One of the 8 million Academy Awards (rough approximation) that Mad Max: Fury Road is nominated for this year is for sound editing. While the sound, along with pretty much the rest of Fury Road was top notch, it turns out that part of what made it so great are the things you probably didn’t notice. In addition to the sounds of rumbling engines and exploding trucks, sound designer Mark Mangini added animal sounds to the mix, in order to give specifically the famous War Rig a life of its own.
Mangini tells The Frame that he envisioned Immortan Joe’s chase of the War Rig as analogous to Captain Ahab chasing the White Whale in Moby Dick. With that idea as inspiration, he went to work giving the Rig a sound all its own. Eventually this led to the idea of the War Rig as White Whale becoming no longer simply a symbol and instead it became an actual whale, using real whale calls when possible. Mangini explained,
We wanted to personify it as this giant, growling, breathing, roaring beast. It had to be grounded in reality, but we wanted it to be more than that, so we designed whale sounds to play underneath all those truck sounds to embody the real sounds and to personify it.
After that revelation, Mark Mangini went on to point out that the whale sounds weren’t the only thing that makes the hunt feel like a 19th century whaling expedition. Near the end of the movie, the war boys actually begin to use harpoons on the War Rig in order to take it down. This led to additional whale sounds as well. At points in which the harpoons actually piece the Rig’s hull, milk sprays out, and the sounds whale blowholes were used here to help enhance the sound. For the movies main characters, nearly the entire film is spent on board the War Rig. It’s as much as part of the movie as Max and Furiosa themselves. The attacks on the vehicle feel as visceral as any injury to the humans. Now we have an idea why.
Of course, now we need to go watch the movie again to see if we can spot the whale sounds added to the soundtrack. While they’re probably not distinguishable over all the other sounds that the movie is full of, we can’t argue that they add an extra something to the movie’s overall feeling. Apparently it’s ideas like this that separate the Oscar nominees from everybody else when it comes to sound editing. Watch the clip below and see if you can make out any of the specialty sounds included in bringing the War Rig to life:
Mad Max: Fury Road will have solid competition for the Sound Editing Oscar. The film is up against The Martian, Sicario, The Revenant and a little film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We’ll see how it all shakes out when the Academy Awards are held on February 28th.