Finally, the movie event of the year that everyone should enjoy; oops, nope, “Pitch Perfect 2” came out and everyone went to go see that….oh well. Anywho, this is for everyone who actually went to go see “Mad Max: Fury Road” and this is going to be a gushing review of how awesome it is, how great it is, and how important it is to modern film not only for artistic purposes but socially as well. Full disclosure, I really like the first “Pitch Perfect” but I never expected the buzzsaw it would become with the sequel. Enough of that crap, let’s go to the Max.
“Fury Road” is easy to explain on the surface; there is a tyrant who is holding all the resources from a down-trodden people in a post-apocalyptic future. Resources are stolen from tyrant who goes on the hunt for his resources across a vast wasteland. Hero who steals resources becomes unlikely allies with other people who have similar ambitions and goals. Come the end, justice prevails and evil is vanquished. Of course, just explaining “Fury Road” this way is an injustice of how great a film we have right in front of us that people will likely overlook in a crowded summer full of other action popcorn flick, girls singing, and superheroes the size of ants. Again, I’m not pooping on “Pitch Perfect” I am simply making a point here.
Tom Hardy plays the titular Mad Max, a nomad in a hostile land on the run from marauders looking to turn him into a resource for overlord, Immortan Joe and his War Boys. On the other side you have Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, in a role that will studied by scholars and film snobs alike. Furiosa is a trusted driver of Joe who takes it upon herself to take his “property” or his five wives, to a place that may or may not exist, The Green Place. Along for the ride is a wayward War Boy named Nux, played by Nicholas Hoult, who goes from the gates of Valhalla to finding his own redemption.
As holds true with the Mad Max series, the villains standout as insane despots with tons of style and a great mythic quality that deserves more fleshing out. Immortan Joe and his family, including Rictus Erectus, are a sight to behold, as well as The Bullet Farmer and The People Eater (just the names alone are worth the price of admission). The only villain that comes close personality wise is Lord Humungus from “The Road Warrior” and while the villains are villainous, there is also a certain understanding and sadness to their evil. Good and evil isn’t black and white in this film, there are many shades of grey.
My one tiny little gripe, okay, two gripes, are as follows; if you are the normal moviegoer who isn’t into too much critical thinking, this film might put you off. Yes, there are tons of explosions and chases, but without much dialogue, a lot of the characters and their motives aren’t spelled out. The performances are nuanced, and the dialogue scarce, so when something is said it’s normally important and deliberate, which might be a turn off to some people. The other gripe, and this is more of a style choice, is the blatant 3D effect used at the end of the climatic chase sequence. Like I’ve said time and time again, 3D is not needed in film, it adds nothing to the story, and is a gimmick that needs to go away. I almost feel like this was a studio decision that director, George Miller, had to abide by in order to get his film funding. Hopefully, since the scene is so terribly cheesy, this was Miller’s middle-finger to making him put a goofy 3D image to cap off an awesomely awesome chase scene.
Speaking of chase scenes, and action, holy crap does “Fury Road” pack it in. Real stuntmen, practical cars, a low reliance of CG is what makes this film a marvel to behold. You can sense the danger behind every scene, the use of camera speed and lighting makes everything pop. It’s pure old-school Ozploitation at it’s finest. Miller still knows how to shoot an action scene even 30 years after “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and this film shows he hasn’t lost a step. Needless to say, they don’t make these like they used to.
While the action is amazing, the talk of this film is something you wouldn’t have thought, and it’s got feminists and meminists all in a tizzy; is “Fury Road” a feminist action film. Well, it has tons of strong-willed and minded females not only surviving in a wasteland, but they are also free-thinking, open-minded, and loving. It’s hinted that “man” is the reason why the world has been killed, and of course men rely on women to survive. Sure, the film is called “Max Mad: Fury Road” by Max is essentially a blunt instrument which is wielded by the metal hand of Furiosa. Outside of one character, all characters portrayed by women have a purpose and something important to do throughout the film and it’s great that we don’t have to sit through the same old damsel in distress routine. Miller has created one of the most important characters in not only action film history, but film history, and it should be celebrated, not picked apart by the vulture of social medial looking for click bait. One of the complaints might be that the characters are underdeveloped….sure, on screen yes, but that doesn’t mean they have a story to tell or history. Use some critical thinking and you can decide for yourself.
I know you might think “geez Matt, you gush over all the female characters in “Fury Road” yet you railroaded the female characters in “Pitch Perfect 2.” Not really….I am making a point of noting what is obvious, and perhaps this is just an American thing. As Americans we like safe thing; fast food, fast casual food, mini-vans, and so on…we like the familiar, and we like happy. “Fury Road” is none of those things. It doesn’t spoon feed you, while it’s fast, it’s not fast food, and it’s the anti-summer blockbuster. The chases and action are simply a means to an end, a blunt instrument, similar to Max himself, to serve a higher purpose in storytelling and social studies. Similar to other films, “Fury Road” will make it’s money overseas, far from the sheepish herd that is the American moviegoer. I’ll make you guys a deal, sure, go and see “Pitch Perfect 2” or “Avengers: Age of Ultron” or even “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” but at least go and give “Fury Road” a chance. These movies are needed in a world this Mad.
Fun Fact: Hugh Keays-Byrne, who plays Immortan Joe, also played Toecutter in Miller’s orignal “Mad Mad” from 1979.