Mad Max: Fury Road, directed by George Miller, was one of the biggest surprises of recent memory for me. I expected an unnecessary reboot to one of my favorite film trilogies. Instead, I got the pleasure of watching one of the best action films of all time and have watched it many times since its release. Fury Road is filled from start to finish with relentless, incredible action, shot with a reliance on practical effects, and unlike many other films with the genre, it’s also beautiful. Every frame is filled with a multitude of over-saturated colors which crank up the contrast, as opposed to the drab and colorless movies we often see these days. That’s why many fans were surprised when George Miller said “the best version of this movie is black and white, but people reserve that for art movies now.” Miller even went so far as to suggest the reason he had decided on the over-saturated color palette is because he knew Warner Brothers would never allow a black and white film in theaters.
Miller’s statement piqued my and many other fans interest, but unfortunately, it didn’t seem we were going to be able to see the black and white edition. Thankfully, Warner Brothers relented and finally allowed the black and white cut of Fury Road to be released. The cut, now dubbed the Black and Chrome edition, was released on streaming services just a few weeks ago. As a huge fan of Fury Road, and a person who saw it multiple times in theaters, I couldn’t wait for this cut to be released, and I wasn’t disappointed.
What’s immediately obvious about the Black and Chrome edition of Fury Road is that it’s not your traditional black and white film. It doesn’t look anything like the black and white films of old. Again, George Miller dialed the contrast and saturation up a bit, and the Black and Chrome name becomes appropriate. One can really notice the difference in the scenes with Immortan Joe’s war boys painting their teeth with the mysterious chrome substance used in the film. The colorless setting is also able to highlight the dust and grit caking the characters, vehicles, and entire world. The lack of color really makes the universe feel like a hopeless, barren wasteland.
The black and white is also able to ramp up the tension in certain scenes. The opening scene of Fury Road with Max attempting to escape Immortan Joe’s compound while the war boys chase him becomes even more terrifying in black and white. The lack of colors make the zombie-like war boys pop off the screen and become otherworldly. The sandstorm scene is also incredible in this version. The monochromatic palette makes the scene disorienting and helps highlight the faces of Nux, Furiosa, and Max as they drive into the heart of the gigantic sandstorm. Everything else becomes a blur, you just see their faces acknowledge the inherent madness in the decision to continue driving straight in, and frankly, it’s perfect. Also, I can’t say enough about the shot of Furiosa collapsing after her failure to find the Green Place. Because the sand all blends together, it draws every bit of the eyes’ attention to Charlize Theron’s fantastic acting, and you can feel her heartbreak.
While I enjoyed the black and white edition of Fury Road, and acknowledge some scenes were better, I disagree with Miller and think the color version outshines it. I missed the bright reds and oranges of the explosions and the Doof Warrior’s guitar, I missed the flames within the sandstorm as the war boys are sucked up the vortex, and it even felt like what little CGI was in the film was dependent on the color. The CGI appeared muddled at times in black and white. The action scenes became hard to follow as well, especially in the more frantic shots filled with war boys and vehicles. It became harder to see and appreciate all the little details that went into making this masterpiece.
Overall, I’m going to say the Black and Chrome edition of Mad Max: Fury Road is worth watching. The scenes improved make it worth the time required, and the changes aren’t substantial enough to change your opinion of the film. All of the incredible action and acting is still present. In fact, I will argue any fan of the film should watch the Black and Chrome edition. Watching it again, in another format, will help add another angle to the appreciation of a film we all know is a masterpiece. We’re lucky to live in a world where we have Fury Road, and I will always feel it’s a miracle George Miller was allowed to so fully realize his vision in a time of studio manipulation.