Is it possible to have created something so beautiful, so poetic , yet at the same time be the equivalent of a heavy metal concert being kicked into full gear with loud and powerful fury and thousands of crazy fans yelling until their ears fall off? Well I can tell you for sure this is one hundred percent possible and the proof of that is George Miller’s brilliant, crazy, bizarre, exciting and heat pounding “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Confused? It’s hard to really put into words what type of film this actually is. “Fury Road” is so unique to itself yet at the same time it’s easily able to please a crowd.
The fourth film in the “Mad Max” franchise but the first film in the series one to be released in 30 years. This cult favorite series has quietly gone on to influence so many different forms of media whether they be film, video games or comic books. Miller’s original trilogy has gone on to such critical acclaim and has a definitive place in our pop culture whether we realize it or not. For nearly 14 years the original creator George Miller has been fighting tooth and nail trying to get this film made. Once the green light was given there were years of reshoots and production problems. This movie had every reason in the world to fail. Yet it overcame all the odds to become not just an entertaining action movie but one of the best movies of the year so far.
Without needing too much background of the previous films “Mad Max: Fury Road” dives headlong into its narrative giving only a brief overview of the world we are entering. One that has been all but destroyed by humanity. Everything appears to be a barren wasteland where water is scarce and any sort of green is hard to come by. Max is drifting off on his on his own when he captured by a group of Marauders called “the war boys” and taken as a blood donor to the brain washed minions of the ruler Immortan Joe. Soon though there is rebellion as one of Joe’s most trusted warriors frees his breeders, (the many wives he keeps), as they trek off to find a livable land. Immortan Joe sends off an entire army to capture her which puts Max right in the middle of this conflict where he must figure out where he stands and who to help.
This film does in many ways have a thin narrative. Let’s face it, the narrative was created in part so we can partake in this action porno that seduces your eyes with its brash insanity. Yet, the genius of this movie is the complexity or the deeper aspects of the narrative are on the screen for you to find. Movies are a way to tell a story visually and Miller takes that to heart leaving a lot of the clues and storytelling cues on screen in passing for the audience to pick up on and digest. So in a sense the story of this movie is as deep as you want to make it. If you see this as a simple minded dumb action movie then the movie allows for that mindset. But, if you see a movie with more depth, “Mad Max: Fury Road” allows for that too. It can play both roles, the dumb action movie or the dystopian sci-fi social commentary bit.
You can’t talk about this movie though and not talk about the utterly insane action sequences. No shaky cam, Miller doesn’t hold back as he relentless pounds the screen with out of this world stunts with only well placed moments of computer generated beauty (the sandstorm looking outstanding on the big screen). This guy is 70 years old and he is out directing young flesh blood in this industry. You’d think at this age the man has forgotten how to craft action but here he molds some of the best in years. There are amazing car chases, gun fights, hand to hand combat, and people jumping from vehicle to vehicle and Miller paces them all well enough so it doesn’t get boring. Constantly one upping himself to the point you start to wonder how many tricks does this man have? Which is plenty.
Accompanying his action and his style for visual storytelling is the intricate and layered musical muses of composer Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL). The music is always constant throughout the movie and almost acts as a secondary character with itself telling part of the story. It’s such a large part of the movie that glistens from ear to ear. I think a lot of directors forget that music can help elevate a movie and add impact to their story. If you just sit back and listen to the score of this movie you could picture a movie going on in your head. Not because you just saw it but because the score connects the movie at an emotional and intrinsic level.
Taking on the role of the titular title character (Max Rockatansky) is established Hollywood star Tom Hardy. Originally only played by Mel Gibson, Hardy had big shoes to fill but ended up pulling it off in spades. Quickly becoming one of my favorite actors in the business today, Hardy is able to display so much from just facial expression that he almost never needs to say a line (which is good because he hardly has any in this movie).
That would be my only major criticism of the movie. While I understand that “the man of few words” is part of the character of Max but they really didn’t give Hardy enough to do. With such an amazingly gifted acted I felt that some more depth and character emotion should have been attributed to him in this movie. Hardy is able to convey guilt and a past that is burdened with emotion, why not show that a little more? Regardless Hardy owns the roles and gives us a new Max for a brand new series of movies, a prospect that I most excited for.
Of course most people are noting that the show stealer here is Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. The rebel from Immortan Joe’s group. She is a tough and strong female character but isn’t two dimensional and stripped of emotion either. Many filmmakers make the mistake of believing that to create a strong female character you have to rob her of vulnerabilities. Chasing her own past and hoping for redemption and a better future, Miller and Theron balance everything in a wonderfully fleshed out and interesting character.
A nice other surprise casting is Nicholas Hoult as a “war boy” named Nux. A well performed and already overlooked performance and character. Nux gives us more insight into the ravaged world and how it operates. But, more importantly he brings the different viewpoints and perspectives. We see things from the “war boys” world and even at times greatly sympathize with them because there is such an understanding to their actions and motivations.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” ended up not only meeting my expectations but also blew them away. There is so much to love in this and as I’m typing this I am continue to wish that I was back sitting there and watching the movie. That’s when you know a movie has more than succeeded. This 2 hour action epic takes the series to new heights and now hopefully we get a whole new set of films around Mad Max with George Miller at the helm and Tom Hardy in front of the camera.