When news of Mad Max: Fury Road first hit, I had no idea what to expect, never having even heard of the old movies with Mel Gibson. Furthermore, I didn’t even care to think about what to expect. Then rave review upon rave review started rolling in and I decided to check out this Mad Max thing. Oh man, I’m so glad I did. Basically every good thing about this movie you’ve heard is absolutely true.
Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy, taking over the role from Gibson) is a wanderer in a post-apocalyptic desert. Right at the start of the film he gets kidnapped by a weird cult that uses him as a “blood bag,” keeping one of the members of the cult, called “War Boys,” alive. While being held captive by the cult, he witnesses the revolt of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), as she escapes with the leader’s, Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne), wives/sex slaves. Max eventually joins forces with Furiosa, along with the war boy he was keeping alive, Nux (Nicholas Hoult), to take down Immortan Joe who has a monopoly on the water keeping his followers alive.
One can get deep with this film, even though it is an action movie it feels more like an allegory or a myth. The biggest criticism that I’ve read of this movie is that there isn’t much of a story and there isn’t hardly any dialogue. I see where this is coming from, but I don’t think Miller needed either of those things to tell the story he wanted to. Yes, the story is very simple, but that means he doesn’t need a ton of dialogue to explain things. I really appreciated that, just being thrown into this totally foreign world without any handholding explanations. That’s something rare these days. Even though I suppose Fury Road builds on the other Mad Max films so people might not need as much explanation, the fact remains that more people that have no idea what the trilogy is are seeing this film and being thrown straight into it (like I was). And Miller makes it work.
As I was saying, there are a lot of opportunities in this relatively simple story to go deeper. The most talked about part of the film is its surprisingly feminist agenda, which is obviously nice to see. The real hero of the story is Theron’s Furiosa, and her goal is to save the female victims of Immortan Joe. Not that they are simply damsels in distress however; they contribute greatly to their own escape. Then there is a badasss tribe of nomadic old lady bikers they meet up with in the desert and join forces with. I do have to point out, no matter how much Furiosa takes center stage, it’s not like Max doesn’t do anything. He’s just more in a position of a helper instead of leading the charge himself, but it’s clear they make a good team and the mutual respect is great to see. There’s also an environmentalist message to be had here, but let’s not forget the most important aspect of the movie.
The action. Almost the whole film is a car chase, which is not something I’d expect to enjoy as much as I did. Miller and cinematographer John Seale film it in such an exciting and engrossing way, and I at least did care a lot about these characters, so I was engrossed in it the entire time. I’m pretty sure they varied the frame rate, at least in the beginning, and I thought that was a very interesting way to keep the audience engaged. Miller also builds in a lot of contrast to the action, there are some quieter moments when the action stops that just took my breath away. Having a place to stop and breathe helps you appreciate the intensity of the action car chase scenes that much more.
The film looks wonderful. I’ve had a soft spot for stuff filmed in the desert ever since I first saw Lawrence of Arabia, and it’s great to see that someone is actually still willing to go to the desert and film there instead of just green screening everything. The practical effects and location shooting are some of the best things in this film. The desert looks fantastic here; it’s worth seeing in the theater just for this reason alone and the colors are breathtaking.
Speaking of the desert, let me just close with a comparison. When I read the book Dune, I imagined a world a bit like this. Not the car chases obviously, but the weird villains, strange language, and the desert are all commonalities. David Lynch’s Dune should have been something like this film. Lynch is one of the most visionary directors around, but for whatever reason, Miller has a stronger sense of a strange desert culture than Lynch did. Though the style is different, the world building is kind of similar, only it all fits together in a way that Dune never did. It’s kind of a strange comparison, but I couldn’t help drawing it after seeing the film.
Mad Max: Fury Road was a fantastic movie. Really, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s rare that a big budget summer blockbuster is this engrossing, with a directorial vision of a world that feels this unique. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an action movie this much, maybe never. Please go see this movie if you haven’t already, because I haven’t said this since Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I need this movie to make enough money for a sequel. I saw it in 3D and even that was good. The two hours will fly by; I really can’t recommend this movie enough.
“Who killed the world?”
Long story short: 3.5/4 stars
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