Mad Max – Fury Road – Review
It’s been 36 years since “Mad Max” the original low budgeted $400K film that eventually grossed $100M worldwide came to American theaters. It was a landmark film from the imaginative mind of Australian medical doctor turned film Director George Miller who subsequently directed it’s equally successful 1981 sequel in titled “Mad Max 2 - Road Warrior” and the 1985 sequel in titled “Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome”. Now its 2015 and Director Miller gives theater audiences his latest adaptation in the “Mad Max” story through the same character in highway patrolman “Max Rockatansky” in “Mad Max – Fury Road”.
If you are old enough to be a huge fan of the two originals, as I was, then you will recall the earlier Max films starred unknown Peekskill, New York American born turned transplanted West Pymble, Sydney Australian citizen actor Mel Gibson. It was American movie going audience’s first look at Gibson back then and subsequently his first big break into film stardom.
In this new story we see Gibson’s role of “Max” now played by British actor Tom Hardy, along with Charlize Theron as “Furiosa” and pivotal co-star Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy 2002) as ‘Nux”. And as with the earlier films the story takes place in the not so distant future of 2060 AD where we see our earth is in ruins from some unexplained apocalyptic catastrophic worldwide calamitous event that has caused the downfall of all civilization.
“Max”, who was a former highway patrolman and whose family was killed during the societal collapse, is just trying to survive when things get even worse for him that thrust him into a chance meeting with a bald woman named “Furiosa” who is desperately attempting to cross an immense desert away from a tyrannical Fascist leader named “King Immortan Joe” and his completely bloodthirsty military force called “The War Boys”, who are also collectively the rulers over a totalitarian desert kingdom they call “The Wasteland”. But why? Well that is the plot of the movie.
For “Max” and “Furiosa” their only hope to ever reaching some safety is with the help of each other and with “Max” expansive knowledge of the desert.
PROS: Since 1979 Director Miller has had plenty time to consider a thorough re-imagining of technical ideas to infuse into this story that were impossible to do with his previous “Max” films. Today at his disposal he has the capacity to use the latest in digital cameras, lightening and special affects software to incorporate those ideas to greater realistic affect.
Also, MM-FR is thematically the same original story; that being a story about a dystopian fictional imagined society of a dehumanizing landscapes and dehumanizing people who exist only to survive in this dire terrain, you ask the bottom line question. Does MM-FR deliver the goods?
Well, I will say let the demented fanatic despairing painful mayhem begin, as this is one of the best summer nonstop action films I have seen in a while and will probably be the best action film you will see this summer period.
With old story and new technology in hand Director Miller comes out swinging his camera as would an orchestra conductor’s baton with the same hyper elevated action and energy, though I would liken this film’s pacing to the perspective of someone being off their Ritalin for a year while strung out on 18 cups of espresso a day. Everything and everyone is more than just a little jacked up here.
MM-FR makes anything you have seen in the “Fast and Furious” franchise look like small children riding tiny plastic hobby horses on an amusement ride in a rural town on the fair grounds that is next to an abandon burnt out mall. Each and every minute watching MM-FR felt like someone had their foot on top of mine pushing down on my car’s accelerator while driving a 100 miles an hour inside a city with no traffic lights at rush hour.
Acting wise Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron own this movie like two commanders of the same ship. Hardy is the lead character and delivers as solid of a charismatic performance as I have come to expect of him, but surprisingly the real star of this film is Charlize Theron.
Theron is electrifyingly flawless in her execution as “Furiosa”. She’s a warrior and yet while she may look manly with her tall stature and shaved head, there is no mistaking “Furiosa” as some androgynous man or as “the weird looking woman chick” in this film. Theron makes the concerted effort to never letting her character be defined by being just the woman nor be restricted by it in any way as she comes across as one of the toughest and most resilient action heroes since Sigourney Weaver’s “Ripley” jumped into that yellow industrial lift loader in Aliens. Girl friend is straight up stoic ass kicker. And when I say she was great, I mean this could be Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination performance she delivers here.
Also MM – FR is a perfectly executed stand-alone work; meaning you don’t need to revisit the other 3 Max films just to catch up or understand this film at all.
CONS: I got nothing.
CONCLUSION: While there is tons of violence none of it is out of context to simply shocking you purely for the purpose of having a disgusting or graphic impact moment. Each frame of this film made me feel like I was dropped out of thin air into something horrible, foreboding and just plain bad with genuine life and death consequences at stake. And while the film never lets up with a real pause or utilizes any cinematic massaging of the story with preposterously ridiculous computer gymnastics or fake gimmicks, this film looked really difficult to make. It also worked very hard and very well of deliberately getting inside your head that may have you asking “is this real?”
Exquisitely shot, while MM-FR is available in 3-D, I saw it in the normal digital format. It is so imaginative and so well made I really don’t think you need to spend the extras $10 just to have something get temporarily visually embellished inside you mind.
Now for all of you “I will wait to see it” cheap NETFLIX-ers, listen up, don’t bother, you absolutely have to see this film in the theater. Never has isolation and desert with mutant looking humans running amuck’ creating endless chaos and violence against less than mutant looking humans ever look so good.
Finally, OK here I go. Are you ready for this? “Mad Max – Fury Road” is a masterpiece about what unhinged tribal chaos looks like. More to a contemporary point and analogously speaking, this film is a high octane action packed “western” kind of ride from hell. And while it is not actually a western, it is one in form, style and attitude just like those old time western films made during the 1950s – 1960’s where you see the line distinctly drawn between the hard charging masked “bad guys”, galloping and shooting at the “good guys” and their stage coach filled with bags of gold. The only “unhinged” difference here is that in MM-FR the people riding on and in that same stage coach with the supposed bags of gold (“the good guys”), well they got guns too and they are just as bad and nasty as the people chasing them.
You have not seen a film like this ever before, as it is constantly drenched in an odd contrast of desert dust, fire, breathless chases, unworldly outfits, scary masks, fireballs, filth, jagged scars, men wearing make-up, women wearing no makeup, strange tattoos, raggedy clothes, androgynous characters, ripped up muscles, rigged out cars, weird looking gasoline trucks, eccentric looking motorbikes, mud and rocks, people swinging on sticks, fire breathing guitars, sexy women and of course blood. And yet with all of this potential mess of assorted visuals for you to contemplate or confuse you, Director Miller never allows a single moment of these background variables to distract you from the plot and enjoyment of his film.
If you see this you will never look at rush hour the same again and from what I can see with a running time of just short of 2 hours MM-FR is a must see film for 2015. It is fabulous to look at, kinetically pleasurable and very intelligently conceived as a lawless demolition grimy freak show ride around, below, above and into hell.
4 Stars Plus