The Cartoon Bodies of “Mad Max: Fury Road”


Isabel Ortiz in the LA Review of Books:

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD does not look like an animated movie. Throughout the film, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is gorgeously sweaty, her skin is granularly textured, and her face is paint-smeared. Tom Hardy as Mad Max sports levels of shaggy micro-scruff that no cartoon character could ever achieve. Large, fleshy burns dot his arms, and his face appears red, coarse, and scorched. Ash collects on everyone’s arm hairs, and oil stains their cheeks. In fact, one of the primary joys of watching the movie is that such painstaking attention has been paid to the little details that make moving human flesh look like moving human flesh: chests heave, lips parch, brows sweat, clothes itch, hands burn.

And yet, despite the oozing corporeality of the film’s protagonists, many critics have commented on its resemblance to a cartoon. These resonances are often spoken of as more structural — perhaps even spiritual — than they are stylistic. In his New York Times review of Fury Road, A.O. Scott cites the film’s debt to Chuck Jones’s Road Runner cartoons as “models of ingenuity and rigor,” while Richard Brody in The New Yorker refers to the movie as a “Rube Goldberg contraption set to the speed of a ‘Road Runner’ cartoon.” A.A. Dowd of the A.V. Club praises the movie’s “Tex Avery touches,” which he attributes to the limitless imagination of its director, George Miller, who previously worked in animation.

Early animators gave life to their drawings, endowing static figures with unique voices and movements.

More here.