his madness, at his core is still a good guy in a way we can recognize. He is from the Old World but, unlike Immortan Joe, represents a good guy from the Old World. He never bought into the madness of the New World. That’s ultimately why Max is crazy, because he’s sane in an Old World sense. The fact that he didn’t go crazy makes him the craziest person on Mad Max Earth. In Mad Max Earth, Immortan Joe and his War Boys are the sane ones.

And like Duncan, who serves the Atreides, Max serves under Furiosa. It’s important to realize that Max lacks something, and this lack is one of his greatest flaws: Max has lost everything and so has nothing to fight for. He’s been worn down to an animal level of survival. Max the human is dead.

But Furiosa resurrects Max. In Furiosa Max finds his humanity again, and that’s why he has to be such a jerk in the beginning of the movie because the Max we expected was dead. Furiosa gives Max a cause and with that cause we seem him morph from an aimless animal, to a crazed slave, until at last … a Road Warrior.

Max had power but no direction. Once he had a direction we see him grow increasingly heroic until at last he’s fighting at Furiosa’s side, because Furiosa, unlike Max, never lost her humanity. And that’s why Furiosa rises while Max stays behind. Max is not of the New Furiosa Earth, he’s from the lost world. He’s a ghost haunted by ghosts. There’s no place for him in Furiosa’s World.

Max represents the last vestiges of the goodness of the Old World acting as the midwife for the hope of a New World.


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