It seems like all action movies are the same these days. They are bloated, CGI-driven affairs or they’re small-budget flicks that want to focus on gritty fighting like Taken or the Bourne movies. You don’t get any big-budget, practical effect-driven showcases of insanity and general apocalyptic mayhem that make you want to high five everybody in the theater when the movie ends and immediately go buy a ticket to see it again. Luckily, Mad Max: Fury Road is here to fix that.
Before diving into any details, the plain and simple is this: Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the greatest movies ever made. Not one of the greatest action movies or one of the best summer blockbusters. It is one of the greatest movies ever made. You have never, ever seen a movie like this. It is the type of film that you go see in theaters and makes you fall in love with movies all over again. Both in a technical sense as you wonder at the art of film and the cinematography and the vehicle designs and costumes, and in the “holy shit this movie is melting my face off” sense. It is unbelievable.
Writer/director/mastermind George Miller returns to bring us the fourth instalment of the Mad Max franchise, with Tom Hardy taking over for Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky. Miller takes the apocalyptic world he showed us in The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome and does it bigger and better than ever before. It is most certainly crazier than the other films. Fury Road is essentially a two hour car chase, an almost non-stop ride across the depleted landscape of Australia.
The film opens with Max getting captured by the War Boys, the pasty-white army of the insane Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played main baddy Toecutter in the first film). We see Joe is the generally horrible ruler of the Citadel, hanging out with a weird midget and hoarding all of the clean water for himself as the little people (peons, not midgets) suffer. From there, Fury Road becomes the story of Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. When Furiosa goes on a fuel run, she veers off course and it is revealed she is escaping with Joe’s wives – five women held in captivity for breeding. Joe and the War Boys take to the desert in pursuit, with Max strapped onto the front of a War Boy named Nux’s car. Max eventually escapes and joins up with Furiosa and the wives as they try to escape to the “Green Place”.
That’s essentially it for the plot. There is no needless, hand-holding exposition, which is refreshing. The movie is constantly charging forward, never stopping to lay out what is happening for you. Backstories may be hinted at for a brief moment, but you never get overwrought dialogue telling you everything. Too often we see movies brought down by tons of exposition – looking at you, every Christopher Nolan movie ever – when “show, don’t tell” gets the job done. Following along with a movie isn’t hard, and Miller rightly trusts the viewer to just keep up with what’s going on.
It is a relief that there is also no romantic subplot between Max and Furiosa, which would have been completely pointless. Again, it is too often we see movies brought down by sticking in a romance that adds nothing real to the story, like Nolan’s Batman movies. This is a movie about survival, and Max joins up with Furiosa and the wives because it is his best shot at surviving in the apocalyptic wasteland. Furiosa isn’t there to be a love interest, she is there to carry the movie.
At a time when the lack of strong female characters in action movies is coming under more and more scrutiny, and just a couple weeks after everything Black Widow does in Age of Ultron was analyzed to death, along comes Furiosa. She is an ass kicker through and through, and her story is what drives the entire film. While it is a Mad Max movie, Max just happens to be a small part of her larger quest to save Joe’s wives. She isn’t there to be a sex object or play the damsel in distress; she more than holds her own. Furiosa is another badass female protagonist like Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor at a time when movies really need one. This has somehow angered some men into thinking Fury Road is just feminist propaganda. Whatever.
Tom Hardy’s work as Max is more reminiscent of his turn as Forrest Bondurant in Lawless than Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the legendary wanderer of the wastes, but that’s not a problem. Aside from an opening voiceover, Hardy doesn’t say much, but mumbles and grunts a lot. This is okay since Hardy is one of the rare actors these days whose physical presence commands your attention every time he is on screen. He can be the most imposing person in a scene without even saying a word. The fact he beats a lot of ass helps with that.
The rest of the cast is great, except for the fact Zoe Kravitz (daughter of Lenny, one of Joe’s wives) seemed to have an accent in some scenes but not in others. It is also nice to see former failed WWE project Nathan Jones is still alive. Nicholas Hoult’s Nux is ridiculous and such a great supporting character. There is also a group of total badass old women riding motorcycles and killing shit. But the best supporting cast member is this guy:
That is the guitar player who, according to the internet, is called the “Doof Warrior” and he plays some sick riffs throughout the movie, all while strapped to that truck with a lot of speakers and a bunch of dudes playing drums on the back. Yeah, flames shoot out of the head of the guitar. Hell yeah, he’s got a double neck. This guy rocks out through a sandstorm and all sorts of insane vehicular combat. He is the real MVP of Fury Road.
In all seriousness, the visuals may be the real MVP of the film. It is beautifully filmed, with a surprisingly great display of colors despite the fact the movie is about trekking across the post-apocalyptic desert. It has some of the best cinematography of any film. The use of practical effects is also amazing. The phrase “lived-in” seems to come up more now, or maybe I just notice it more since I love Star Wars and that’s what JJ Abrams used to describe the aesthetic influence the original trilogy will have on Episode VII. He was saying that the sets and costumes in the original trilogy looked real and worn, more authentic. That same concept applies to Fury Road.
Everything looks real, and that’s what really makes the movie so stunning. The fact they really made the cars is so cool. All those vehicles are real. Even Immortan Joe’s hilarious car with two Coupe De Villes is a real thing. The cars with poles on the back are the craziest, with real stunt people swinging back and forth to swoop down and attack. It feels good to see a movie with real cars and crazy stunts instead of CGI. It just feels more authentic, and it is mind blowing that something as intricate as the vehicular combat in this movie was actually done with real vehicles and people. Tom Hardy really hangs upside down from a truck with his head inches from the ground. The aforementioned badass old ladies did their own stunts. This movie is fucking crazy.
Do yourself a favor and stop whatever you’re doing, go to a theater and see Mad Max: Fury Road. It is one of the best decisions you’ll make. Rare is the movie that can be so technically amazing, so demented, so epic and so bone-crushingly awesome, so when one comes along you have to cherish it. There has never been anything like Fury Road, and there probably won’t be again…until the sequel comes out.