Mad Max: Fury Road Review
“That was nuts.” That’s my girlfriend’s word-for-word quote on our way out of the theater. She had never seen any of the Mad Max movies before, so she didn’t know what to expect. I have seen all three of the Mel Gibson Mad Max movies, and it’s pretty safe to say I’m a fan. I even put The Road Warrior on my “Should Have Won Best Picture” list.
To be honest, however, when I heard they were making another Mad Max movie, I was very skeptical. Thunderdome is better than you remember, but it is the weakest of the first three. Sequels that come out more than ten years after the original are rarely, if ever, good movies. It’s been thirty. It sounded to me like a cynical cash grab. I also read about the delays in production and other problems on set (not the least of which was Gibson’s very public fall from grace) and expected a disaster. Then, I saw this trailer:
My mouth dropped, and I was blown away. I can’t remember a trailer that hooked me so quickly, or strongly. (Whoever created it deserves some kind of award.) Then, the reviews that came in were overwhelmingly positive. This, I figured, was the summer movie to see. I figured right.
If heavy metal was a movie instead of a music genre, this would be it. (Forget the cartoon from the 80s.) Blood, skulls, metal, motors, fire, spikes, guitars, gasoline, dirt, and scantily dressed babes. That’s metal, and that’s Mad Max: Fury Road. You don’t have to be a fan of heavy metal to enjoy this movie, however. If you appreciate the art of cinema, you will most likely enjoy it. There is so much to love about this movie; I’ll do my best to touch on as many elements as I can remember. Witness me!
- The action. This had to be number one on my list. The action is almost non-stop from the movie’s start until the explosive finale, but it’s varied enough in intensity to keep the audience invested in the ride. This is a chase movie, after all. The best scene is the one teased in the trailer. It’s the first battle involving a giant dust storm, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat. I was physically drained after the sequence and I actually breathed a sigh of relief when it ended. The computer effects are blended seamlessly with the practical stunts, of which there are many. The result is pure audience immersion and investment. Any action movie to follow has a tough act to follow. What a lovely day, indeed.
- The sets/props. The vehicle design appealed both to the ten-year-old kid in me that liked to play with toy cars and to the designer in me that appreciates practical design. These vehicles all belonged to this world, and they all served a purpose (while looking insanely badass). Even the flamethrower guitar and drum truck (which was added out of sheer joy for the sake of being over-the-top, I’m sure) seemed to serve the purpose of boosting the War Boys’ morale.
- The costumes/makeup. The costumes and makeup design were top notch as well. The villains all looked both human and monstrous at the same time. The War Boys used oil, grease, and chrome as war paint, to a very unique and original effect. The Wives’ costumes objectified them, while at the same time empowering them. The objectification comes from the fact that they were sex slaves dressed by their captor. The empowerment comes from how they wore them, and owned them. Furiosa’s (Theron) robotic arm looked real, and it served a grander purpose (which I won’t spoil here).
- The editing. I’ve read that action movies are the most difficult to edit. Stay too long on a shot, and the audience will bore. Cut too quickly and they’ll miss what’s happening. The editor here, who I think is Miller’s wife, does a fantastic job of finding the happy medium.
- The acting. Tom Hardy is great as Max. He doesn’t say much; it’s mostly a physical performance. Gibson is better, but the comparison is unfair as he had three movies to tackle the role, and he had a lot more dialogue. Hardy’s Max is definitely crazier. Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played the villain Toecutter in the original movie, is back in Fury Road as Immortan Joe. He’s absolutely terrifying as an aging tyrant. His performance is a bit over the top, but it needed to be. Charlize Theron’s Furiosa steals the show, however. This is her movie. Her performance runs from badass to heartbroken to hopeless to triumphant in the span of the movie’s two hour run time. She’s the most interesting character, and the one you root for the most.
- The photography. This is a beautiful movie to look at. One reviewer remarked that the desert looked cartoonish. I disagree. I thought the CGI was blended expertly. The hot reds, oranges and yellows of the daytime battles contrasted beautifully with the deep blue of the night scenes. You could watch this movie and enjoy it just for the cinematography.
- The sound. The soundtrack jarred my insides. You felt every car flip, every gunshot, every explosion. This is a loud movie, but it’s supposed to be.
- The directing. Miller waited thirty years for the follow up, but he delivered in every way. The director brings everything together, and he shared his vision like an expert. The audience is truly immersed in this world. I’m impressed.
- No Gibson cameo. I was afraid there would be a Mel Gibson cameo in this movie, but that fear proved unfounded. A Gibson cameo would have taken the audience out of the world, so I’m glad it didn’t happen.
There really isn’t much wrong with this movie; it was a little bit difficult for me to think of any cons. However, I was able to manage a couple:
- The plot. Fury Road is basically The Road Warrior with a higher budget. Sex slaves have been swapped in for gasoline as the chase’s spark. I’m totally okay with this, but I can understand some moviegoers’ complaint in this department.
- It’s not Max’s movie (see “The acting” above). Again, I’m okay with this, but I understand the gripes. Furiosa (Theron) is the star of this movie, not Max. I read one review that calls her a Moses character, and Max is her Joshua. I mostly agree with that. The protests over the movie’s feminism are very stupid. What’s wrong with a testosterone fueled picture that also empowers women? Everybody wins, I say.
Mad Max: Fury Road is the best movie I’ve seen (so far) this year. It’s a pure joy to watch, and George Miller, once again, thoroughly immerses you in his nightmare world. Although The Road Warrior is still my favorite in the series, Fury Road takes a very close second. Make sure you watch it on the big screen. It’s mad.
Story: ★★★½ of 5
Action: ★★★★★ of 5
Visuals: ★★★★★ of 5
Overall: ★★★★½ of 5
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