MAD MAX FURY ROAD: Exhilarating And Intensely Original
Anyone who is familiar with George Miller's Mad Max series must have been eagerly anticipating his latest as much as I have. It has now been 30 years since we last saw Max in his post-apocalyptic desert world. But it is almost as if no time has passed.
Anyone who is familiar with George Miller‘s Mad Max series must have been eagerly anticipating his latest as much as I have. It has now been 30 years since we last saw Max in his post-apocalyptic desert world. But it is almost as if no time has passed. His world is still one of “fire and blood,” as he describes it, where the only ideal left to humanity is the will to survive.
Although essentially one long chase sequence, broken up into about four or five sections, Mad Max: Fury Road is an intense, thrilling experience, which is not only overflowing with action but also possesses a surprising amount of emotional depth, where we get to know characters almost solely based on their last-second actions when everything is on the line. With some fantastic performances by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, among others, and some fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping action sequences, this is truly not a film to forget.
A landmark moment in the world of action movies
Max is this future’s version of the loner hero archetype, a character that is most typically seen in classic westerns (think Clint Eastwood‘s man-with-no-name from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). The hero has a wounded past, and mostly seeks to help himself, but is suddenly thrusted into a situation where he has the ability and the choice to save the lives of others.
Fury Road finds Max (Hardy) on a chase across the desert in a massive gasoline truck, surrounded by stowaway wives of a psychopath named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and led by the fierce Imperator Furiosa (Theron). With the intention of getting his wives back, Immortan Joe sends his entire force after them. What ensues is a days-long chase across the desert, where the horde of incoming men chase them on armored cars, giant monster trucks, and motorcycles armed with explosives.
Though it may sound similar to the excessiveness of a franchise like Transformers, Fury Road is anything but. Despite the noise and cacophony, it is actually quite tame, especially since it could have also been extremely gory as well. It may just be the most balanced mixture of insanity that I have ever witnessed on screen.
The impeccably choreographed action sequences of Fury Road are sometimes so off-the-charts with madness, but then, rather than beat the violence into submission, Miller backs off, giving you a chance to breathe, before once again diving back into it. It is a roller coaster of ups and downs, with the in-between moments setting the tone for the wildness that is about to come. By the final climactic battle, the end result is one of near-perfect balance, there is not even one too many action scenes, or one too few.
An emotionally impactful experience
In a movie that almost primarily exists for the purpose of pumping the adrenaline, Fury Road actually has something deeper to say as well. Certain characters, especially that of Nux (Nicholas Hoult), have a remarkable arc from start to finish – rather than just existing as a pale, brain-washed psychopath, he eventually discovers that his life could be much more meaningful. Even the clear villain of the film, Immortan Joe, is not purely evil, as he is only after Furiosa in order to get his wives back, whom he clearly has feelings for.
It is Furiosa herself, though, who is the most impactful. Played with stern, powerful confidence by Theron, Furiosa is the breakout star of the film, at times even more so than Max. Her purpose and motivations are what drive her, and more often than not she proves herself capable of taking care of business.
Really, Fury Road does not have any shortage of strong female characters. Even the stowaway wives of Immortan Joe are able to show that they are much more than the damsels in distress that they first appear to be. This is especially contrasted to the original Mad Max films, which almost solely focused on the title character. Times have changed, and with them have the roles for women, even in a film such as this that most people would expect to be catered to a male audience.
In the end, though, this is still Max’s film. And Tom Hardy is more than capable of taking up the role that Mel Gibson made famous in the original trilogy. Hardy even does his best to imitate the gruff, subtle Australian accent that Gibson had in those films. He is the strong, silent type, and often tells more with a single close-up stare than any amount of unnecessary words could do. I’ve always found Hardy to have a strong screen presence, capable of playing roles as diverse as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises to the soft-spoken protagonist in last year’s underrated The Drop. Even with an extensive and growing resume, Fury Road is among his finest work.
A familiar dystopian world
The world of Fury Road is one that fans of the series will be familiar with. It is a mesh of cyberpunk weirdness, where people talk in strange accents, hold wild ideals, and dress similar to how Lady Gaga might imagine the future to be. It is similar in obscurity to the first three Mad Max films, but it also, at times, stretches into parody.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, because it also laces the film with some much-needed humor. (There is one scene in particular, containing a fire-spewing guitar on the back of a truck, that still makes me laugh). Miller doesn’t overuse it, either, and only brings the humor at the most opportune moments, when the audience is especially in need of some comic relief.
If there is one thing that Fury Road has proven, it is that action movies are nowhere near obsolete. Though this is the age of CGI, it is also one where anything you imagine can be recreated on screen, without the limits that past technology had. Miller has escalated his already-entertaining series into the present world, and it is an experience that seems like the one he always wanted to create, yet was never quite able to back in the ’80s. With the additions of Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, along with a well-talented supporting cast, Miller has truly knocked this one out of the park. A home run if I’ve ever seen one, and one that I’m looking forward to experiencing again.
(top image source: Warner Bros. Pictures)
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