Wondering what the next big thing in science fiction will be? Wonder no more. Hollywood hotshot Robert Pattinson has just delivered his biggest movie yet: Mad Max: Fury Road. The film pits a small group of post-apocalyptic survivors against a gang of insane road warriors bent on destruction.

The movie itself was not a total surprise. We all knew it was coming. Director George Miller had hinted as much in an interview with Empire magazine, saying that he had planned for the fourth installment in the Mad Max franchise to be “more of a thriller” than a road movie. That seems to have manifested itself in the opening minutes of the film, which see our hero pulled off the road and left for dead. But the fact that Miller could deliver a suspenseful opening sequence makes Mad Max: Fury Road a movie that feels more relevant than ever before. The question is: does this mean that Hollywood is officially embracing the post-apocalyptic genre?

Miller’s Influence

What is interesting about Miller’s impact on the genre is how he was able to walk the line between what we consider “classic” Mad Max movies and what is quintessential to the character. On the one hand, you have Max, the hard drinking, womanizing, hot-headed protagonist who literally embodies the spirit of the post-apocalyptic world; on the other, you have his nemesis, Imperator Furiosa, a fierce warrior who holds her own against a whole army of opponents (one of whom is played by Tom Hardy). It is a fascinating tension that Miller was able to pull off masterfully.

It’s About More Than Just Road Trips

While it is true that Mad Max: Fury Road is mostly a road movie, the scope and depth of it would not be possible without the interplay between the characters. Max is a man of action who can’t sit still for long, constantly looking for the next adventure, the next woman, or the next drink. Imperator Furiosa sees herself as a mother figure to the group of people that she is transporting across the post-apocalyptic wasteland. She is committed to protecting their lives and teaching them how to be responsible and self-sufficient members of society. The plot of the movie hinges on a struggle for power as the leaders of two rival gangs fight for control of the remnants of society. It’s a story that feels very much rooted in current events: climate change and its aftermath.

Signs of the Times

It is interesting to see how the times we live in have influenced this latest installment in the Mad Max series. One of the most telling instances happens near the end of the movie, when Max, who has just been defeated by Imperator Furiasa, lies motionless on the ground and she decides to take him home to die. With nowhere else to go, Max accepts his fate, as we see a vision of the future: a world that is not so different from our own. The only difference is that there are no cars. Instead, there are hover bikes and airships that zip around the landscape delivering supplies to those that need it. The vision is both poetic and haunting at the same time.

What was most striking about this vision of the future is that it came from within the film. The directors had toyed with the idea of a post-apocalyptic setting for years, but it was not something that interested them. That changed in 2015 when they finally got the go-ahead to make the movie with producer Peter Belyi, who had previously worked on The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. “It was only then that we decided to do it,” says Belyi. “The idea of the future without cars seemed a bit more interesting to us.” That’s when they began seriously considering the idea of a post-apocalyptic setting and how they could possibly translate that into a visual style.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The question is: where does this leave us as science fiction fans? Does this mean that we can now officially say goodbye to our beloved cars? It seems that George Miller and the rest of the Mad Max team would like us to think so. In a conversation with Vulture in January, Miller was asked about the future of the franchise and he had this to say:

“That’s a really good question,” said Miller. “The answer is that we don’t know yet… There is certainly a place for Mad Max in cinema history, and I think it’s fair to say that George has written a finale that will be remembered by both fans and moviegoers alike. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll even see a Mad Max musical!”

So there you have it — a possible future for the Mad Max movies. No more lonely road trips for the star powered vehicles! What an excellent opportunity to bring the characters we love into the future, even if it is just in our imagination.