Until a few days ago, I knew nothing about George Miller’s hellish, frenzied Wasteland saga. I knew it existed, but I had never seen even a clip or heard any of the storyline. A friend let me borrow a copy of 1981’s The Road Warrior, which he claimed would give me the best idea of what the series was about. I didn’t need to see the original or watch the less critically acclaimed Thunderdome sequel. What I got was a unique vision that made for a really good action movie. It was, of course, dated but had enough originality to keep it together. The plot was thin, the dialogue was minimal, but the concepts, action sequences, and direction were noteworthy. This set the stage nicely for checking out the newest chapter of the Mad Max franchise, Fury Road. Thirty years after Beyond Thunderdome, Miller returns with a ghoulish, fiery update. Without knowing much about the series, my biggest draws to this film were its stars – the increasingly awesome Tom Hardy and Oscar winner Charlize Theron. Additionally, the trailers for this movie were crazy. If nothing else, the movie appeared to be the visual spectacle of the summer blockbuster season.
I was pretty much locked in to see it, then the critical praise came in. Fury Road currently sits at an impressive 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, calculated from 225 different reviews/sources.
Against a visionary post-apocalyptic landscape where cities are non-existent and precious resources like water and gasoline are the currency of the day, free roaming and revenge-seeking Max Rockatansky is thrust in to a mission to help restore order in a broken land of tyranny and mistreatment. Max collides with Theron’s character, Furiosa, who is determined to find both personal redemption and her homeland.
What follows is, as best as I can describe it, a visual symphony of chaotic warriors, explosions, acrobatics, and violence that is quite impressive.
The whole movie feels like one extended chase scene, which is essentially the storyline of the film. Its unique stylization, coupled with a seasoned director and supported by a heart-racing score, affords a completely immersive action movie experience that isn’t quite like anything I have seen before. Action movies can be a dime a dozen. This one sticks out in the crowd. It has mayhem aplenty, but it is controlled mayhem.
The performances here are solid, though again not really the focal point of this type of film. Hardy is good, as usual, as the lonely drifter type who is less a man of words and more a man of action. Theron certainly provides the best performance of the two, partially because her character has the most at stake and lends the majority of what little narrative substance is available to us. Furiosa’s plight gives a great blend of grit, gusto, and grace. The movie ends up being largely about women, leaving our title character to almost take a supporting role.
What we get is an unapologetic, over-the-top genre picture that knows exactly what it should be. Mad Max may not be the intricate character study and thick plot I normally leap for, but there’s certainly more going on than what the small amount of dialogue tells us. There are a number of illusions, social references, and parallels which we won’t have time to cover here and now, though this perfectly illustrates one of the main reasons I love movies. What would appear like a pile of vehicular nonsense, and I had several friends write this film off just from the previews, actually has more depth than you'd think. My friend Todd summed up a few of these with this:
A wandering outcast "went thru hell to save the bride searching for hope. Gave his blood that she might live & living waters might flow to the broken."
Miller has proven to be an action Rembrandt, and thankfully he has perfected his craft in a time where special effects have made his maniacal spectacle a feast for our eyes. Miller’s vision of a futuristic western of outlaws, gunslingers, and lone rangers rips and roars on screen like the Road Warrior did some 30+ years earlier.
Have you seen Mad Max: Fury Road? What was your take? Leave a comment below.