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MAD MAX FURY ROAD Review: Fire and Blood

The original Mad Max was an oddity spawned of a fuel injected cocktail of Mel Gibson, Australia, and a low-budget, low-fi post apocalyptic nightmare. The two subsequent sequels took the original’s vibe and ran with it, going full insanity, ending with Tina Turner and a bastardization of the lost boys from Peter Pan. With George Miller behind the helm, they were a trio of fantastically received sci-fi action flicks that were long assumed dead, especially with Mel Gibson going somewhat off the rails in recent years.

Enter Fury Road, which proves that Mad Max is far from dead and just as mad. Miller, the man who incredibly directed Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet Two has filled a four-year CV gap with a return to the franchise that spawned his career way back in 1979. Typical of a reboot announcement, the internet somewhat lost it’s mind when they heard Max was back. With Tom Hardy as “Mad” Max Rockatansky and Miller in the fuel injected, gas guzzling driver’s seat, some dared to hope that a new Max could be a good Max. Good news, Acolytes, Max is Back.

What A Lovely Day

We find Max having been living rough and ready in the wilderness for some time, plagued by visions of his deceased wife and his child, and rolling side by side with his Pursuit Special. He’s hunted down by the cult headed by Immortan Joe, a beastly, mutated masked man, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who as you might know, was Toecutter, the big bad in the original Mad Max flick. Max is captured and becomes a blood bag for Nux (Nicholas Hoult) a sickly dying War Boy with incredible driving skills and a dream of dying in battle to ascend to Valhalla and join the heroes of old.

Meanwhile Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), one of Joe’s generals, takes a heavily armored War Rig to collect fuel. She veers off course and drives into the wilderness. Joe discovers that his five wives have been kidnapped – or rescued, as the case may be – by Furiosa, and this kicks off an insane chase sequence that is the backbone of the entire movie. Max Mad scarcely stops for a second to let you breathe, and even with a wealth of character development and moments of fantastic acting, the threat of Joe’s forces is always there, always literally a black shape on the horizon or headlights scanning the night.

There are many ways that Mad Max could have been bad, and with Miller’s deft hand, nearly every single one of these caltrops are deftly steered around. Fury Road truly feels like a seventies or eighties action movie made with the budget, effects and sensibilities of a modern blockbuster. The film focuses on character development, on less being more when it comes to dialogue, amidst action scenes that are some of the most over the top and visceral you’ve ever seen. There’s a reliance on practical effects and character acting that made the entire film feel much more tactile than it should. The entire running time is a blitz on your senses, but you never feel yourself switching off like you would in a CGI laden summer flick. Max is a blockbuster for cult films.

My Name Is Max

Tom Hardy embodies Max to the point where you’ll find yourself asking Mel who? He’s a tortured man, half insane, plagued by visions and flashbacks, trying his best to survive in a mad, mad world. Fury Road seems to be a sequel to the previous films, judging by the family trauma, the car, and the accelerated apocalyptic state of the world, but it doesn’t matter either way. The new Max fits perfectly in with the lore of the world while also being an entirely new man. Max barely has a line of dialogue above a grunt, and comes across as a decent man driven mad rather than any sort of hero. Tom Hardy is not in sculpted action star mode here. After a trim, his hair is matted, his beard is scruffy, he’s unkempt, unruly, violent, and rough, and you’ll fear him, pity him, and love him in equal measure.

The standout screen presence is Theron as Furiosa. She’s a shaved headed, one-armed tour de force with oil smeared across her face and vengeance in her heart. Miller has an incredible way of characters developing through their actions rather than reams of dialogue, and Furiosa is painted as a powerful warrior woman in search of redemption. Joe’s five wives are beautiful and never played for their sex appeal, making a film that could have been so exploitative feel like it’s on the side of ladies, for once.

The only time we ever see the wives through the male gaze is when Max first lays eyes on them. They’re glad in white, tattered wedding dresses, washing their bodies in the sun with the water that is so scarce across the entire wasteland.Rather than be invited to leer, we’re instead invited to pity Max. A man who is stricken dumb by the sight of beauty in a world so ugly. The same goes for the other male characters. Joe covets his wives as playthings, having ‘favorites’, but caring only for their soft skin and their wombs. When they’re stolen, he’s driven mad and threatens his entire cult with ruin. All the female characters are stronger than the men, who are weak with sickness and driven mad by the apocalypse.

The only man who seems to be able to stand with the women is Nox, who undergoes an incredible arc throughout the film, starting off as half villain, someone who seems like little more than cannon fodder, and evolves into something very different.

Never mind the character development, the excellent plot, and the evolution of the characters and the world throughout the film’s lean running time, the whole shebang looks astounding. A chase scene in a sandstorm of biblical proportions invites spectacle on a cosmic scale and one of the film’s most quotable lines. The world is arid, scorched red and brown, but it’s never short of anything astounding. There’s the sense that the crew’s journey down their fury road only covers a small slice of this massive world, where there’s plenty left to see.

A universe is built on the road, and the stunts, the car chases, the explosions, and the hand to hand combat are all deliriously thrilling. There are trucks laden with war drums being beaten and a blind guitarist on strings swinging across the road spewing fire. As the camera pans around the chaos, their crunching riffs and thudding drums fade in and out, making it feel like the entirely of the film plays to one tectonic tattoo as the desert whirs past and the world crumbles under the weight of itself.

Overall

Mad Max ticks all the boxes, becoming a blockbuster with substance. A cult film with broad appeal, an effects extravaganza with genuine heart and pathos. It’s a film that studies redemption and the relationship between man and woman just as closely as it studies a leader with nipple rings, a metal nose, and elephant feet. It’s a world where spiked and belted cultists fly through the air on barge poles between rigs travelling at insane speeds but we also take the time to examine the indoctrination and redemption of a sickly, crazed man-child with tumors that have smiley faces tattooed onto them.

In short, Mad Max: Fury Road is the antidote to every super hero film, every movie about being Fast and Furious. It’s a blockbuster with substance and style and while a sequel already in the works, the apocalypse is here, and it can stay for as long as it wants. What a lovely day.

5 out of 5 stars

5 out of 5 stars

 

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2 Comments on “MAD MAX FURY ROAD Review: Fire and Blood”

  1. 06/12/2015 at 6:04 AM #

    I absolutely loved Mad Max. The best action movie in many many years.

  2. 07/12/2015 at 1:09 AM #

    Mad Max was amazing. It’s really cool how it ends up being one continuous action sequence. The best part? It works. Without a doubt, one of the best action movies of this decade.

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