As depicted in an early piece of key art, it's a world that Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) wants to keep an eye on. His car here is perched on an overlook, reminiscent of a scene in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior; it's a desolate and distancing shot, which is exactly what Max wants in his world of isolation and fury.
Max spends some time in the Citadel, ruled by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). From outward appearances, it's a refuge for its many inhabitants, a mob that is fine living in close proximity to each other, bearing more than a little resemblance to Fritz Lang's Metropolis. But it's also more of a cave community, where people have the protection of the natural environment yet also can look out upon the world outside through large openings …
… which marks it as a contrast to the refinery in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, completely open to the elements yet trapping community members inside the guarded exterior and Bartertown in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, where most of the people must work underground.
Furiosa (Charlize Theron) escapes early by driving a War Rig via "fury road," a path through the barren wasteland. Furiosa is at home in the cab of the vehicle as much as Max was ever at home in the world of his V-8 Pursuit Special. Really, it's a home away from home, where she knows every button and switch like the back of her hand.
After Furiosa and Max team up, they must negotiate with another group of survivors who live (and defend fiercely) a canyon settlement. This is where the movie most resembles a classic Western, like John Ford's The Searchers, where cowboys were bound to be attacked by the savage Indians (sic), the jagged stone walls containing a multitude of hiding places for the combatants. (Photo above only hints at the canyon settlement.)
And there we must now leave our exploration of Mad Max: Fury Now, as sad as that makes us, for to venture further would mean traveling too far into spoiler territory. But we can't help but think about great wastelands, depicted in other cinematic tales of the future.
Before everything broke down, Max and his family could enjoy some idyll time. But back on the road, things were getting fiery.
A Boy and His Dog
L.Q. Jones interpreted Harlan Ellison's story in the person of Don Johnson, and it was a barren wasteland indeed.
In the same year as Star Wars came this horrid view of the future. Note the "sky" and, of course, the very realistic giant insects. Still, it was a lot of nothing in the post-apocalyptic world.
Joseph Kosinski and his collaborators made their desolate future quite pretty; it's more like a lovely desert than a true wasteland.
The Book of Eli
Ah, this is more like it.
From the sublimely realized to the ridiculous. Not all wastelands need to be deserts, you see, as long as you have Kevin Costner.
Speaking of whom, the mail still needs to be delivered, even if nothing else remains in this wasteland of America.
Planet of the Apes
Finally, a reminder that the wasteland is a nice place to visit, but no one wants to live there.