Review: Mad Max: Fury Road – Black & Chrome Edition (2015/2016)

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Mad Max: Fury Road – Black & Chrome Edition (2015/2016)
Mad Max: Fury Road – Black, Shiny, & Chrome; the Cinema Fantastico Edition (2016)

Rated R, runtime 2 hours 01 minute. Warner Bros Pictures.

THE SETUP

The first time I watched any Mad Max movie was when it was on either broadcast TV or on cable (Spectrum, HBO, or Showtime). In my fuzzy memory I want to say my dad and I watched The Road Warrior as my dad often would wake me up at odd times of the night so we could hang out and watch “male bonding” movies – An American Werewolf In London, Escape From New York, The Beastmaster, Nightmares, The Blues Brothers, Jason and the Argonauts, etc etc etc.

So the Mad Max franchise is cemented (worming) in my brain since a little boy. There really isn’t anything else committed to celluloid with the same George Miller ferocity, pulse, or primordial tapestry as there is with his Mad Max legacy. George completely shoved Fury Road in the face of every action movie before it and for years to come. Fury Road is a triumph and wholly satisfying.

Although the film’s color palette is stunning, there were rumblings of Fury Road initially mindful of a black & white final product. George Miller said he saw a black and white print of The Road Warrior when he visited the orchestra scoring session, George completely fell in love with how the lack of color saturation completely reinvented/reinvigorated the movie. It’s not completely new to the industry and even with video monitors on-set most of them were not in color for many decades. I guess sitting back and seeing it on a bigger screen once it’s pretty much assembled sheds a new perspective, plus I think most filmmakers are romantic for black & white… as am I.

THE SEED

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When wind of George Miller talking about a black and white version of Fury Road came about I was skeptical. Fury Road has an absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous color palette that matches each plot scenario and mood. Why would anyone consider removing all color saturation?

Because it’s there, that’s why; the seed of that idea had been planted.

I had been working on my fan edit of Ash Vs The Evil Dead Season 1 Supercut so a Fury Road B&W cut had to wait. It wasn’t until there was an official announcement that the “Black & Chrome” edition would finally be released as part of a box set that I decided to finish my version. It’s a challenge for me not only as a fan of the series but also as a film editor enthusiast.

My greatest fear is that my version would be sub-par to the official Black & Chrome version but, if anything, I did it my way (more as Sid Vicious than Frank Sinatra).

THE EXECUTION

I imported my purchased Blu-Ray copy of Fury Road to Final Cut Pro X. At my disposal I had the best quality I could work with in a prosumer environment. If I had access to the original film negatives or digital masters I’d have one hell of a perfectly smooth result. Regardless, I find Final Cut Pro X really easy to use and versatile enough for general/simple tweaks to more nose-to-the-grindstone down and dirty specifics.

The first thing I did was sweep out ALL the saturation; after that I could’ve exported my project and called it a day but I didn’t. I wanted to do something I would watch while being able to capture a gradient white, grey, and black narrative. The movie itself is a circle, the “color” palette is in threes, and a commonly accepted narrative story has a beginning, middle, and an end… this is why I did my best to preserve the narrative through my own execution.

THE RESULT

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When I finally finished my version I set up a date for a few of my friends to come over and have a viewing party in my backyard theater. Well, really, I was still tweaking the final mix up until the final moments. As a group we did a full Australian-inspired/Mad Max-inspired meal: a 10-hour slow-cooked beef & veggie Dinki-Di stew, a kangaroo meat & white chili pot, and other various Australian/apocalyptic delights (desserts, sodas, and finger foods).

I was told, from other friends, that the original color version of Fury Road is so damn good that a B&W version couldn’t possibly improve upon the original?

I have been chained to the B&W version for such a long time that I knew it was worth it and I was curious what my friends would say. When the day FINALLY came to show my asserted and passionate effort, it was met with gasps, pin-drop silence, and periodic audible praise throughout.

THE COMPARISON

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If you don’t already know, the George Miller official Black & Chrome Edition is already available via VOD. The physical copy won’t be available until December. I waited to compare the Miller B&W official version against my own version/interpretation. Well…

There are some scenes in the official B&W version that I like better than mine in regard to particular contrast choices but where I have real issues is the Black & Chrome edition that Warner is releasing is NOT true black and white!!! Some of the scenes, if not all, are, for exaple either color saturation (global) at bare minimum while letting in just a tinge of color OR tint filters are being used for particular scenes.

I played my version right next to the official release and I was SHOCKED as to how much in the Black & Chrome version wasn’t true black and white. At least my friends and I had the chance to see it on our big screen with much kudos.

Legally, it was a private passion project of mine so my version is not available for sale or shared in any manner, sorry.

— Adam Rutkowski

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