Friday, May 29, 2015

Hellfire and Electric Guitar in Mad Max: Fury Road: A High-Octane Phantasmagoria of Mayhem

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Director: George Miller

Reviewed: 29 May 2015

jamesintexas rating--***1/2

With eye-popping action, an unnatural bright color palette, and nearly relentless action, George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road delivers a two hour shot of adrenaline to the heart with unforgettable visuals and undeniable effect. The movie starts with a chase and basically maintains it for its entire running length. What Miller does here is all the more incredible because of its weight; the film feels dangerous in its depiction of this desert wasteland world of kill or be killed. The special effects enhance the film, the score pounds the brain, and the lead performances are nearly silent as action becomes the order of the day. Pure, exhilarating action.

Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) escorts a convoy from the tightly controlled sanctuary of the ruler Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a mask-wearing madman who doles out the water sparingly to the hordes of impoverished who live at the foot of the cliff. Furiosa's task is initially a supply run for gasoline and bullets, the lifeblood of this culture, but when things go awry, Immortan Joe and his crew of loyal foot soldiers must race to find her. And they bring recently captured universal donor Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), strapped to the front of Nux's (Nicholas Hoult) dirt race car like some bizarre hood ornament. As Max struggles to free himself in the struggle, Furiosa harbors desires of rebellion and even finding sanctuary in a land through the desert, but the chase is on with deadly, metal-bending consequences when everyone collides. And, there's a chained guy with no eyes who jams wildly on an electric guitar which spews fire at the front of one of the pursuers. Awesome.

The chase really does unfold for the entire two hours. I really like the forward momentum of this film as well as its look. Strange to say, the weakest link here is Hardy's performance as the nearly nonverbal Max, mumbling his few lines in a marble mouthed way that seems akin to his work as Bane several years ago. Hardy's voice seems enhanced, perhaps made even deeper, but the movie belong to Charlize Theron as Furiosa, who delivers a topnotch performance of movement and intensity, doing more with less, consumed with the mechanics of driving a big rig across the desert. The film works best when the two leads are repelling attackers, creatively repairing the vehicles, rushing across frightening landscapes to catch the vehicle before being left behind. The baddies are quite bad, with plenty of leering looks and eye-catching make-up in addition to bones strapped to the hoods of cars, deathly pale complexions, and a million variations on souped-up cars and motorcycles. At one point, the rig is being stalked by leaping motorcycles which just as likely could have been horses leaping up in the air behind them, a forgotten tribe of nomadic warriors that materialize out of thin air with deadly intent.

Miller's world-building in Mad Max: Fury Road is so strong, a sign of how long he has worked with this character and nihilistic, apocalyptic concept, yet it still feels fresh. Characters stare at what we believe to be falling stars and remark upon them as being satellites falling to earth, an older way of sending information back and forth that seems alien to this time and place. I think a fear of mine in seeing a reboot (or a re-conception) of an existing character and world would be the feeling of being tied down to particular plot points or storytelling tropes, and to me, Miller avoids this completely. He has made a different Mad Max movie than the previous three with Mel Gibson, and instead, he's injected creativity and uniqueness to a story that I thought would be familiar. In a most exciting turn of events, there is an inclusivity to the film's gender politics that worked for me and felt remarkably fresh. I take the title to be a knowing nod to the shared top billing of both Max and Furiosa. To be honest, Theron's character and volcanic performance owns the entire film!


  1. I agree Theron steals the movie, I just didn't enjoy the film as a whole. I feel like they could've done a better job explaining the background and Theron's background. They just seemed to rush through the film with nonstop action scenes, and didn't give much back story to what happened to Mad Max's wife and daughter. Even just a bit more back story would have really helped strengthen the film.

  2. I think you're offering a strong point here. I wonder if Mad Max is the title to pull us in, but really the film is about Furiosa and her journey. She's the more compelling character. It is a good sign when I see a film and want to know even more about the characters and what made them tick.