Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Release Date: May 15th, 2015 MPAA Rating: R
Director: George Miller Actors: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton
hile much of the minimalist plot bears resemblance to his earlier “Mad Max” films, George Miller’s “Fury Road” is less remake and more reinvention of his own postapocalyptic action movie genre. Blending elements of “The Road Warrior” and “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,” the visionary director dials up the sun-scorched atmosphere to a deafening degree – rusty behemoths collide with damaged flesh and punishingly hostile terrain while heavy metal guitar chords and booming drums bang out a rhythmic dirge. Both the pacing and intensity are relentless, with only snippets of humor thrust into the scanty dialogue, yet Miller knows exactly how much chaos to douse upon his wildly inventive action sequences without losing the quirky fun. The gorgeously demonic designs appear freshly unhinged, while still retaining an air of nostalgia, as the ever-escalating demolition of man, machine, and mise en scene prove endlessly entertaining in this lovingly demented ode to mayhem.
Haunted by the ghosts of those he couldn’t save, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) wanders the savage wastelands of a world crumbling under the weight of misery, despair, and diabolical despots preying upon the weak. Captured and assigned as sustenance (a.k.a. a blood bag) for the unhealthy minions of vicious tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), Max spies an opportunity to escape his cruel fate when he encounters the resolute driver Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Fleeing from Joe’s “Citadel” city with the mad king’s precious cargo and a massive war rig tanker, Furiosa enlists Max’s help to traverse hundreds of miles of barren desert in a perilous mission of redemption.
Expectedly, it all begins with a car chase. Then, it segues into a pursuit on foot, before giving way to yet another race of vehicles. It’s no secret that “Mad Max: Fury Road” is essentially a two-hour car chase, but credit is due to writer/director George Miller for taking his one idea and attacking it with such unwavering energy that the movie can survive on basically nothing else. The filmmaker certainly knows how to do fast and furious; if ever there were a film that deserved those words in its title, it’s this. And yet, though the project is named after Max, it’s really Theron’s Furiosa who owns the film, bringing a more sympathetic, humanistic character into the fold (especially considering that Rockatansky barely has any lines of dialogue).
Miller, realizing that fans crave more of what he gave them in “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior,” reimagines many of the same elements, but with far more verve. Miraculously, he pays homage or grandly embellishes more often than he merely rips off his former concepts – which, of course, he would be entitled to do, since he practically invented the postapocalyptic wasteland setting and epic vehicular skirmishes with cannibalized, re-outfitted, hodgepodge conveyances. Motorcycles, big rigs, monster trucks, tanks, and more are gloriously welded and melded together into gargantuan juggernauts of metal and fuel. This eye-popping style carries over with equal eccentricity to the costuming, makeup, and prosthetics, manifesting some splendidly fitting grotesqueries and oddities and villains – as audiences have come to anticipate from Miller’s works. The denizens become ever stranger as the locations shift and the picture progresses.
Like a twist on “Birdman’s” percussionist, who regularly appeared in shots with the actors as his beats permeated the soundtrack, Miller employs literal drummers and an electric guitarist (perched atop – or rather dangling from – one of the trucks) to supplement the background sounds with thunderous thumps and twanging riffs, respectively. It ramps up the momentum (if such a thing is possible) for the colossal action sequences that assault the viewer with such force that the 120-minute runtime feel like 30. So much stuff goes on in every frame (except, perhaps, for a plot) that it’s unachievable to take it all in the first time through.
The stunts are likely the only piece of the film that could be better appreciated; unfortunately, thanks to the extreme advancements in computer graphics (it’s been over three decades since “The Road Warrior”), it’s no longer necessary to choreograph exacting realism from such scenes. Before, there was something undeniably awe-inspiring about the stuntmen getting thrown from cars and careening about in the dirt, since every moment involved actual humans. But now, CG bodies and vehicles frequently replace real and realistic stunts, allowing for gravity-defying and farfetched maneuvers that lose a bit of their impressiveness in their sheer outlandishness (though practical effects do make up a large percentage of the screen). Still, the calm before the storm of a finale is utterly exhilarating as high-octane recklessness and physical abandon replace sensibility and cinematic caution – it’s an absolute thrill ride.
– The Massie Twins