Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Directed by George Miller. Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris. Starring Tom Hardy (Max Rockatansky), Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa), Nicholas Hoult (Nux).

Bottom line: Mad Max: Fury Road didn’t wow me but it wasn’t the worst movie ever either; there are, however, some noteworthy stylistic and artistic decisions.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the latest installment to the Mad Max franchise. The world has been torn apart by “The Oil Wars” and, now, the last remnants of humanity battle over fuel and water. The movie opens with Mad Max (Hardy) standing alone, haunted by the screams of those he couldn’t save. He jumps into his iconic 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT to evade bandits who hunt him. Within minutes, they throw a grenade to disable the car, capture him and take him to their base, The Citadel.  The gang is composed of “War Boys”: ghost-painted fanatics who follow their leader, Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne), with cult-like zeal.

Immortan Joe, a large boil-covered despot who breathes through a mask fashioned from a bear-trap, rules over the impoverished population in proper totalitarian fashion. He briefly opens vales to an underground source of freshwater to screams/cheers of desperation saying, “Do not become addicted to water – you will resent it in its absence.” He then announces that Furiosa (Theron) has the honor of driving the fuel tanker to Gas Town but, when given the first opportunity, she changes course.

When her treachery (though her reason's unknown) comes back to Joe, he and his force make chase. The next time we see Max is when he is tied to a pole mounted on the front of his car. Max and Furiosa come to work together to escape Joe for various reasons and try to find a place of peace and vegetation.

Just about everything in Mad Max: Fury Road is pretty good. There are lots of explosions and lots of cars jumping and flipping and lots of shooting and fighting. The action is clear too so you can, for the most part, actually parse the images.

Mad Max: Fury Road is not overly stylized; I was afraid that the movie would look like 300 or Sin City. However, a consequence of having such colorful characters the environments feel somewhat bland. We watch as the heroes drive through yellow sand, blue sand (aka yellow sand at night), and canyons.

That said, Mad Max: Fury Road does present a fleshed out comic-book style world. It creates the world without assaulting you with mythology and I dig that. Why do I need to know the specific sociopolitical atmosphere before showing a guy painted like a ghost, holding grenade tipped spears, jump into a into a car covered in barbs?

In that scene, the guy had just been shot with arrows, he sprays something in his mouth and, before jumping screams,“Witness me!” I thought he was spraying some sort of adrenaline in his mouth, but it turns out to be chrome. He will be shiny when he enters Valhalla. I didn’t get it at first but did it matter all that much? No. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the presence of details which provide incite about the sociopolitical atmosphere but I’d don’t want them forced on me.

Max Mad: Fury Road, as I mentioned, is full of action but it wasn’t enough to be too entertaining for the entire two-hour runtime. Sure, you have a guy playing a guitar that shoots fire, strapped to a truck full of amplifiers and, sure, you have a car with another car welded on top or a car driving on tank treads, but after a while, the effect is lost.

Another thing that Max Mad: Fury Road could’ve done better was to have a little bit more of a sense of humor. When you have a guy with bullets for teeth, why do you have to be so serious? The Avengers and even Fast and Furious poke fun at themselves and it would’ve been a nice improvement if that happened here.

I’ll talk a little more about the plot in a bit but there might be more spoilers involved. Overall, I’d recommend Mad Max: Fury Road if you are a fan of the series or if you are in the mood for an action movie. Based on the movies currently in theaters, I recommend seeing Furious 7 before Mad Max. Furious 7 is simply more fun.

Now, mind yourself of some spoilers from this point on. The driving force of Mad Max: Fury Road is that Furiosa is escaping to a promised land with several of Immortan Joe’s favorite slave-wives. If you’ve seen the trailers, the wives are the ones scantily clad in white. I thought that surely, with a point of the movie is that the women are objects used for breeding (the movie’s words, mind you), the threat of rape or something like that would be a plot point. Even the introduction made me anticipate the worst. Max comes out from behind the trailer that held the women to see them using a water hose to wash themselves. It looked like something out of a post-apocalyptic Sports Illustrated model shoot. But, overall, between the capable female characters, Furiosa and the gang of women, you have a clearly articulated feminist argument. I’m down for that.

I liked the scene where the car is approaching and Max shoots two of the three sniper rounds before giving the gun to Furiosa who, using Max’s shoulder for balance, takes out the car.

The end left me wondering though. I mean, sure you have a happy ending where they return victoriously with plants but, are we supposed to believe that their new society is going to function for very long? The masses of people ruled by Immortan Joe hardly seem that capable. (They were clawing over each other for water rather than showing resentment or resistance to their ruler.)

Thank you very much for reading. If you have any questions or comments please do leave a comment, you can even email me too if you don’t want to make a public comment.

EDIT: I was thinking about Mad Max some more and I'd like to add one more thing. The reviews for this movie are absurdly good. Currently, it has an 89% on Metacritic. 18 of the 45 reviews polled gave this movie a 100/100 and I think that's a little much. Don't get me wrong there are some cool things going on and the stunts were really impressive but is this really that good? I suspect that there is a mixture of nostalgia and relief going on.

George Miller, the writer and director, made the first Mad Max and it was good. He went on the make Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior which was either good or great (depending on who you talk to). Mad Max 3: Beyond the Thunderdome was atrocious. What else if Miller known for? Happy Feet and Happy Feet 2. It is remarkable that, given a 20-year hiatus, the franchise could be picked up so successfully but let's not blow it out of proportion.

Alright, cool. I feel a little more satisfied. I'll update this or any of my reviews if I have any other thoughts. Once again, thanks for reading!