Movie Review: Mad Max – Fury Road
(Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images)
I’ll just get this out of the way first: it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen any of the original Mad Max films. The last time I can recall seeing one, was stumbling into a Sci-Fi marathon at the Music Box Theatre 5-7 years ago, and catching the last half of the first Mad Max film
So, as one might expect, I went into Mad Max: Fury Road without any preconceptions, other than Max being a loner, tooling around in his supercharged Ford Falcon.
In this latest iteration, Tom Hardy takes on the role of Max Rockatansky, a man running away from a tragic past, who is soon caught by a group of War Boys working for the warlord, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).
Even with Hardy getting top-billing, I feel that many will be moreso captivated by Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. It is Imperator that gets the ball rolling in this story, when she takes Immortan’s iconic tanker truck off-course, with a daring plan of her own.
It doesn’t take long for Max to get caught up in Imperator’s affairs, and what forms is an unlikely truce…but in a way that is very rarely ever seen onscreen. There’s no romantic spark, no “my mental scars are worse than yours” moments…pretty soon, it all boils down to one thing: “getting the job done!”
This reminded me very much of a similar mentality of films like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and Children of Men. Both of those films deal with characters that are in a world that seems to shun hope, yet they desperately cling to the notion that it could very well exist, pushing themselves to their limits to achieve a goal.
Another strength I liked about the story, was that it never really felt like anyone overstayed their welcome on camera. The characters and their roles move through the story in a very efficient way, always trying to stay one-step ahead of Max and Imperator’s pursuers…whom director George Miller often captures as an ominous presence off in the distance. We even get to see some of Max’s trauma manifest itself, but just what happened to him is never fully explained.
Speaking of Max, I did like how even though his name is on the title, he is not constantly the center of attention. In a sense, his role in this film reminded me of Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates of the Caribbean: a character who through a series of circumstances, ends up falling into an adventure, of which he himself manages to tie much of it together.
That’s not to say the film is incredibly serious. After all, how serious can your movie really be if one semi truck is rigged with a 20 foot speaker array, with a guy playing a flame-throwing guitar in front of it?
I will admit that one of my ‘poisons’ when it comes to some films, are cool-looking vehicles. Many have pressed my buttons ever since I was a child (along with vehicular mayhem), and what was done here with numerous vehicles is rather compelling. One that is rather eye-catching, has the body of a Chrysler Valiant, welded atop some heavy-duty tank treads.
The chase scenes in this film are definitely a highlight, and I came away from watching this film, greatly impressed at the stunt-work on display. Needless to say, when 100+ names filled the screen under “stunts” during the credits, I applauded. And, even when there are stunts that have to be achieved by visual effects, it was hard to tell most of the time.
In regards to the film’s music, the score for the piece is provided by Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL. That driving rhythm you’ve heard in the latest trailers? That’s part of Junkie’s score, and he manages to capture the gamut of emotions so well within Fury Road! Everything from the quieter moments, to the heart-pounding scenes of vehicles tearing across the plains. In fact, much of this review was written with the soundtrack blaring from my speakers.
Though I have been pretty positive about Fury Road, the film is far from perfect. There are some times where it feels like some of the chase and fight scenes get a little too long, and I could sense the audience getting restless at times.
In regards to George Miller’s filmography, one can easily see that in many of his works, he can’t just give you a straight-forward story of good-vs-evil. He does like to layer his work with multiple themes, and Fury Road can get a little overloaded in places…though luckily, Miller doesn’t muck up his films as thickly as director Gore Verbinski likes to do.
At the preview screening I attended, the film was projected in 3D. While it did highlight some scenes like flares going off in the sky, and the amazing dust storm sequence, I really didn’t see much of a need to use it for this film. In the end, there was one gratuitous 3D shot that did make me chuckle.
Even so, I have to give Miller and his guys kudos for actually filming action scenes like many of us remember: shot in a way where we actually know what we’re looking at, and who is where, doing what! The camera work definitely feels like we’ve gone back 30 years into the past, where the filmmakers at least attempted to put some control over where to focus our attention. At least it helped the 3D shots to actually feel less like they composited flying colored blobs on the screen. The cinematography also takes its time, providing some nice establishing shots.
I held out some hope that Mad Max: Fury Road would be entertaining, and it definitely surprised me. It didn’t get gratuitous for the sake of gratuity (like many R-rated films). Even with possible hints of nudity, it’s rather amazing that Miller doesn’t give in to temptation. I did enjoy that he showed restraint in some areas, even if he may have gone a tad long in others.
This is one of those films that did awaken a hunger deep within me as well: a hunger for as much making-of material as possible! I can only hope that George Miller can convince Warner Brothers to jam-pack the home video release with all sorts of material on the vehicles, character profiles, along with the stunt work…which I feel could probably warrant an hour-long special of its own!
Final Grade: B+ (Final Thoughts: George Miller’s resurrection of Mad Max, brings about an apocalyptic story betwixt hope, and madness. It introduces a strong new character in Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, and gives us an action-packed film that has a lot to say, but may be trying a little too hard at times to say everything it wants to )