There have been rumors of a black-and-white version of director George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road since the film’s release in 2015. Springing from the overwhelming response to the film’s colorfully vivid aesthetic, fans were caught a bit off-guard when Miller began suggesting that he preferred to ditch the searing reds, oranges, icy blues, and teals of the theatrical version in favor of a classic black-and-white approach. Why would Miller and movie studio Warner Bros. want to take away one of the reasons that Fury Road stood out by literally making it monochrome?
Well, we will soon find out. Miller gets his wish when the Mad Max High Octane Collection, featuring the so-called “Black & Chrome Edition” of Fury Road, hits stores on December 6. It may seem unnecessary to some people, but it’s actually a vital experiment.
A huge boon to Mad Max: Fury Road was that the fact it simply didn’t look like other post-apocalyptic blockbusters. The acidic yellow hues in the apocalyptic outback Wasteland are normally saved for more frivolous or overwrought big budget stuff like Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, but Miller was forced to use them because he was making a movie at such a huge scale.
Bay’s colors made his impossibly gorgeous cast able to glance off into the distance at giant fighting robots and still look like they were in a cologne ad. Miller’s choice to imbue Fury Road with a radiant but gritty sheen was essential to the story of rogue tribes fighting to survive in a scorched Earth scenario. You never expected the end of the world to look that, well, beautiful at its end.
Miller suggested that he had to go big with the color because he couldn’t go black and white:
“One thing I’ve noticed is that the default position for everyone is to de-saturate post-apocalyptic movies,” he told Slashfilm. “There’s only two ways to go, make them black and white — the best version of this movie is black and white, but people reserve that for art movies now. The other version is to really go all-out on the color. The usual teal and orange thing? That’s all the colors we had to work with. The desert’s orange and the sky is teal, and we either could de-saturate it, or crank it up, to differentiate the movie.”
Fury Road was one of those rare critical and commercial success stories, earning plaudits from critics for feminist subtext while raking in mega cash at the box office. To make it even better, it cruised to six wins and ten Academy Award nominations in 2015.
Because of all the lavish praise, Miller can now rightfully go back to his preferred black-and-white version of the movie for another home video release. But what separates it again from other cash grab director’s cuts is that it was totally earned. Usually a director’s cut is meant to suggest there is a version of the movie contained in a release that you didn’t see in theaters, like the many different cuts of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. But most of the time it’s just so moderately successful comedies can throw in an extra five minutes of deleted scenes and slap “DIRECTOR’S CUT” in all caps on the front of the home video box to justify the extra money you’ll pay for it.
Other recent alternate versions of blockbusters, like the X-Men: Days of Future Past — The Rogue Cut or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — The Ultimate Edition, were attempts at inserting extra footage meant to cater to mega-fans instead creating a better movie or different experience. The Black & Chrome edition of Fury Road is attempting to do just that.
While the washed out splendor of the movie’s visuals is what made it unique, taking that away is equally as unique. Miller told the LA Times that the black-and-white version of the movie “seemed more authentic and elemental.” Simplifying the color does let it harken back to old movies, but just as the movie is about the contrast between Furiosa and Max, the Five Wives versus Immortan Joe, and human beings against the burned landscape, the cut and dry nature of the black-and-white visuals follows suit.
It’s the only move that such an adventurous film could pull off to further its ongoing reputation. To echo the cry of Immortan Joe’s War Boys, it will be quite a sight to witness.