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Details You Missed In Mad Max: Fury Road The First Time You Watched

There's no other movie quite like Mad Max: Fury Road. It was a high-octane shot of adrenaline and imagination when it opened in 2015, and the years since have done nothing to dull its impact. 

Writer-director George Miller stripped the action movie down to the essentials to create a film that's almost nothing but one long action sequence. That minimalist plot gives Miller and his crew the space to go maximalist on everything else, and its simplicity hides far more depth than more self-serious action movies. We don't need to stop and explain the history and culture of this sci-fi universe because every inch of the frame is packed with detail, and every one of those details has a story behind it. There are so many that it's impossible to catch them all, even if you watch the movie a hundred times. But we've been able to catch a few you may have missed.

This article contains spoilers.

Fury Road takes place in the future of the past

Mad Max's futuristic adventures began in 1979. But the thing about the future is the present always catches up with it. It's unlikely George Miller predicted that the Cold War would end without a single nuclear warhead being dropped when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, let alone that he'd still be making Mad Max movies decades later. Most franchises would move their timelines forward, but while Fury Road draws on modern anxieties about climate change, there are subtle hints that the world still collapsed around the time the earlier movies came out. 

The main hint is the technology of the cars that Fury Road's raiders and warlords love so much. The movie looks like a classic car rally, with most of the vehicles dating back to the '70s. Even the speakers in the Doof Wagon have retro wood paneling. The only vehicles dating after the original movies' release are the Many Mothers' modified 2010 Yamaha bikes. There's even a reference to the original movies' Cold War anxieties with the car-scavenging Buzzards, who talk only in subtitled Russian.

Furiosa's arm is specially designed for her work

The action in Mad Max: Fury Road is really driven by a new character, one fans immediately latched onto. That's Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, a general in the army of a warlord who calls himself Immortan Joe. Furiosa uses her influence to free the women Joe holds captive as his brides and smuggle them across the desert to the Green Place of Many Mothers, where she'd been abducted from as a child.

Furiosa only has one arm, either as a result of being born into the irradiated wasteland of Mad Max's post-World War III world or some epic battle in her past. Either way, she proves far more capable than most two-armed fighters, with the help of a cyborg prosthetic. Like everything in the Fury Road universe, it's not just a generic model. If you look closely, Furiosa's arm is specially designed for combat, with a sharp, nasty-looking claw on the middle finger. This becomes important at the end of the movie, where she hooks it to the Immortan's breathing mask and rips it off, along with most of his face.

Immortan Joe has an unusual name for his doctor

George Miller's dialogue in Fury Road isn't going for the naturalism we're used to in most movies. This is larger-than-life language somewhere between comic books and opera. And Miller plays with the way words might evolve after the end of the civilization, with the Wasteland almost having a language all its own.

For instance, when Max is first captured by Joe's War Boys, he's examined by a greasy character who tattoos Max's vitals on his back. He's apparently a doctor, but no one calls him that. Instead, they refer to him as "the organic mechanic" ("organic" for short).

It's a classic example of Miller's future-speak wordplay, but like everything else in Fury Road, there's a reason for it. You can tell from all the tricked-out cars that machinery is highly important in Joe's Citadel. His soldiers literally worship cars at the shrine of the V8. But human beings are much more expendable. When Joe's forces tally up their losses, they keep track of every bullet fired and every car wrecked without ever mentioning the deaths. So it only makes sense that, in this car-centered world, a doctor would just be another kind of mechanic.

The War Boys make new words out of Japanese history

As Joe's soldiers, the War Boys, load up Furiosa's War Rig for what they think will be a routine mission, one of them leads the rest in a chant. If you're not listening closely, you may not be able to pick out just what they're chanting, and even if you do, it may not make much sense at first listen: "Fukushima War Boys! Fukushima kamikrazy War Boys!"

But when you look at history, it all makes perfect sense. "Fukushima" is one of the few references in the movie to the events of the 30 years between Mad Max movies, specifically the meltdown at the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant caused by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami — a reference that would have special significance to the radiation-poisoned War Boys.

"Kamikrazy" is a combination of "crazy" and "kamikaze" (in English, "divine wind"), the suicide bombers of the Japanese Air Force in World War II, who would destroy enemy ships by crashing into them in planes loaded with explosives. That's an even more fitting reference for the War Boys, whose entire strategy is based on suicide attacks, hoping that if they die gloriously enough, the Immortan will welcome them into Valhalla.

McDonald's survived the apocalypse

It's hard to imagine their stock is worth much after society collapsed, but there are some hints in Fury Road that our modern-day corporations survived the apocalypse in one form or another. Immortan Joe calls the water he hoards "Aqua Cola." And one fast food franchise is remembered well enough that it's apparently become synonymous with food itself.

After Nux fails to kill Furiosa, he still sneaks along with her on the War Rig, where one of the Brides finds him in a sorry state. He's failed in his mission, and that means he won't reach the warrior paradise the Immortan promises to his followers. He laments that he should be in Valhalla "McFeasting with heroes of all time." For a long time, McDonald's has used "Mc" to brand their products, like the McRib and the McDLT. It's hard to imagine any place still serves those meals in the Wasteland, but having your brand name on the whole idea of eating is the kind of market penetration any company would kill for.

'Mediocre' has a special meaning

No word has changed its meaning in the future of Mad Max as much as "mediocre." When one of the War Boys dies heroically in a huge fireball, his comrades cheer, with one of them confusingly yelling, "Mediocre!" Normally, that'd mean he was barely adequate or worse, but obviously, a lot changes after an apocalypse. 

Then again, maybe not. In one unforgettable scene, Nux finally gets his chance to win Joe's approval when he escapes from the War Rig and volunteers to use his inside knowledge to retake it from Furiosa. Unfortunately, Nux literally falls flat on his face when he trips on the chain that had attached him to Max, who'd been serving as his blood bag. Immortan Joe scoffs, "Mediocre!" and drives off. 

Joe's warrior cult depends on the War Boys fighting for his love and approval, but he seldom gives it, heartlessly sacrificing their lives for his own ends. It's not hard to imagine that "mediocre" took on a positive meaning for his soldiers just because it's the nicest thing he's ever said to them.

The Citadel is baby crazy

The whole plot is set in motion because Immortan Joe keeps his "brides" enslaved to ensure he has healthy breeding stock — no small thing in a world where nuclear war killed off most of the population and ensured few people born afterward would live very long. The obsession with healthy babies should explain some of Fury Road's most out-there design choices. 

Joe's son, Rictus Erectus, wears chains of baby doll heads around his neck and waist, with more doll heads on his belt buckle and kneepads. Once you notice the motif, you'll start seeing it everywhere. Nux has a doll head in the center of his steering wheel, tricked out with car parts. The soldier who stabs Furiosa in the climax wears one on the back of his head, even if it's so horribly disfigured from the wear and tear of the Wasteland it might be hard to recognize.

The V8 shrine is packed with Easter eggs

Max opens the movie being captured by the War Boys, and he barely has time to catch his breath before the villains learn Furiosa's abducted Joe's brides. But before they depart in pursuit, the War Boys have to worship at the shrine of their god, the V8. The shrine takes the form of a massive pile of steering wheels, which the War Boys have to choose from to drive their cars. 

In the documentary The Tools of the Wasteland, Josh Helman, who plays the War Boy Slint, holds up a steering wheel he picked up from the shrine and notes it's been decorated with an old rotary phone dial. He says that every wheel in the shrine is just as unique as that one, and he's right. Some are customized with human or animal skulls, others have fan blades, billiard balls, or a gas mask with speedometers in the eyeholes. The shrine's only on the screen for a couple of seconds, but the Mad Max crew's obsessive attention to detail means you could stare at it for hours and still find something new.

Immortan keeps trophies from other cars

Immortan Joe drives off to war in the Gigahorse, a gigantic, gaudy monstrosity stapled together from at least three different cars. It's short on practicality but long on shock and awe, haphazardly combining monster truck wheels and luxury sports car bodies, as well as a harpoon gun, a flamethrower, and intimidating flags.

The interior is even more cluttered, with the dashboard covered in junk. If you look closely, you may see some familiar names and images from countless car manufacturers. In The Tools of the Wasteland documentary, production designer Colin Gibson explains the dash has a long backstory. "We ... collected pretty much every emblem and badge and vehicle that we thought he had killed, come across, collected, and now owned." They also describe Joe's car as a mobile throne, so maybe we should think of his dash as a mobile trophy room, just with hood ornaments instead of animal heads.

Nux pimped his ride

All the cars in Fury Road are an extension of their drivers' personalities, and Nux's is no exception. The small, frail War Boy has trouble intimidating his enemies, so he lets his car do the intimidating for him. The creepy bird skull bouncing on the dashboard got its big moment in close-up and even appeared in the trailers, but some of Nux's other add-ons take a sharper eye to spot. 

The parking brake stares back, with Nux using a glass eye to turn the knob into a giant eyeball. And the gearshift might take a bite out of you, with a pair of dentures tied around it. Nux also personalizes his car in a more direct way, with his name written in marker on the gas pedal. No wonder he's so upset at the thought of his "lancer," Splint, taking the car from him when he seems too weak and sick to drive.

Fury Road borrows cars from Australian movie history

George Miller came up from the world of the low-budget "Ozploitation" films that flooded Australian theaters in the '70s, and despite his blockbuster success, he hasn't forgotten where he came from. For proof, check out the scene where a band of scavengers called the Buzzards attack Furiosa's War Rig, and note their vehicles are covered in rusty spikes made from the carcasses of dead cars.

That image should be familiar to Ozploitation fans from the 1974 classic The Cars That Ate Paris. "Paris," in this case isn't the great French capital but a small outback town that survives by wrecking and pillaging travelers' cars. The film's signature image is the spiky VW bug the Parisians use in their sabotage missions, just like the one that appears prominently in the Buzzards' caravan. Think of it as a nod from one local boy to another — Paris was the debut for director Peter Weir, who'd go on to make the classic Picnic at Hanging Rock before moving to Hollywood and directing Dead Poets Society and The Truman Show.

The War Boys desecrate Max's car

Max's car, the Interceptor, has stayed the same all these years, and thanks to the series' loose continuity, it can be wrecked in all kinds of spectacular ways and still keep reappearing. It takes a beating in Fury Road, barely surviving the first five minutes when it gets totaled in a chase between Max and the War Boys. The War Boys fix it up and put it back on the road, but Max is horrified to see it again, and no wonder. 

Not only is he forced to kill his own car to survive, he discovers the Citadel has warped in its own evil image. The War Boys souped it up with new tires, but they've also made some more questionable changes, like replacing the headlights with razor wire. Worst of all, they've topped the hood with a human skull, its jaw open to represent Joe's emblem of a screaming skull.

Immortan Joe has crazy teeth

Mad Max's future has stricken its inhabitants with all kinds of diseases. Immortan Joe carefully maintains an image of strength and good health, covering his flabby, ancient body with molded plastic in the shape of bulging muscles and disguising his breathing apparatus as a badass skull mask. But we know better, since we're introduced to him hacking and coughing in private before he addresses the masses.

Eagle-eyed viewers will catch another glimpse of Joe's poor health in the scene after his bride, the Splendid Angharad, falls out of the War Rig. He briefly opens up his mask for a public display of grief as he holds her unconscious body, and we can see his real teeth behind his mask. They don't look pretty, glowing fluorescent red. Maybe that was blood he was coughing up when we first saw him. Or given the weird future world he lives in, it's possible the radiation did something even more horrible to him.

The People Eater finds an unusual use for a gas mask

Mad Max: Fury Road is packed to bursting with colorful characters, and few are as colorful as the People Eater. The ruler of the Citadel's neighboring Gastown, he tries to keep some of the dignity of a pre-apocalypse businessman. His vocabulary is far in excess of the other characters, and he keeps careful ledgers, even if he tallies them up with a calculator hanging from kinky nipple rings. And he dresses the part, too, wearing a beat-up, three-piece suit and an ornate metal prosthetic over his nose. 

But since he rarely leaves his car, you need to look closely to catch the People Eater's strangest wardrobe choice. A born scavenger, he has a dusty gas mask slung from his waist like a codpiece. Just in case you were wondering if the Immortan and his macho allies were compensating for something, this seems like a pretty big clue.

The Gastown Boys find new uses for old trash

The future of Fury Road was built on the rubble of the present, and half the fun of watching it is seeing how many familiar objects you can spot in unfamiliar places. The climactic battle is a gold mine for these details, as Max and Furiosa are attacked by the People Eater's colorful minions. 

Some of them wield chopped-up highway signs as shields. One chainsaw-wielding goon wears a mask with rusty nails poking out of it in every direction. Another one looks even more bizarre, with a fork stuck over his face. Some poor soul with the bad sense to try and torch Furiosa's truck has hoses curling up and around his face. The People Eater's own driver is as bizarre as any of them, hiding behind a pitch-black mask adorned with gears, screws, sunglasses lenses, and "teeth" made of shotgun shells.

Nux gets a viking funeral

Immortan Joe keeps his subjects in line by creating his own religion, but he had to copy some others to get there. His main source is the myths of the Vikings, especially Valhalla, where warriors who die in battle can fight for eternity.

Nux believes the "gates of Valhalla are closed" to him after he fails to kill Furiosa and defects to her side. But in the end, he gets the most spectacular death any Viking could ask for. The Vikings are famous for their funerals, where the dead would be cremated in a boat stacked with their most prized possessions (and sometimes servants). Obviously, there's no place for ships in this desert world, but Joe prizes his land-based vehicles as highly, and Nux goes off into the sunset behind the wheel of the War Rig, one of the most valuable of them all. 

When Furiosa dynamites the canyon behind her so our heroes can escape, Nux stays behind to draw off Joe's forces. He crashes into the rocks and burns like a dead Viking in a fireball that consumes the Immortan's servants and possessions. Instead of being punished for betraying his master, Nux is rewarded with the fulfillment of his dream — to "die historic on the Fury Road."