BySonia Mitchell, writer at

If there's a truism specific to post-apocalyptic fiction, it's that mankind is no more than three meals from savagery.

Whether it's explored in books, films or games, it's a convention that the collapse of society will turn every other human into a potential competitor. That a world without shops and farms will turn us into scavengers who will scour deserted buildings for dried meat and kill strangers for their ammunition.

Which is why Mad Max: Fury Road, is particularly interesting.

Scarcity of resources is one of the pillars of the genre, and it's a theme the film almost completely opts out of engaging with. Petrol and bullets are available from the gloriously lampshady Gastown and Bullettown. Water is scarce, but artificially so: the citadel has pumping equipment and the ability to dispense as much as it needs to. Food? It's absent but no one is hungry.

We see Max eat a live lizard at the very beginning, in a scene that – in hindsight – sends up viewer expectations of the drifter movie. Eating a live lizard is exactly the sort of thing one expects from a lone wolf in the post-apocalyptic world. But just as expectations are quickly subverted by allowing Max to lose control of his car and his freedom, the film moves on from the idea of scavenging food. In fact, it moves on from food altogether. The characters aren't malnourished, but they don't eat. At one point, they claim to have enough supplies for a 160 day motorbike trip. That's one hell of a packed lunch.

It's an interesting choice, because ultimately the control of water does become a motivation. Is it, therefore, cheating to refuse to address the problem of food? Or, in a film that is principally about driving, is it better to simplify the trappings of humanity in order to more closely link vehicle and driver?

While we rarely see him consume anything, Max himself is a resource in this film - a 'blood bag' for one of the War Boys. They, in turn, are subject to life-shortening disease, while their leader is riddled with tumours. The frailties of the flesh are still evident, and echoed in the rusting but functional vehicles.

In removing the element of hunger the makers have streamlined the film and at the same time added an element of unreality that pushes it into fable territory. Like the shifting palette, the almost magical lightning-sandstorm and the blinded crusader, the lack of food is a signpost warning us that the story is not being presented as literal reality.

Instead we are seeing the mythic version, in which anything that isn't badass is jettisoned. The film is all the better for it.


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