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Published on May 18th, 2015 | by JCDoyle

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Mad Max: Fury Road Review

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It’s been 30 years since Mad Max entered the Thunderdome in the third, less entertaining, of the series of movies from Australian director George Miller. Part of the reason Beyond Thunderdome was less than it could have been is down to Miller losing interest in the project after an accident took the life of one of his friends and colleagues. However the Mad Max series hasn’t lost any of it’s appeal and still has a massive fan base today. If you’ve seen Mad Max 2, that information won’t come as a surprise.

So now, after years of dwelling in production hell and losing Mel Gibson as the titular character, Mad Max screeches back into the cinema accompanied by the squeals of many fans.

Has it been worth the wait?

mad max fury road sandstorm .1

The approaching sandstorm did not fill anyone with any confidence.

Fury Road

In a post-apocalyptic future, a cult leader called King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules a citadel through the control of water and the manipulation of the people. Our hero Max (Tom Hardy) is captured by one of the War Parties and put to use as a blood bag, a sort of living blood bank. However when the Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) liberates King Joe’s wives, a relentless chase across the desert world begins and poor old Max is thrust literally into the forefront of the hunt.

There are two things you need to know before going to see this movie. The first is that it’s not for the faint hearted; it’s loud; it’s brash; it’s violent. It screams in your face and continues until you ears bleed then unapologetically screams some more.

And secondly, it’s the most outrageous piece of cinema you’ll have seen in a very long time. It’s unashamedly ridiculous and George Miller isn’t afraid to layer the action with unbelievable stunts and even more unbelievable vehicles.

Let’s take a moment to consider those vehicles. It has been noted elsewhere on the web that the fuel guzzling behemoths don’t make any sense in a post-apocalyptic world short on petrol. But look at them…

Mad MAx Vehicle Mix

The cars we’re strapped to say a lot about us.

..To be honest, who gives a shit? This film isn’t about making sense and at no point from the trailer to the end credits does it pretend that sanity even has a foothold in this vision of the future. In fact Max pretty much says this at the start of the film; “As the world fell it was hard to know who was more crazy. Me… Or everyone else.”

Although that isn’t entirely true because there is a small haven of sanity in this messed up world: Imperator and the liberated ‘wives’. Fury Road is a chase through the desert but the purpose of that chase is an escape to freedom. The women were slaves, stolen when they were young and Imperator is trying to return them to her home; to be free from the harsh rule of man. And there is a strong female presence in this film, not just Charlize Theron, in fact the women are the driving force behind the film. When you first see the ‘wives’ they are shown in a stereotypical, half naked, hosed down with water, action movie way; a shot that Michael Bay would probably be proud of. But within moments this image is broken and the characters of these women start to break out. For years they have been slaves to King Joe but now they are free they will do almost anything to stay that way, as Max soon discovers.

Max takes a beating constantly throughout the film, something which Tom Hardy handles well. First he suffers at the hands of the War Boys, then by the fists of Imperator and also by the environment he is forced to travel through. He’ll be cleaning sand out of his stubble for months. However the biggest torture visited upon Max is his memories. Disturbing flashes to his past are littered throughout the film and actually explain why he ends up helping these woman who want nothing more than to thrown him to the dunes. He is haunted by the death of his wife and daughter and this guilt is what fuels his life.

These flashback moments are the only real narrative link to the previous films but then again it’s not as if the originals were related to each other. If you’re wondering if Fury Road is a sequel, a reboot or a remake the answer is none. It’s a new film with a new world to discover and a new history to unpick. If anything, it’s like Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 novels in that it is a sequel but to a story from a parallel universe which is similar to our own but has small differences.

mad max fury road explosion .1

Get used to these explosion type things.

There is a growing movement in modern cinema to return to the macho heady days of eighties action movies, full to the brim of over the top violence, quick puns and shameless machoism. It would be easy to put Fury Road into that mix but this movie is so much more. If anything it is a mockery of that type of film in the same way that Scream was a mockery of the Horror franchise. It has all of the elements of the eighties action movie but it distorts them just enough to lift the film above the others. A big part of this is down to the cinematography by the award winning John Seale. This movie is a sensation to look at. The opening scene, which also is the best 3D moment in the movie, is a breath taking, beautiful but bleak view of a lost world. It sets the tone of the movie perfectly and gives the audience all the information they need about Max: who he is and where he lives. As the film progresses the scenery gets more and more sublime with vast landscapes that you could easily lose yourself in; that is until a roaring heap of metal flies over your head into shot.

And there are only two colours in this harsh future: the hot, unbearable oranges of the day and the cold, all encompassing blues of the night. There is no doubt that the aesthetic of this movie was as important to the director as anything else. Just like the second movie in the franchise.

Mad Max Fury Road women .1

Without this group of women, there would be no film.

Furious Highlights

If you like this film you’re going to like it from the opening scene right through to the end credits (with the exception of possibly one scene which they didn’t pull off quite as well as they could have done but to even mention it would spoil a magnificent heart in the mouth moment) but there are some outstanding highlights.

Nicholas Hoult or War Boy Nux. You’ll probably know him best as Beast from the more recent X-Men movies but you’ll probably take a while to recognise him on screen. He starts the movie as the craziest of the crazies, a suicidal zealot intent on securing his place in Valhalla but it doesn’t quite work out like that for him. Hoult does an impressive job of creating sympathy for a character that is initially so tortured that death would probably be a blessed release but by the end you’ll be screaming encouragement at him as he turns the tables on his former compatriots.

The Incidental Music: the loud, constant bass thumping onslaught that destroys the first few rows of seats in the cinema.  Honestly, don’t sit anywhere near a speaker. There’s nothing ‘incidental’ about the music created by Junkie XL and it can only be described as a tour de force of sound. It’s so full on that when there are moments of silence you almost think you’ve gone deaf. And there are several poignant points of reflection and grief that work so much better because the noise has suddenly stopped. It’s as if an audio microscope has been focused onto the moment to rise it above the mayhem around it. It’s like George Miller saying “pay attention to this bit. This is what it’s all about.”

The Vehicles. I’ve touched on these already. It’s Tank Girl without the sweet horny kangaroo’s. Its pimp my ride for zombie hunters. Its Mad Max writ large.

Charlize Theron. Without doubt the most outstanding performance in the movie. Theron takes the lead and runs with it. She is magnificent and totally convincing as the hardest of the War Boys. When she grapples with Max there is no way he can win; when Max becomes her shotgun rider it’s because she, as a character and as an actor, exudes leadership. Above all of the amazing elements of the film, Theron is the rightful star. When they make a sequel (and I am convinced that they will) they should call it Furious Imperator and let Max step back to take a breather.

mad max fury road charlize theron .1

“You know it’s my film, right?”

Mad Max Fury Road starts off with a high octane chase and doesn’t stop until you physically can’t take any more. It’s a proper modern action movie with all the needless destruction of this genres history but also with 21 century sensibilities. The explosions, the vehicles, the constant barrage of noise all eventually succumbs to the will of the women and those that remain have a moment of hope which will stay with you as you leave the cinema, deaf as a post.

 

 

JCDoyle

JCDoyle

Lover of comics and Art and Sci-Fi in multiple media. Currently teaching my kids the ways of the Geek (while protecting my first editions)
JCDoyle

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