Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

As a longtime fan of George Miller's apocalyptic series about a humanity broken by a gas shortage - where people have regressed into a fuel-obsessed tribalism, I can say with certainty that Miller has done it again. And this time he had a more serious budget!

Max Max: Fury Road hits all the hallmarks of the franchise without feeling like the director was working a checklist. Everyone in this world is desperate and capable of violence, and all is dust and ashes.

The character of Max cleaves to the anti-hero roots almost too strongly. He almost feels like a secondary character at times. Tom Hardy (I should say Tom Hardly) has hardly any lines in the film. You know how you know you're in the apocalypse? There's nothing left to say.

Max begins his anti-heroic journey by being run down and enslaved by the 'war-boys' of Immortan Joe, the radiation-warped villain of the film, and leader of a town that he controls by limiting their water supply. His general, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, who feels like the real star) escapes with Joe's harem -- which, incidentally, is the source of Joe's 'war-boys'.

As she is pursued by Joe across the desert, Max is attached to the front of one of the assault vehicles tasked with stopping her. Mostly he just hijacks them and by slow degrees begins to earn their trust.

What the director really got right here is that he understood what people loved about his earlier movies and gave it to them in spades: more (and better!) vehicular battles, and more details about this gritty, barren world. The maniacs that pursue Max & Co. aren't -just- maniacs. They have a culture, a belief system, and the audience gets to see it.

For example, when Joe gives the world that Furiosa has betrayed them all by stealing his harem, and puts out the call to arms, the various 'war-boys' rush to a central chamber where all the steering wheels (each adorned with different tribal symbols) are hung in a column. They are reverently taken down, then placed onto the steering columns of different vehicles.

Where in the ranking of Mad Max films would I place Fury Road? I would rank it as a superior fusion of the vehicular battles of the second film with the 'civilization'-level view we see in 'Thunderdome'. Some reviewers have complained that the second film is more introspective. This film's ending doesn't have the lyrical ending that the second film had, where the Narrator says, "He lives now only in my dreams." -- which was a shame.

On the basis of the action alone, this is a film worth seeing.