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Mad Max: Fury Road & Fallout 4

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Mad Max: Fury Road & Fallout 4: Our Fear and Love of The End

written by Brian Shesko

If you are a fan of popular, dystopian/post-apocalyptic visions of the future, then you are probably loving 2015. The Walking Dead, aka the most popular show on television, returns this fall for its sixth season, Terminator: Genisys added the fifth installment to the Terminator franchise this summer, and Muse (the OFFICIAL band of the apocalypse) released Drones in June, just to name a few examples. But two of the most interesting and anxiously anticipated entries to this field have been this spring’s Mad Max: Fury Road and the yet-to-be-released video game Fallout 4. Fans of both have waited a long time for each of these sequels (30 and 7 years, respectively) and expectations were and are high. Fury Road exceeded nearly all expectations (as far as critics are concerned, at least), and if the response to its E3 video game conference presentation is any indication, so will Fallout 4. Though both Fury Road and Fallout are worth considering for the merit of their craft and artistry, I want to look briefly at their content and, subsequently, some of the reasons for their lasting appeal and influence.

Consider the basic questions of setting when looking at a work of science fiction - “Where in the world am I? What in the world is going on? What am I going to do?”* The natural outcome of these questions inevitably leads to a fourth: “What in the world have we done?” Even if you were to find yourself in the middle of post-apocalyptic chaos, it seems natural that you would want to know how things got to be that way, whether or not that information provided any strategic benefit. The narrative of Fallout provides the surface answer to that question – nuclear war as the result of a global struggle for control of natural resources. Characters in Fury Road are less fortunate, as probably the most pained question of the movie is asked twice: “Who killed the world?” This is especially difficult knowledge as revealed so far in the previews for Fallout 4, since the protagonist is shown in both pre and post-war settings, so the loss of the older reality is especially poignant. We can identify fairly easily with these ideas because they are the flipside of our current situation. We are faced with a growing tension between the optimism of progress, especially in terms of technological advancement, and the underlying pessimism that things cannot possibly stay this way. It is pessimism driven by the feeling that no matter how good it gets, at some point, there will be a loss of moral restraint or an unchecked “progress” that leads to the end of us all.

Despite the pessimism, stories like these are not only enjoyed, they are beloved. We fear the idea of “the end” and we love it, too. Despite our pessimism and our fears, these are stories about survivors. And not only survivors, they are here, on this earth. What else can explain this but our undying capacity for hope? Part of this, as author Ann Morisy says, is the “desire” (and I would add expectation) “for a hero who can rescue humankind.”** The other part is the hope that there is somewhere to be rescued to, which at least means a temporary place away from the chaos, but ultimately it is a hope for the reformation or restoration of the ruins. In Fury Road, Furiosa searches the wasteland for her former home, carrying passengers with her who, as she tells Max, are “looking for hope”. Fallout 4 will have building and rebuilding as a primary function of the protagonist, a natural sequel to Fallout 3, which centered on the restoration of the wasteland made possible by the cleansing of the water supply (spoken of in the game as “living water”/the waters of life - pulled directly from Revelation 21:6). This is where knowledge of the overarching, biblical story - Creation/Fall/Redemption/Restoration - becomes essential to our understanding of post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories: Our home has been broken, yet we have hope, we hope for a rescuer, and that rescuer can make things right again.

What makes movies and games like Fury Road and Fallout so compelling is that they act as cautionary tales for us as we ask slightly different questions than those of our sci-fi worlds, the questions asked by everyone alive: “Who am I? Why am I here? What is wrong with the world? How can what is wrong be made right?”*** We recognize that something is wrong, and we may even recognize that something is tied to us.  The difference for Christians is that our hope is for a full restoration of all things to the beauty and perfection intended by our Creator, not simply a reassembly or patching together of the broken pieces to make something like we had “before”, or even something better than we have now. Fury Road concludes by asking: “Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of our better selves?” It is ultimately a question of identity, and a terrifying question, until you find that the answer is in being forever bound to your Rescuer. 


* -  See Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia by Tom Moylan

**-  See Bothered and Bewildered: Enacting Hope in Troubled Times by Ann Morisy

*** -  See The Supremacy of Christ and Truth in a Postmodern World by Voddie Baucham