Within hours of Mad Max: Fury Road opening I saw this headline:
The Best Character In Movie History, The Flamethrower Guitarist From ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ Has An Origin Story
and I groaned. Not at the hyperbole of the statement - I have friends who think this guy, The Doof Warrior, is the Jar Jar of the Mad Max series (no one show them Thunderdome), but I think he's amazing - but rather at the idea that we're already looking for the backstory. We already want the origin.
I'm afraid that in the coming months and years I'm going to see the exquisite purity of Fury Road's world get muddied by this sort of thing - the oppressive search for the backstory. George Miller has a bunch of Mad Max: Fury Road comics lined up, and I'm sure there will be fanfic and follow-ups. After all, Miller has said that there was a detailed history written for everything in the film, which is part of the reason why the world is so alive.
But that life gets snuffed when we try to pin it down, to diagram it, to dissect it and examine it from every angle inside and out. The Doof Warrior is the 21st century Boba Fett - he looks awesome, he gets involved with the story just enough, and that's all we need. It's the desire to focus on Boba Fett, to give him a backstory and a tragic history, that watered him down. The mysterious figure steps out of the shadows and... he's some kid whose dad was the template for a clone army. Huh. The iconic bounty hunter was suddenly brought down to earth, reduced completely.
The Doof Warrior is the most specific example of this - if you love Fury Road you love every time this insane character shows up onscreen, and you sort of want more of him. But George Miller gives you just enough - you always want to be left slightly wanting with guys like that, the tertiary flavor characters. Go too deep and you Boba Fett them. There are other characters, other props, other ideas that elicit the same sort of 'What's the deal with that?' reaction, which is the greatest reaction you can have to worldbuilding. But going deeper isn't always a good idea?
Take for example Furiosa. A friend of mine texted me after she saw the movie and asked why Furiosa was seeking redemption. This led to an interesting discussion about the film's themes and the role that a woman like Furiousa plays in propping up a vicious patriarchy. We used the text and the subtext of the film to examine and parse this one line of dialogue, to fill it with meaning that came from within the film but also that came from our experience of watching it. That's better than any prequel story can be, better than any tale that fills in the gaps and shows exactly why Furiosa wants redemption, that shows her complicit in kidnapping the wives from wherever they lived before. And there are comics coming that might fill in that story, and I think that's just a bad, bad idea.
I get wanting more - that's the nature of fandom. But sometimes not getting that more is the best thing that can happen to us. My happiest years with Star Wars were the ones where all I had were the movies and the toys, and there was no Expanded Universe or Wookiepedia or canon - just what I saw in screen, what I could hold in my hand and what I could imagine in my head. Every time the backstory of a Hammerhead or a Lobot was explored, the area I had to play in got smaller and more constricted. Yes, we want to know more, but sometimes knowing more leads us to experiencing it less. What had been an exercise in the imagination turns into a rote recital of facts and figures. What had been mythic becomes mundane.
So yeah, there's an origin story for The Doof Warrior. George Miller thought it all through because he wanted to create a world that was consistent and full. And when asked in an interview, he answered. But I don't think you should read about it. I don't think you should close off that patch of your imagination. Where was The Doof Warrior before Fury Road started? Where did he come from? Who is he? All of that should belong to you, and you shouldn't let anyone take it away.