Beta Decay: witnessing in Black and Chrome

 

Images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

The cultural phenomenon just got even shinier and even more chrome.

In the year and a half since Mad Max: Fury Road’s release, writer/director/series mastermind George Miller has been talking about black and white and score-only versions of the film that he claims are even better than the theatrical release. He said they’d be on the initial home media release, but they were cut. This makes sense — immediately releasing a special edition leaves money on the table because no one will by the standard one. Cinephiles rejoiced when the Black and Chrome edition was announced for this holiday season, but what was kept relatively quiet was that this version would return to theaters last weekend.

There’s never been a movie that benefits more from the big screen than Fury Road, and there may never have been a movie that benefits more from a black and white conversion.

One of the only things Fury Road doesn’t do excellently is use color. For all its visual splendor, it carries the same boring orange and teal color scheme as every commercial action movie. It’s an ironic thing — the heavy saturation was initially part of the movie’s praise because most post-apocalypse movies are dull and desaturated, but the film is still essentially dichromatic. It doesn’t really lose anything by ditching those colors.

This is possibly the most richly detailed movie ever made. Common but extremely high praise of a movie is to say that a world feels lived in, and if you don’t know what that means, Fury Road is exhibit A. This movie is drenched in its own culture, and that’s almost entirely a visual exercise. With the noise removed by the black and white conversion, that only gets amplified.

Everything is just a tiny bit clearer. All the little details that make the movie seem so complete get highlighted. The war boy’s intricate stomach tattoos suddenly pop out. The skeletal arm on Imperator Furiosa’s car door is much more noticeable. The sand has a better texture on characters’ faces. The fires seem brighter and even the jokes seem funnier — the comedic subplot with the boot, easy to miss in the color version, becomes one of the film’s most memorable elements without it.

Common sense holds that the director’s cut is always better, but it’s actually kind of rare these days for that to be true. Most of the time, it’s just producers adding things that were cut for time or to satisfy the MPAA so they can charge a premium. Few and far between are things like Daredevil or Blade Runner, where filmmakers are given the opportunity to cut out studio interference and present a better, fundamentally different film, and that’s even more a shame than it sounds given that studio interference has ruined some pretty high-profile movies recently — Fantastic Four was famously marred by extensive reshoots, and Suicide Squad and the forthcoming Star Wars: Rogue One this year will be similarly altered. The editing became such a story with Suicide Squad that an extended edition will come to streaming before the DVD release.

Fury Road — Black and Chrome Edition isn’t an extended cut. It’s a fundamentally different experience. Do yourself a favor and make sure that experience is on the big screen.

Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, intern at the Lewisville Texan Journal and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@gmail.com.

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