Australia is about as large as the United States. Even if some people did make it to the coast, there is room for Fury Road to be about the people who stayed behind, preferring the certainty of the Citadel and its water pumps to the possibility of unnuked yet habitable territory elsewhere.
I believe that in the world of Mad Max there is no coast because the seas are actually gone. In the film when they talk about loading up the bikes and driving across the salt flats for 160 days, those salt flats are actually where the ocean was. I haven’t read the comics or played the computer game but apparently thats the backstory, there are pictures of the Sydney opera house in the middle of a desert.
Whether the numbers make sense or the seas disappearing makes sense or not, thats the world imagined for the films, so, they can’t just sail to New Zealand.
I was under the impression that “the salt” was an extremely receded Pacific Ocean. How that happens, I don’t know (I’m pretty sure that’s impossible, at least in any manner that would preserve human habitability, but the internal logic of the movies is not necessarily consistent). The women say they had enough supplies to ride across the desert for 160 days, and Max was certain they’d still end up in the middle of nowhere. You can walk across the USA in 6 months!
Now, who knows what Max really knows (or doesn’t).
It’s not even all that clear that “Fury Road” takes place in Australia. It wasn’t filmed there, there is no reference to it taking place there, not everyone has an Australian accent, and it seems to exist in a universe somewhat different from the other Mad Max films.
That was my impression as well. Or that there wasn’t any “best land” left anywhere and that the only advantage to being on the coast would be that you have a nice view of the ocean. Or if there is, this isn’t a story about the people who live there. It’s a story about the people who live in what became a wasteland.
I feel I should point out that a major plot element of Mad Max 2, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Mad Max: Fury Road is a group of people attempting to find a better place to live.
It’s not even all that clear the Fury Road takes place on Earth. The first three films had very different tones, but they had clear ties back to 20th century civilization. Even if it was just the remnants of highways and road signs. My only major beef with Fury Road was that this seems to be a world where every trace of 20th century civilization was wiped clean from the Earth (except for the vehicles).
I disagree - most of the culture of the Citadel and (from what we can tell from the leaders) the Bullet Farm and Gas Town is heavily based on fetishizing specific remnants of the world that was. The psuedo-military decorations, the personalized armors and vehicle decorations, even the scarification all have references to our current world. I can’t find an image on a cursory search, but one of the polecats even has a creepy-ass baby doll on his helmet.
The culture is extremely heavily vehicle-based, but not exclusively so.
Plus IIRC, all the vehicles except for Max’s car are left-hand drive. So a somewhat fanwanky explanation is that the first three movies take place in Australia, but Max has since journeyed out across the dry ocean basins to somewhere else where they once drove on the left.
Of course, I like the theory that the Mad Max movies are some sort of oral tradition, with the first film being a only-slightly-exaggerated account of something that actually happened just before the apocalypse, but all the subsequent ones being conjured by storytellers around post-apocalyptic campfires inventing new situations for the popular Mad Max figure to get involved in. Hence the lack of any particular plot consistency between the films and their increasing zaniness. So perhaps with Fury Road that particular bit of folklore has crossed the ocean and the storyteller is from somewhere else. Or maybe it was just cheaper to shoot in Namibia.
In the game, it’s very obvious that the oceans are gone. Well, for one thing Max actually says “all the water is gone” but, beyond that, people live in the hulking ruins of cargo ships beached near where the coastline would have been. Beyond that is just endless expanses of salt flat where the ocean had gone away and left nothing.
The franchise never really says where all the water went – nuclear war, global warming, whatever – which works just as well since you don’t pick apart why nuclear war wouldn’t do that. You just accept for the Mad Max story that all the water is gone because it is.
In the game, people set out water collectors to harvest enough dew to survive. In the film, I assume the water comes from some deep underground water table unaffected by whatever boiled away the oceans.
Just a note…the nukes didn’t drop until between Road Warrior and Thunderdome.
Mad Max is set at the beginning of a cultural collapse due to gas shortages.
Road Warrior is the culmination of that and a conventional war (also caused by - and exacerbating - the gas shortages).
Beyond Thunderdome brings with it the first mention of nuclear weapons (presumably a failed Hail Mary by the major powers in the war), and the results thereof (irradiated water, specifically).