I hate it when THIS happens: I hear about a film or I see a trailer and it looks awesome. Full of promise. There’s a long lead-up to the film’s release. The anticipation builds. The marketing campaign hits the gas. The film FINALLY releases…and it sucks. There’ve been a few of these (lookin at YOU guys, ‘Phantom Menace’ and ‘Crystal Skull’!) and…’Mad Max: Fury Road’ is…SURE AS HELL NOT ONE OF THOSE MOVIES! Holy shit! This movie’s an absolute blast! Now ordinarily I would go out of my way to abstain from delving too deeply into the other reviews of an anticipated film (to make sure my kneejerkreaction is ALL mine), but for whatever reason, I just…kept…reading them. The avalanche of good-will toward this piece of cinematic genius was impressive. As many of you MAY note, this review MAY sound like I’m simply leaping onto the ‘Crazy Praise for Mad Max 4’ bandwagon…and in a respect, you’re not far off. However, I’ve waited literally years for this film, and now that I’ve walked out of it, just an hour ago, I’m a happy friggin camper!
Prior to this loud, feast-for-the-eyes orgy of awesome destruction, ‘Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior'(1981) was EASILY my favorite of the original Mad Max Trilogy. There’s an unsettling under-current to it; something festering just below the ‘surface’ of the film…like a ‘madness’, I suppose you could say, if you want to be all ‘ keeping with the theme’ about it. It does portray a hostile and sick world-gone-mad universe and the struggles of a grieving-but-dangerous loner, searching for some kind of refuge from his turbulent and tragic past…and it does so with an interesting, hard-edged ‘flavour’. That, and the fact that EVERY TIME I watch it…I’m friggin amazed that no one died horribly in the making! Sure, some very brave (or foolish) stuntmen got kinda broken, but no one actually met their Maker while portraying crazed, S+M clad lunatics leaping from speeding vehicles, that constantly crashed into each other and often shattered in the process. The other two Mad Max flicks, ‘Mad Max’ (1979) and ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ (1985) are both very cool in their own ways too, but until now, ‘Mad Max 2’ always crossed the Finish line first. Till today.
As I mentioned, this movie is incredible. Despite having probably over-dosed on media pertaining to this one prior to actually seeing it, I was riveted to the screen…even with the sleeping asshole behind me kicking my seat (Sleeping at a Mad Max flick?!!! Are you kidding me, dude?!!!), and the screen going black on a key scene of high-speed carnage (they got it back up n running after a few minutes of quiet darkness…yay free tickets!). I was caught right up in the gnarly world that originating director George Miller (‘Babe’) has dreamed up and painted on the screen for us.
The story is mercifully simple. In an undetermined post-apocalyptic future (apparently taking place between ‘Mad Max 2’ and ‘Thunderdome’), in the scorched deserts of the Australian Outback, ‘Max’ (Tom Hardy, replacing Mel Gibson), a former cop-turned-survivor, finds himself captured by a marauding squad of ‘War Boys’, to be ‘harvested’. While in their clutches, he finds himself inadvertently caught up in a dangerous ‘difference of opinion’ between a fierce, cult-like monster of a tyrant named ‘Immortan Joe’ (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and one of his supply convoy drivers, ‘Imperator Furiosa’ (Charlize Theron). Seems that ‘Joe’ was maintaining a small harem of ‘wives’, intent on laying his seed for an heir…whether they wanted it or not. ‘Furiosa’ very daringly escaped with the ‘wives’ and ‘Joe’s not happy about it. As she tears across the desert, her path crosses with ‘Max’ and after some violence and mistrust, finds herself teaming up with the mono-syllabic ‘Man with No Name’, to fend of the vicious attacks from not just ‘Joe’s lunatic army of ‘War Boys’, but also goons from both ‘The Bullet Farm’ and ‘Gastown’; not to mention a crew of pissed-off ‘Rock Riders’.
For a story that wasn’t even scripted (it was story-boarded from beginning to end instead), there’s actually some very nice characterization that emerges. Theron’s ‘Furiosa’ is a determined bad-ass, and the beautiful actress lends some heart to the grim, high-octane proceedings. She’s doing what she does because she’s a human being, and needs to do what she feels is right. You ‘get’ that from her character. There’s also the surprising depth to the character of ‘Nux’ (Nicolas Hoult), and I wish there’d been more. “Nux’ is a sickly, teenage ‘War Boy’, who just wants to do his part for ‘Joe’; as one of his pursuit drivers. Circumstances put ‘Nux’ into a situation where he’s forced to look around himself a bit differently, and due to the emotional reaction he finds himself having, opts to change his ways. Hoult did a damn fine job with a character that could’ve simply been another one dimensional piece of road fodder. There were a couple times where I felt genuine sympathy for the character.
The Acting is commendable, and is what it needs to be, for this story. Of course, when people found out that Gibson wasn’t turning up for this one, and Tom Hardy (‘The Dark Knight Rises’) was taking up the mantle, natural skepticism reared it’s ugly head. However, I think Hardy came in and effectively made this ‘Max’ his own. He does grunt a lot in the film’s first half, but begins to articulate as the film (and his humanity) races on. Theron is great and will more than likely go down as one of the Ultimate Female Action Movie bad-asses, like ‘Ripley’ or ‘Sarah Connor’ (as other reviewers have wisely pointed out). And to those ignorant dip-shits who got their fur up because they somehow saw this ‘extended chase’ action-fantasy movie as pushing some nefarious feminist agenda….GO TO HELL!. What EXACTLY is the problem with promoting strong female characters in fiction?! Oh right…NOTHING!! Women (and us dumb males) need more genuinely cool female characters in genre flicks (and in the world, in general). So shut your ignorant mouths and go get spoon-fed some mind-numbingly insulting shit, like ‘Hot Pursuit’ or friggin ‘Pitch Perfect 2’. You assholes. But I digress.
Special mention MUST go out to the stunt people on this one. Rumor has it that something astounding, like 85-90%, of the stunts we see are practical, ‘in-camera’ effects and illusions. I had the same reaction here that I get whenever ‘The Road Warrior’ plays…a number of times, actually. The whole ‘How the hell are you people NOT dead?!’ reaction. There’s a slew of insane crashes, explosions, fights, gun battles and flying, shattering vehicles…and allegedly ALMOST all REAL! (you know what I mean, smartasses!) That’s where a movie like this will stand the Test of Time against some ‘Fast and Furious’ bullshit that will undoubtedly be showing it’s age in just a few years. Pixels betray themselves on-screen. A crashing, exploding car is a crashing, exploding car…and that’s ALWAYS going to be cool.
Mentioning the surprisingly high percentage of actual stunt / effect work, that’s not to say that there ISN’T any CGI present. There is. There has to be, to show things like otherworldly sand and lightning storms or a rock-carved Citadel that spews great torrents of water on command. But the graphics were merely extensions of what’s already there, on film. It’s really well done!
Having said that, I’ll mention that we (my girlfriend and another couple of our friends) saw this in 3D. I think that you’ll still have a kick-ass time in 2D, but so much awesomeness was nicely enhanced with the third dimension that I have to stress that it’s worth the extra $3 for the experience. There’s nice depth in the presentation and being thrust into midst of the chaotic vehicular maelstrom was exciting as hell. I caught myself all tensed up a couple of times. It’s worth it.
The Sound Design is all kinds of cool! The gunfire has a nice ‘thudding boom’ quality to it, while the various and frequent explosions come at you like a punch in the gut. Engine sounds, naturally, were given some serious attention, and you feel it every time one races past on screen.
The World Building for the story was terrific and made me want more, which hopefully we’ll get in the sequel (fingers crossed). Seeing how things worked in The Citadel only left me with more, intriguing questions about the infa-structure, resources and hierarchy; not to mention the hinted-at-but-not-witnessed relationship with ‘The Bullet Farm’ and ‘Gastown’.
If I had to bitch about something, there were a couple of scenes that felt like something was missing; as in ‘hit the Cutting Room floor’ missing. One in particular leaps to mind, as we see our heroes encounter a challenging natural obstacle, that obviously impedes their progress…then they’re off! Like it never happened. It felt a little jarring. The opening of the film could’ve been slowed down a bit too. It would’ve been nice to see a bit more of ‘Max’s life as a ‘survivor of the wasteland’, not to mention a bit more information about why he was set upon in the first place. If we’re lucky, maybe some of this will be rectified in an extended Director’s Cut (yes, please!). However, given the gnarly momentum of the film, I guess they may have just wanted to get to the meat of the chase as soon as possible. If so, all good, cuz it was all fantastic.
All in all, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ was pretty much exactly what I hoped it would be and, frankly, what I expected it to be. I had a good feeling from the first teaser trailer. It’s a slick continuation / modernizing of a 80’s-born action franchise and it’s one that director George Miller obviously put some thought and effort into. It also helps that Warner Bros. were good enough to put $150 000 000 worth of faith into The Man, and let him get his strange and kinetic vision right, at long last. I love what Miller has done with the world he began creating back in 1979 and I really, REALLY hope that this movie does well enough to warrant a sequel. Hell, aim for a trilogy, George!! Gibson got 3, now it’s Hardy’s turn! I said to my buddy, after the flick, that I’d love to eventually see ‘Max’ encounter trouble in the burned-out, sand-blasted remains of an Australian city, not just keep the vehicular carnage out among the dunes and worn-down country roads. But for now, I’m going to ignore the fact that goddamn ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ managed to beat ‘Mad Max’ at the box office this weekend. Seriously, people…what the hell?! Go see ‘Fury Road’!! It has great, interesting characters, crazy inventive vehicles, a rich ‘world’ that leaves you wanting to know more, a simple story with heart…and some of the most bat-shit crazy stunt-work that you’ve probably ever seen!! It’s like a high-speed Smash-Em-Up derby with explosive harpoons and grappling hooks, along with dozens of weird, nasty characters being smashed, shot, stabbed, run down, thrown or blown up through various desert apocalypse environments. It carries a solid R-rating, but doesn’t abuse it. It doesn’t go SO far over the top with the content as to seem gratuitous, even though MANY scenes and details just beg for it. If you’re a fan of the original trilogy or if you’ve never encountered them but enjoy a good action movie (that’s not an insulting Michael Bay-like mess), I think there’s something here for you (go encounter the originals!). Hell, even my awesome girlfriend, who normally doesn’t care for ‘boy’ movies like this, liked this one more than she thought she would. So Ladies! And Gentlemen!! GO SEE ‘MAD MAX: FURY ROAD’! It really is pretty damn amazing.
“I live! I die!…I LIVE AGAIN!!”