Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015.
Directed by George Miller.
Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Nathan Jones, Megan Gale, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Josh Helman, Jennifer Hagan, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Courtney Easton.
In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.
When George Miller said that Mad Max: Fury Road would be a two-hour long car chase, he wasn’t lying. There are maybe three or four moments serving as downtime between action sequences, allowing Miller to further the plot (which is actually quite fun and doesn’t bog down the exhilarating road rage) and develop his characters. The ratio of action to story is still intentionally one-sided, but what’s most remarkable is that not a second of Mad Max: Fury Road is wasted or feels superfluous. It’s a rollercoaster ride from the very start and is destined to be remembered not just as a successful resurrection of the Mad Max franchise (there hasn’t been an entry in 30 years) but one of the most unique blockbuster films in recent memory.
In an age where CGI and computer effects dominate the presentation of these Hollywood epics, Mad Max: Fury Road takes a risky approach for the modern era by using practical effects. As a matter of fact, over 80% of the movie uses practical effects, and it shows. There’s an early scene where Immortan Joe (a tyrannical leader of a wasteland citadel played by Hugh Keays-Byrne) is being fitted with his war armor, and it’s impossible to not notice disgusting lumps, severely unhealthy skin conditions, and more. The scene only lasts about 10 seconds but is enough to showcase that some serious work went into the costume and makeup effects, and leave the impression that the rest of the movie is going to be one hell of a visual treat.
Undoubtedly people are coming for the carmageddon chaos, but the design of Mad Max: Fury Road oozes a personality that is often missing from Hollywood blockbusters. It’s evident that George Miller is putting forth maximum effort into this production, painting an unrestrained canvas of crazy. For a wasteland the movie is filled with a wide array of colors, whether it be on clothing, armor, vehicles, and even flares. Instead of packing the movie with one type of enemy, there is a variety to them and their tactics; like dudes with flamethrowers attached to their guitars, or dudes with poles rigged to their vehicles that vault them all over the skies. The movie never sticks to our heroes battling one group for too long, constantly shaking it up so each battle is free from repetition.
Thanks to this very distinct and often ludicrous approach to the world building and characters, by association the frantic and chaotic chase sequences, feel, well mad. Even though admittedly some of the action gets so wild it can become slightly incoherent (I still have no idea exactly how the villain met his demise), what is going on is ridiculously ambitious, coming across as a spectacle that needs to be witnessed. The violence is also shot from a healthy amount of angles (distance shots, close-ups, first-person shots, and even some beautiful shots off in the distance from the side) making the cinematography of Mad Max: Fury Road incredibly tight. No shortcuts or tricks were taken to make filming the carnage easy, resulting in something that is not only intense but marvelous to ogle.
Normally I don’t advocate 3-D, but George Miller definitely makes good use of it here, to the point where it actually enhances the experience. There’s something about seeing pounds of dirt bounce up in your face and desert heat radiating off the screen that surprisingly works without interfering with the movie. There is also a money-shot towards the end when so much destruction is flying at your face you may hit the deck out of instinct. Normally 3-D just feels there or isn’t very noticeable, but here it becomes another part of a fantastic whole.
It also helps that Tom Hardy makes for a pretty good Max that is able to capture his very guarded personality and mental struggles of coming to terms with the death of his family. There will be some diehard fans that will always prefer Mel Gibson, but it can’t be denied that Tom Hardy delivers in the role. The supporting cast is also easy to like and filled with quirky characters, like Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who will do anything to impress his comically over-the-top villainous leader Immortan Joe. Charlize Theron also gives a fine performance as Furiousa, the battle hardened rebel smuggling out Joe’s breeders in hopes of finding sanctuary for everyone back in her homeland. She sells the hell out of the role with her shaven head, and generally looks like a total badass amongst all of the mayhem.
It also must be noted that during the brief instances of peace, all of our protagonists receive some minor character development, and are all brought together by a common theme of redemption. That’s not to say the story is high art, but when there are motives driving the characters in their action sequences everything comes much more alive and is easier to get lost in. Even the breeders being carried have their moments to shine, when they easily could have been relegated to the eye-candy that they initially appear to be.
While I would say that Mad Max: Fury Road is readily accessible to those not familiar with the franchise, the self-contained story can get a little confusing at times. It’s not surprising because the original cut was over two hours, meaning that more of the exposition and plot details are axed, but it’s still frustrating when some minor things get a little lost in the shuffle. In the end it’s not too bothersome considering the amount of satisfaction you will get from the wild ride, but it still exists as a minor problem.
Before closing this out it also needs to be mentioned that the sound design, mixing, and soundtrack for Mad Max: Fury Road are intense, upping the intensity of every single beat of action. There seems to be a running theme where trailers will use the best piece of music for the film in the trailer, but not actually have it in the movie. That isn’t the case here as the heart-pounding battle music from the trailer kicks in numerous times. The soundtrack also feels incredibly unique when you have heavy metal blaring from flamethrower guitars and drums pounding from battle-criers blasting in conjunction with the original music.
Everything about Mad Max: Fury Road comes across as the antithesis to the modern blockbuster. It is a bloody violent R-rated action flick using the cinematic tricks of yesteryear to create something that can fit in wonderfully alongside what has now been accepted as the standard. Mad Max: Fury Road is that rare successful franchise resurrection; it is an 80s action film with the budget of a modern era film and cinematography so mind-blowing it feels as if it was filmed with technology from the future.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook