Mad Max: Fury Road Review
WHAT A LOVELY DAY IN A MAD MAX WORLD
The Mad Max films have been around for years with its first installment (Mad Max) debuting back in 1979, introducing viewers to anarchy-filled world and to Max Rockatansky, a man of few words and a man of action. Mad Max grew with popularity, spawning two sequels with 1981’s Mad Max: Road Warrior and 1985’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. With the conclusion of Beyond Thunderdome, the Mad Max films, like its lone wolf protagonist, disappeared with no plans of future installments. That was until now. It’s been thirty years since the last Mad Max feature as Warner Bros. Studios has debuts the newest entry titled Mad Max: Fury Road. Is the world ready for Max’s return to the silver screen or has a lengthy gap between third and fourth installment stinted the road warrior’s appeal?
In the future, after a worldwide fallout, marauding gangs rule the world and battle for control of precious resources. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a particular maniac warlord, has built the Citadel, a fortress in the desert sands that protected by the War Boys (his minions) and guards his supply of water. Picked up by scouts, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is imprisoned by Immortan Joe, used for blood transfusion purposes as Joe’s forces are gearing up to hunt down Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a driver who’s gone rogue and who has also taken Immortan Joes precious five wives (Rose Huntington-Whitely, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Courtney Eaton, and Abbey Lee) to a safe haven from Furiosa’s youth. Freeing himself from captivity of the War Boys, Max, who is still haunted by past memories, forms an uneasy alliance with Furiosa and with a fallen War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult) to help escort Joe’s five wives across the desert to Furiosa’s sanctuary destination, evading their pursers and feeling the wrath of Immortan Joe and his ravenous army.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I actually never watched a Mad Max movie. It’s true. I heard of the films, but never actually sat down and watched them. So, prior to my watching Fury Road and taking the advice of several people, I decided to rent the first two Mad Max movies via iTunes. I skipped out on watching Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome because (from what I heard) that it isn’t as good in comparison to the first two. Naturally, Mad Max and Mad Max: Road Warrior set the tone for the franchise and its main lead. Thus, I had a good frame of mind of what to expect from Mad Max: Fury Road. The end result is a visceral gut punch of thrilling action that’s just as entertaining as it is relentless.
After various film projects including The Witches of Eastwick, Lorenzo’s Oil, and Happy Feet (both the original film and its sequel), Australian producer / director George Miller returns to the franchise that he began back in 1979, focusing on another chapter surrounding the character of Max Rockatansky and his wild escapades. Previous entries have been budgeted with limited funds for an inexpensive feature. Given the limitations found in late 70’s and Early 80s, the Mad Max films did a pretty good job working within those modest means, focusing the lens on bizarre customized cars, insane marauding gangs , and keeping the action very fast and furious. With new technology and much heftier production budget, Fury Road expanse Miller’s vision to its full extent, offering a new perspective to the franchise’s post-apocalyptic wasteland dominion.
Structurally speaking, Miller keeps Fury Road’s narrative similar to past Mad Max installments with minimal emphasis on certain things that are commonly found in many movies. Introductions are swiftly introduce at the beginning as the movie hits the ground running with its bombardment of action, which carries throughout the film duration with a brief pockets of reprieve to let the movie (and its viewers) breathe. Coinciding with that, the movie’s action is over-the-top insane (but in a very, very good way). The various shots found in Fury Road’s several trailers and TV spots don’t do the film’s overall craziness justice as the action is persistently big, bold, and bloody. Dangerous moves and fast vehicles zip across the screen at lightning speed, keeping a viewer’s eyeballs constantly moving with frenetic tension. Adrenaline junkies will surely get their fix while watching the film and will definitely crave more as the film’s end credits begin to roll. Yet, despite its elaborate action scenes, Fury Road also delves slightly into the mythos of its world-building engines with Immortan Joe’s Citadel and his iron grip hold over his subjects, the pale skinned War Boys and their fanatically ways of dying a glorious death, and visual representation of how much the world has changed from what it used to be.
Interestingly, one would think, given how the film looks, that Fury Road was a very CG heavy feature. It’s actually not. Roughly eighty percent of the movie’s effects are real practical effects with elaborate stunts, and set locales with CG visuals used only to enhance the wide angle shots of the Citadel and its wasteland surroundings, erasing stunt riggings, and giving Charlize Theron’s character a prosthetic arm. The makeup designs are highly commendable with a collection of humans that are intriguing with their own unique deformities, scary roguish looks, and sun burnt denizens to the desert. The various vehicles found in Fury Road, of which past Mad Max films showcased, are strange, but cool looking with insane hodgepodge automobiles design that seem something out of a monster truck rally junkyard. Lastly, the music score in the feature is terrific with Junkie XL, who produced similar dramatic music for films like 300: Rise of an Empire and Divergent, delivering pounding beats and rhythmic tones to add to the movie’s surge of tension.The only real minor quibble I have with this film is Miller’s excessive usage of the fade to black cuts, which made me feel like I was watching Fury Road via YouTube segments.
The character of Max Rockatansky has been previously played by Mel Gibson (in all three films), but George Miller decided to cast a new Max for Fury Road, choosing the thirty seven year old British actor Tom Hardy to fill the road warrior’s boots. Like said back in review for Child 44, Hardy seems to have perfected the silent brutish ruffian persona he has grown accustomed to, bring Max to life with his own brooding demeanor. Moreover, Hardy seems to handle Max as a shell of a former man that, at times, acts like a feral human, grunting and growling his few words out (which seems cool). Sharing the spotlight with Hardy is Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. Theron’s performance is powerful one, demanding a viewer’s attention when she on-screen. Her character is a force to be reckoned with and certainly does go toe to toe Hardy’s Max. Some would argue that she’s the main character in Fury Road (and sort of does from time to time), but Max is still in primary protagonist. As a side note, at least George Miller keeps Max and Furiosa’s relationship platonic and not a romantic one.
In supporting roles, Nicholas Hoult’s Nux, who aides Max and Furiosa garnishes the sympathy card for Fury Road, giving off a tortured character that conflicted of being good and who wants to please Immortan Joe and die in legendary fashion. As for Immortan Joe himself, he’s a monstrous scarred warlord on-screen with his gas mask muzzle / breathing apparatus distorting his vile voice (Actor Hugh Keays-Byrne, who actually played the Toecutter, the chief villain in the original Mad Max, does an impressive job again as a maniacal villain). As for Joe’s five wives, this female quintet has more to do on-screen than just simply damsel-in-distress with each one getting their moment to shine and prove their chops.
It’s a mad, mad world in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. This fourth installment in the Mad Max franchise delivers not only its heightened level of action of which they previous entries have predicate themselves on, but also solidifies itself (Fury Road) as a fixed starting point for future films for a new generation in the Mad Max saga. It may stumble slightly, but its cast is great (especially Hardy and Theron), Miller’s post-apocalyptic world is fully imagined on-screen, and it’s incredible adrenaline action that’s worthy of being a good summer blockbuster flick is excitingly thrilling. Personally, it was amazing rush of an action-packed movie that exceeded my expectations. Let’s hope that Miller chooses to return to anarchy-riddled future for further explorations of Max Rockatansky and his crazy relentless adventures.