Mad Max: Fury Road
After 30 years, George Miller has finally returned to the world of Mad Max with the release of Fury Road. After releasing several amazing trailers, hype for the film is at an all time high, and it absolutely meets your expectations. Check out my full review to see why!
Before I really kick things off here, I have to say, I went into Mad Max: Fury Road with ridiculously high expectations. I know I shouldn’t have, and doing so with other movies have lead to major disappointment, but I couldn’t help myself. Mad Max (Road Warrior in particular) is among one of my favorite stories with some deep themes and commentary on the world, shrouded in some great action moments.
Because of those elements, the films have had long lasting impact on audiences and remain culturally relevant even by today’s standards. So, yeah, I went into Fury Road with more expectations than I should have...But it didn’t matter. Fury Road not only met my already lofty expectations, it exceeded them.
Pure, Unfiltered Fun
Mad Max Fury Road, has a lot of interesting elements that works in its favor, but to start things off I want to highlight the one thing all viewers will be able to enjoy and understand: the fun factor. You’ve seen hints of the insane action in the trailers so far, but nothing compares to the film itself, which works almost like a nearly two-hour long car chase that gives you just enough time to breathe before taking things to another level. Intense isn’t a strong enough word, but more than that, it’s just a lot of damn fun.
There are a plethora of moments in the film that have you gasping or saying “holy shit”, and you can literally pick just about any singular scene in the film and think of something amazing that happens in it. I’m trying to avoid too much hyperbole here, but the truth is, Fury Road seems to have set a new definition for what action movies can and should be. Even if you overlook the underlying themes and story in the film, there’s plenty of eye candy to gawk at.
The action takes place in more than just the vehicles, and features enough variety and depth that nothing feels like it’s overdone or getting old. Not to mention some of the scenes take fights to ridiculous levels, that shouldn’t work, but somehow do. A prime example of this, deals with the flamethrowing-guitar player that’s seen in a couple of the trailers. There’s literally no reason for the dude playing a guitar in the middle of the wasteland during a war march, but he’s there, and somehow, it works.
The film is very aware of how crazy things get in the movie, and rather than make any attempt to justify or reason out the ridiculous factors, Fury Road completely embraces them. This is a big part of it’s charm and appeal, and conversely managed to make everything that much more “real” as I was watching it. Even knowing that some things weren’t quite “right”, I never once found myself thinking, “There’s no way that would happen” as I do in other movies. Fury Road sets a new norm right off the bat and in the world it’s crafted, the things we see are not only possible, they’re expected. As I said, it’s taking action films to an all new level.
Beyond how the action looks and plays out on screen, it's impossible not to be impressed with the sheer enormity of what they accomplished. The car battles/fights are pretty much all done practically and knowing all of this makes you wonder how someone even conceives of ideas like these. More than just the battles, the way in which they're shot and timed play a major factor. There's a lot of symmetry going on between shots. In one scene, Tom Hardy's Max is climbing on top of the war machine to check out some dragging tires, but as he's making his way along the fast moving big rig, you can see Nicholas Hoult's character crawling along the underside of the vehicle. It's very fluid and timed perfectly, creating not only interesting action on the screen, but beautiful shot framing.
Fury Road is intricately crafted, and shows a mastery level of filmmaking and shot design. Even in the big final sequences, where they cut back and forth between characters and their individual actions, you can see them interacting still in the background. That's a nearly obscene level of continuity that helps keep everything grounded and maintains the intensity throughout.
A Simple Story With BIG Ideas
When you see other people (and even myself up above) make statements about Mad Max: Fury Road basically being one huge action sequence, you may wonder how on Earth any semblance of story manages to come across. This aspect, too, is a big part of what’s so impressive in how the film is crafted.
The story is told simply through minimal dialog exchanges and actions of the characters. The movie doesn’t do much handholding and expects you to put the pieces together, and in doing so, you learn a lot about the world of this film. Ultimately, the film boils down to a central idea of survival, which has been the basis for the Mad Max character virtually since his inception. But it’s also much more than that.
Fury Road takes the survival concept further by making it more about surviving with yourself intact. It’s not just about doing whatever it takes to survive in the harsh world, but somehow maintaining a sense of moral correctness. The main story is about taking a group of women, specifically set aside as breeders for the tyrannical Immortan Joe, who are tired of being treated as nothing more than property. They want to survive in a world that doesn’t act like they’re tools to be used up.
Max wants simply to survive, but he’s not immune to the injustice he sees around him. While you can’t claim he’s a ‘hero’, he wants to make a stand for those who can’t on their own. Furiosa (Charlize Theron) wants to give the world hope, and make things fair while seeking her own chance at redemption. All of the characters, in some way, are looking to survive in just about every sense of the word. They need things to hold onto in the wasteland, but they’re not willing to sacrifice their humanity (as so many others have) to do so. It’s a powerful message, and thanks to the incredible performances of the cast, it comes through the story even as the action unfolds all around them.
Speaking of performances, I don’t think I can stress just how good a job everyone did in this film. To be frank, there’s not a lot of dialog in the movie, so much of the story and personality of the characters has to come through via their body language and how they react to the events around them.
Tom Hardy plays the Max Rockatansky character superbly, maintaining the gruff and silent exterior fans are used to. So much of what made me like his version of Max came across in his actions, because he REALLY doesn’t talk much. Charlize Theron reasserts herself as a badass, who’s just as engaging and interesting a character as Max is. The primary different between them is that she maintains the feeling of hope for the world, where Max has become cold and indifferent. They play off of each other very well, and it’s obvious from early on that in order to accomplish their individual goals, they need each other...even if the characters themselves don’t realize this right away.
Nicholas Hoult’s Nux is an interesting character that goes through, possibly, the most dramatic change in the film. At the start, he’s a war boy through and through, fully brainwashed by Immortan Joe’s ideals and control. He’s crazy, and starts off as an antagonist, who gets closer than anyone to stopping Max and Furiosa, but in his failings, he finds new purpose and clarity. In short, all of the actors did a wonderful job in getting you attached to their characters (I was genuinely upset when people died, even if they didn’t have much screentime), while giving you enough information to connect the dots on the story.
Picking Up Decades Later
Lately, in Hollywood, there have been a slew of movies made (or still in the works) that serve as sequels to decades old franchises. Not all of them have worked out, and in the case of Mad Max, it was tough to see how it would go. Obviously Mel Gibson is too old to bring back to the role, so Tom Hardy took over. If you any fears about this, put them aside right now.
Fury Road is, unequivocally, a Mad Max movie. From the first scene to the last, I was impressed at how much the movie felt like the classic films in tone and characters. Fury Road is not a reboot, it’s not a remake, but serves as a continuation of the journey of this character in a lot of ways. It makes some passing references to the previous movies, with some fun nods and Easter eggs, but manages to stand alone.
The result is a movie that fans of the franchise will love and get some nostalgia out of, but newcomers won’t feel lost. You can walk into the theater, having no idea who Max is or what the previous movies did, and still get a lot out of the film. The themes and fun factor have nothing to do with whether or not you’ve seen the previous movies, nor relies on nostalgia to see you through. Fury Road is just a genuinely good film that takes the best of what you love most in Mad Max and transforms it into something for a new generation.
Other Great Tidbits
There’s so much awesome in this film, I could spend all day talking about it, so I’m trying to keep it to the “big” things for this review. That said, I want to quickly point out some other great things about this movie:
* The fact that the actor who played the main villain in the first Mad Max is also the villain (different character though) in Fury Road.
* Giant sand tornado.
* The visual color palette is vast and impressive considering it pretty much just takes place in a desert.
* The soundtrack is pretty damn amazing. It’s not something I normally pay much attention to, but it’s so perfect in every scene, it’s impossible to ignore.
* Literally, as soon as the credits started rolling, I wanted to see it again.
* Yes, it has some feminist themes, and done so incredibly well. Great social commentary cleverly hidden for mass digestion.
So yeah, I’m pretty much a fan of everything in this film. Frankly, I can’t believe how enamored with Fury Road I am. I hoped that I would enjoy it, but I find myself continually thinking on the film. From the action scenes to the themes and characters, it’s a movie I can’t stop analyzing and pondering. It simply won’t get out of my brain, and I can’t say that’s a bad thing.
Don’t wait for the DVD/Blu-Ray, don’t make excuses. Find the time to see Fury Road in theaters, and I promise you won’t regret the decision.