It’s been 30 years since the character Mad Max wandered the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland on the big screen. After years of being development, George Miller has finally provided us with more visceral, car-exploding action. I had the pleasure of watching the film just last night, and thought I’d take the time to share my thoughts after leaving the theater.
WARNING: Potential spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road may follow…
There has been a lot of hype centered around this movie, and a lot of it hasn’t been positive. Given the seemingly massive over-sensitivity of internet users as of late, this movie has stemmed quite a bit of controversy for being a overly feminist. I’ll start by saying that I disagree, at least in the way that they mean. Feminism isn’t a negative thing, first of all. Gender equality is an issue that persists throughout popular culture, with movies and television relying on the tired trope that is the damsel in distress. The problem is that the definition of feminism can often be skewed by whoever happens to hear the word. I think the people who are griping about Mad Max are complaining that the female characters are represented as too much of a force to be reckoned with. While there are scenes that utilize strong female characters, I don’t think that it is a detriment to the movie at all. Having the female characters perform their fair share of ass-kicking was a welcome change of pace, and it’s not like EVERY female character was overpowered beyond realistic expectations. That’s as far as I’ll elaborate upon with this matter, because the complaints have reached an almost laughable level at this point.
Mad Max: Fury Road is very much your typical Mad Max movie. I haven’t watched the original sequels (The Road Warrior, Beyond Thunderdome) for quite some time, but I did have the opportunity of seeing the original fairly recently. Max Rockatansky has always been tight-lipped (Mel Gibson only had 16 lines of dialog in The Road Warrior), and this film was no different. From what I can remember, Tom Hardy’s Max speaks even less than the norm, preferring to make his presence known by taking a shoot first, ask questions later approach to conflict. When he DID speak, I couldn’t really get a grasp on the accent he was shooting for. Hardy’s speaking voice is your quite pleasant run-of-the-mill smooth English, but his portrayal of Max was gruff and vague. Not that I necessarily cared. As I said, he doesn’t speak much, but when he did, it wasn’t completely intelligible. I ran into this same issue when he played Bane in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Bane’s accent was, a…dubious decision to say the least.
The movie, it turns out, isn’t really all that much about Mad Max, though. Max takes sort of a backseat to the character of Imperator Furiosa, played by a tough, cool Charlize Theron. It was her arc that was central to the plot. The story follows her, and the baby-stuffed sex slaves of the twisted Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) as they attempt to escape his clutches of power at the towering Citadel. As the movie goes on, you learn a little bit about who Furiosa was before she began her career working under Immortan Joe, and her motivations for springing the other women from their captivity. Max, a former slave from the Citadel, is just there out of pure convenience; taking an opportunistic chance when he arrives at the right place at the right time.
I think a lot of people were complaining because Tom Hardy wasn’t the true center of the story. Most people who hadn’t seen any of the previous films will likely be lost trying to figure out who he is, and ultimately, why he is even in the movie to begin with. The film offers the bare minimum when it comes to exposition, with Miller leaving the audience to put the pieces together on their own. They took the phrase “Show, don’t tell” to it’s apex here, and I don’t really think the movie suffers for it.
The biggest draw for Fury Road is the visuals. Using 80% practical special effects, the extensive action sequences were that much more impressive, and truly a spectacle to behold. Going even further than what one would expect from post-apocalyptic fare, Fury Road abandons the typical de-saturated look and implements a bright and vibrant color palette, with vivid oranges and blues of the wasteland popping right out at the viewer. This helps to provide an impressive visual contrast against the beaten-up and rickety vehicles and mayhem.
Another tidbit I found interesting was that Fury Road was filmed entirely in sequential order (much like some of it’s predecessors). It doesn’t fundamentally change the movie, it’s just not how movies are typically done. I imagine filming in this way offers a much more organic feel, allowing the actors to experience events the way they were intended to.
If stunning visuals and intense action aren’t something that you are into, you probably won’t take much away from the latest Mad Max. In it’s simplest of terms, a group of people go down a big and treacherous road, turn around, and go back down the same road. Yes, there is a lot of intense action in between, but the plot adds little more than that to it’s formula. Somehow, I didn’t leave the theater disappointed. The money I spent felt well worth it, and Miller does a good job of squeezing a lot of entertainment into such a simple movie. It’s simple, yet surprisingly lengthy. Yet I didn’t leave feeling like the movie over-stayed it’s welcome, and I was surprised to discover we burned through over two hours of our time by the end.
Mad Max: Fury Road was brimming with hype upon release. Does it live up to that hype? Not really. Very few movies actually do, though. This isn’t to say that the movie isn’t worth seeing (it absolutely is), it is just likely better for you to go in with little expectations like I did, and you will hopefully be pleasantly surprised. Fans of minimalist exposition, and visceral heart-pumping action will definitely find something to enjoy about this movie. If you enjoy a good straight-up action movie, look no further than Fury Road.
Similar to: Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Suggested substitution(s): The Book of Eli, The Road