Man, rush hour is really bad today….
When I first heard about the new Mad Max film, I was saddened. Not because it was another remake of one of my favorite science fiction properties–no, nothing as mundane as that. The Mad Max series was a favorite of my dearly departed father. We watched the original trilogy so many times I thought we would wear out the DVDs. And as much of a fan as my Dad was of the bright and cheery Star Trek, deep down, he always felt that Mad Max would be more like what our eventual future would be. He always felt that humans were just too greedy and vicious–regardless of how often I would point out that the Max films, despite showing a desolate future, also had their share of hope.
And so in remembrance of dear old Dad, when Mad Max: Fury Road came out, I had to see it in the theater. After all, I saw The Road Warrior (a classic) and Beyond Thunderdome (not so much) in the theater with Dad. I eschewed the super duper 3-D IMAX Orgasmic Theater Experience for a regular 2-D viewing. Not only was it cheaper, but 3-D is nothing more than bullshit trimmings that do nothing to enhance a good film, or save a bad one. And, I have to say, once the movie started, I didn’t just like Mad Max: Fury Road, I freaking loved it.
HEAVY METAL FOREVER…and it’s on the go, apparently.
Tom Hardy does a superb job with the title role of Max. And despite all the whining and hand-wringing from certain quarters about Max being a sidekick in his own movie, they’re all wrong. Max is indeed the main protagonist here. He’s portrayed as a road warrior who’s burnt out from his bleak existence in the wasteland, as well as the overwhelming guilt he feels for the deaths of all the people whom he couldn’t protect when the apocalypse came, including that of his own child.
When he gets captured by the War Boys serving under the gloriously religious rule of Immortan Joe (played by the first Mad Max’s Hugh Keays-Byrne with a really cool breathing mask), one might not be wrong to think Max has finally come to the end of the road, despite his struggles to escape. He literally gets strung up and used as a blood bag for Nux (Nicholas Hoult) one of the War Boys who’s all too eager to throw his life away for his great leader.
I don’t care if you’re the star of this movie, that’s the last frigging time you cut me off, you hear me?!
But there’s a monkey wrench that gets thrown into the works, and her name is Imperator Furiosa (the divine Charlize Theron), a lieutenant of Joe’s who’s trusted to drive the War Rig–a tricked out armored tanker–to Gastown. But Furiosa, a one-armed woman who blacks out the upper half of her head with motor oil as her own personal war paint, isn’t going to Gastown today. She’s taking the five brides of Immortan Joe to sanctuary deep in the desert. Furiosa wants to free these young women from a lifetime of being used as brood mares, and nothing’s going to stop her. Max, tied to the front of a car, winds up just being along for the ride when Nux happily heeds the call to arms raised by Joe. But soon Max will be in the thick of things, whether he wants to be or not.
Director George Miller was 70 years old when he shot this and that fact alone is pretty amazing. Mad Max: Fury Road is one of these fiercely visual films that grabs you by the throat from the first frame and never lets go until the final frame. Using the chase of Furiosa by Joe and his troops as the main narrative drive, the film literally races along, offering a flurry of real-life stunt work with the CGI kept to a minimum. The result is a truly epic cinematic masterpiece that’s not three hours long (thankfully!) and offers you one incredible “holy Christ, what the hell am I looking at?” moment after another. And just when you think you’ve seen something pretty spectacular, the ante gets upped just a few minutes later.
And just like that…no more asshole tailgating us!
But as great as the stunt work is, you really start caring more for the characters, because George Miller never lets you forget about them. The characterizations are the true driving force of MM:FR, and once Max teams up with Furiosa, she helps to rekindle the spark within him, as he begins to realize that it’s not enough to just survive, you’ve got to live, and a major part of living is caring for and protecting other people. Charlize Theron is a force to be reckoned with here, she does a magnificent job at playing Furiosa, and once she and Max start working together, you get the same excitement level of a meeting of two titans.
Most people would just look at MM:FR and say it’s just an action film, nothing more. And they would be missing the point (like those who think Max isn’t the main character here). Just like how The Dark Knight raised the bar for superhero films, MM:FR does the same not only for action films, but films in general. Through telling most of its story mainly through some very impressive visuals, as well as showcasing some extraordinary actors at the top of their craft, Mad Max: Fury Road not only raises the bar for cinematic storytelling, it even manages to suggest, amidst all of its dystopian decor, that–in the end–not all human beings are that bad. All in all, this is a fantastic movie that should not be missed.
And I think dear old Dad would have loved it. 😀 –SF