Saturday, May 16, 2015
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
I do not own the above image. Copyright Warner Brothers Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
It’s amazing what movies you look over sometimes when you weren't in existence when they were released. Kubrick only made two movies while I was alive, but the movies he made before my time (DR. STRANGELOVE, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY) are masterpieces. My father got to see the original STAR WARS trilogy during their original runs before he & my mother started our family. I like to think my parents went to see BACK TO THE FUTURE when my mother was 6 months pregnant with me.
I’ve known of the MAD MAX trilogy for about a decade. I understood it to be a cult hit. What I didn’t know was how large that cult was. The entire run-up to FURY ROAD was based solely on just how great the original trilogy was. So, in a three day span earlier this week, I watched the first two movies on-demand. The original MAD MAX is an interesting character study of a man who reaches his breaking point in dystopic Australia, even if it does take a while to get there but doesn’t stay with the rise & climax long enough. THE ROAD WARRIOR is a near-masterpiece about the desire & necessity of communal survival with a stupendous action setpiece at the center. With predecessors like these, how can a modern-day movie in an age of inflated budgets & computer-dependent sequences live up to them? MAD MAX: FURY ROAD exceeds all realistic expectations a moviegoer can have.
In the near, post-nuclear war future, Max Rockatansky (Hardy) is captured by a local cult called the War Boys to be used as a blood donor for one of their own, Nux (Hoult). Nux is soon called into action to help retrieve the cult’s lone gasoline tanker, being driven by Imperator Furiosa (Theron), who has gone rogue while on a mission to refill the cult supply of fuel, which is very scarce to begin with. In addition, King Immortan Joe’s Five Wives, his designated breeders, have disappeared.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is, on the surface, is a chase movie. Frankly, it’s a 120 minute long chase scene. This movie is every gear-head & weapon-junkie’s dream. The War Boys are armed with javelins that explode on impact. Furiosa is armed with every type of gun & knife in this dystopia, each hidden in every nook & cranny in the tanker’s cab.
But any movie could have the action elements. What makes MAD MAX so special is the flawless execution & tension. The extreme sense of urgency is smeared over nearly every second. Any instance of car trouble, whether it be by engine overheating, gunshot or low fuel, could spell doom our heroes. Tension is enhanced to 11 thanks to Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL’s pulse-pounding, electrifying score. Nearly every bit of action was meticulously storyboarded by director George Miller. Miller, along with drug-out-of-retirement cinematographer John Seale, is able to craft action scenes that put every Michael Bay movie to shame using nothing but actual vehicles & living breathing stuntmen. It is rare in this day & age to see such scenes, let alone have an entire movie with as little CGI as possible.
Imperator Furiosa is, by far, the best female protagonist this side of Ellen Ripley. Furiosa’s reputation of being the best at what she does is displayed in her near-wordless introduction as the driver of the rig. The poor, dirty crowd goes wild for her and her face never changes expressions. Furiosa’s early fight with Max and her maneuvers of the rig & inside the cab when needed show she lives up to her name. And her robotic left arm is perfect: futuristic in its basic design but not a technological marvel like other sci-fi movies. Like Sandra Bullock in GRAVITY, MAD MAX made me care about Charlize Theron for the first time. Max, based upon my review so far, appears to be nothing more than a bystander. But Max does get his opportunity to do what he does best: lead the good guys to achieve their goal while saying few words and asking for little more than his freedom while battling demons of his own.
There are hints of deeper meanings to MAD MAX. The most obvious being our dependency on oil and its consequences. There are also serious religious overtones. King Immortan Joe preaches to his men that if they give their lives to the cause, they will be met with riches in the afterlife. Having these messages is fine if you follow through with them. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t. The one symbolic thing that does work is the opening scene, where we see Max stomp on then eat a two-headed, CGI lizard, signifying that realness of the effects you are about to witness are superior to the fake effects generated by computers in every other movie you’ll see this summer.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is an old school action flick in a world with other modern “action” movies that are wholly dependent on cheap computer graphics & well-know superheroes and puts them to shame. A movie that starts quick and never stops; even accelerating as the finish line draws near. A true feast for the eyes, ears & mind of moviegoers who should expect more bang for their buck. Easily the most fun I’ve had at a movie theatre since THE LEGO MOVIE. This is the movie FURIOUS 7 and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON wishes they were.