Synopsis: Haunted by his turbulent past, Mad Max believes the best way to survive is to wander alone. Nevertheless, he becomes swept up with a group fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by an elite Imperator, Furiosa. They are escaping a Citadel tyrannized by the Immortan Joe, from whom something irreplaceable has been taken. Enraged, the Warlord marshals all his gangs and pursues the rebels ruthlessly in the high-octane Road War that follows.
eyelights: its furious, wall-to-wall action. its costume designs. its vehicle designs. its set designs. its overall look. its impressive soundscape.
eyesores: its furious, wall-to-wall action. its implausible third act.
“My name is Max. My world is fire and blood.”
Honestly, I was in no hurry to see ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. Though I’d just rewatched the original trilogy and enjoyed it far more than I once had, making a sequel 30 years later with a new lead felt like some sort of desperate attempt to revitalize a forgotten franchise. Or a director’s career.
It certainly didn’t feel like a viable artistic choice.
The movie came and went, and I didn’t regret missing it, despite incessant fanboy raves online – maybe even because of them. But it’s when legitimate reviews claimed it to be one of the best movies of the year and that it started garnering award nominations that I started to reconsider it.
“Really…?”, I wondered all quizzical. “‘Mad Max’?”
Yeah, ‘Mad Max’.
‘Fury Road’ is without a doubt one of the most thrilling action films that I’ve seen in recent memory. But you have to like action. You have to like it wall-to-wall, balls to the wall, loud, brash and unrepentant. It’s a movie that burns rubber full-throttle, non-stop, unhindered by its barest of plot.
It’s pure adrenaline.
Now, normally, this kind of movie bores me – they’re usually dumb, poorly-acted, poorly-constructed, utterly without merit. But George Miller’s latest post-apocalyptic survival road movie is simple yet ambitious enough that its impresses on a purely visual, aural, visceral and aesthetic level.
The story is unomplicated: Mad Max is caught by the War Boys and taken to The Citadel, to be used for blood infusions. The Citadel is run by Immortan Joe, an autocratic ruler who has created a haven for himself with a greenhouse, water supplies and a harem of the prettiest of creatures.
One day, one of his lieutenants, Imperator Furiosa, in the guise of going off to collect gasoline, smuggles out Joe’s five breeders. Her goal: Taking them to a utopia that she knew as a child. When Joe discovers her deceit, he sends the War Boys after her – with Mad Max taken along for sustenance.
It will be the ride of his life.
It would be heartless to reveal the rest of the story: It’s a mere road movie/chase for the rest of the picture, with a few twists and dangers along the way to perk it up. To describe it further wouldn’t do it justice anyway, as ‘Fury Road’ is an experience, and words can’t possibly translate it.
At least, mine can’t.
But to put things in perspective, if one ignores the opening intro/recap, it takes over half an hour before Tom Hardy (who replaces Mel Gibson, who originated the role) utters a word, and 45 minutes before he blurts out a full sentence. Throughout the picture, he has exactly 52 lines.
…and this is a two-hour film!
The world that Miller’s created is the crux: This desert wasteland, bereft of everything but the barest life-sustaining elements, is filled with rabid, perhaps even demented, hordes fighting each other to survive. And in the horizon lies the product of the nuclear holocaust that has decimated civilization.
There are areas with massive storms of dust clouds, twisters, and electrical showers. There are swampy areas with wandering stiltpeople in them. And there’s lots and lots of sand: Every shot is yellow and orange, a palette that has been obviously been souped up by Miller to make an impression.
And it really does.
Scraps are the survivors’ only resources, giving this world an indescribable edge: The hideouts, the vehicles, the costumes – all the designs are so unique, so outrageous, so crazy – they’re post-apocalyptic madness made real. And everything’s explosive, figuratively and quite literally
It’s adrenaline on celluloid.
A perfect example, and a common promo image, is the contingent of War Boys chasing after Furiosa with their tricked out vehicles, spitting fire, backed by a choir of drums and a mad guitarist. And every scene is shot at hyper speed. To say that ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is high octane is an understatement.
The stunts are in-sa-ne! There are so many crashes in the midst of this chase and the ensuing combats, that coordinating it all must have been like overseeing a battlefield. In an age when CGI replaces even the simplest of practical effects, that Miller decided to shoot real stunts is truly remarkable.
And it makes it all look much more real, credible.
Even the audio is so dynamic that it leaves one breathless: There’s the vehicles grumbling at full speed much of the time, there’s gunfire (some of which leaves Max’s ears ringing temporarily), there are explosions, there’s hand-to-hand combat, and there are crashes – all amped up to pure precision.
If I were to criticize anything in ‘Fury Road’ it’s the fact that the characters never seem to need to eat, drink, sleep, or $#!t. Seriously? In all this time? And, despite the innumerable amount of kills and accidents, how could the various clans still have so many warriors left to send after Max and Furiosa?
Also, the ending left me incredulous: What were Max and Furiosa thinking, in light of the masses against them? Surely any other option would be a better bet? And what is the likelihood that, when they reach their destination, they are actually allowed entry as effortlessly and given the reins to The Citadel?
Hmmm…. well, I didn’t buy it.
(Ahem… it didn’t help that it was reminiscent of ‘Beyond Thunderdome‘.)
But, honestly, all that aside, as far as action films go, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is a winner. Its cruel, despicable world makes sense contextually, its demented characters are credible in that world, and it rocks and rolls from start to finish, leaving the audience nearly shell-shocked by the end of its journey.
For pure adrenaline, it’s ‘Fury Road’ all the way.
Post scriptum: Just make sure that you see it on a BIG screen with a proper surround sound – anything less would be blasphemous. Plus which you’d be cheating yourself.
Date of viewing: July 11, 2016