Apparently, George Miller thought about portraying the Mad Max world in black and white as far back as The Road Warrior. Of course, back then it probably would not have been commercially viable. But with the spectacular success of Fury Road, he finally had the clout and the freedom to bring this alternate vision of the Mad Max universe to life (and without having to make a separate film). In tandem with his vision, Warner Home Entertainment has recently released Mad Max: Fury Road Black & Chrome Edition, which you can purchase alone as a 2-disc Blu-ray or as part of the comprehensive High Octane Collection.
The Black & Chrome edition was quite hyped up in the months leading up to its release, so how does the actual product stack up? Is it shiny and chrome? Will it transport you to Valhalla? Or is it, as Immortan Joe would say, “mediocre”? Well, let’s take a look.
George Miller’s chief colorist Eric Whipp was trusted with the task of painstakingly processing the film in black and white, and he has certainly lived up to the task. The bleakness of the Mad Max world looks even more stark and desolate. And somewhat surprisingly, rather than smear away visual details (as I had initially thought it might), the B&W actually makes you notice certain details even more. The texture of the War Boys’ cakey skin paing, for example, is even more vivid. And the wives’ white dresses make them look almost angelic when contrasted against the arid backdrop of the setting. With the color version, you’re often overwhelmed with the richness of the color palette and the overall beauty of the film to notice subtle nuances like these.
Now, despite all this, and regardless of what Miller might say (and he’s obviously entitled to his own opinion since it’s his film, after all), I don’t think the Black & Chrome version is the best version of Fury Road. Overall, I still prefer the color version, hands down. And I think most other people will too. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves – many aspects of the film really are superior in color. The landscape, the pyrotechnics, the sand storm sequence, the vehicles (especially the vehicles), the guitar flamethrower guy – so many things.
And yet, am I glad this version exists? Hell, yeah. It’s a fascinating way to experience Fury Road. You’ll enjoy it no matter how many times you’ve already seen the movie. And for lovers of B&W cinema, it’s a an absolute must. I just wouldn’t want the B&W version to be the only version available since I love the color version so much (and indeed George Miller had wanted to make the B&W version the primary theatrical release).
“Black and Chrome” comes with the same Dolby Atmos audio track featured on the first Blu-ray release that was released in 2015. I’ve confessed before that I’m not really the best person to review the audio aspects of Blu-ray and DVD releases, and I don’t have a proper setup at home to do justice to these kinds of audio tracks anyway. But as far as I can tell with my limited technical grasp and equipment, it is still every bit the visceral sonic experience that it was meant to be. True audiophiles with the right audio setup should be able to appreciate it exponentially more than I could.
For those who were hoping for a music-only audio track so that they could experience Fury Road as a kind of modern silent film, sorry, you’re out of luck with that one. I agree it would have been pretty cool, though.
I gotta say, Black and Chrome is a bit lacking when it comes to features and extras. The package is your standard 2 disc case with no slipcover. Contained inside is a Blu-ray disc of the original version with all the same special features from the previous Blu-ray release. The second disc is the Black and Chrome, but the only added feature is an optional intro by George Miller that’s a just over a minute. That’s all. And there is no digital copy or DVD included with this release.
There is no doubt that Mad Max: Fury Road Black & Chrome is very cool and I’m confident that the vast majority of viewers will think so too. The main question is not whether it’s cool but whether it’s worth it or not to slap down another 25 bucks for it, especially given that most serious Mad Max fans, and even probably most casual fans, probably already have the 2015 Blu-ray. That question can only be answered by each individual fan. For many, it will be worth it. For myself, I can say that if I hadn’t received a review copy I would have probably just downloaded a digital viewing copy off of Amazon, especially given the shortage of new special features. The option to just buy the Black & Chrome disc separately for a cheaper price would also have been nice.
If you don’t have the 2015 Blu-ray, then the Fury Road Black & Chrome Blu-ray is definitely worth a buy. And if for some odd reason you don’t have any of the Mad Max films on Blu-ray, then the Mad Max High Octane Collection may be worth considering (and would look fabulous under any Christmas tree). For everyone else, though, it will have to be a matter of personal preference. If you’re a die-hard collector, by all means you should get it.
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish