So here’s a quick review for the spoiler-phobic: You should be watching the movie instead of reading this. Yes, it’s that good. Yes, the two leads (Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron) own their performances, and personally, I think Tom Hardy makes a better, “madder” Max. The action is non-stop, and over-the-top, and beautifully choreographed mayhem. You don’t have to know any lore. You don’t have to have seen ANY of the other movies, it really doesn’t matter. It’s a damn good movie, and if you’re reading this, then I can guarantee you’ll like it.
Tom Hardy stars as Max Rockatansky, a loner in the post-apocalyptic wasteland trying his best to survive, aided only by his car and a knack for pissing off the right people. He is haunted by a past only hinted at through nightmarish imagery, and it has left an indelible mark on his psyche. This is a Max that is truly mad, driven insane by his dire circumstances and the constant struggle to survive in an anarchic world after…something happens to his family, and the world “falls”.
Let me get this out there front and center: Tom Hardy is a better Max. Mel Gibson was desperate, skirting the line of anti-heroism, and could do those great crazy eyes, but his Max Rockatansky was ultimately still noble, if a touch suicidal. There is nothing noble about Hardy’s interpretation of Max. Living his life constantly on the run from people whom the world has turned into monsters (and he himself is slowly becoming one) simply because he wants to be left alone has scoured Mad Max of any nobility or “heroic” impulses. This is a Max that speaks mostly in grunts and snarls, hell, he barely utters more than a few sentences in the entire movie. Max Rockatansky doesn’t help people in need or get into epic adventures; shit just kinda happens to people around him, and he gets swept up in it. This is what I think the blogger complaining about Mad Max: Fury Road shoving feminist propaganda down our throats doesn’t get. I read the article, and in it he (the blogger whom I shall not name) opines for the good old days in the 80’s when MAD MAX DIDN’T TAKE ORDERS FROM NOBODY, ESPECIALLY NO WOMERN, and all I can think is “Dude…have you seen the Mad Max movies? Max is everyone’s bitch.” Examples:
Max gets his ass kicked by the biker gang in the first one
Max takes orders from that Farscape chick in Road Warrior
Max takes orders from Tina Turner
Max takes orders from aboriginal child leader
I don’t like Mad Max because he’s a bad-ass, shotgun wielding ubermensch, I like him because he’s good at surviving the inordinate amount of abuse he regularly receives, and he will eventually do the right thing, but only after his initial attempts to escape whatever horrific situation he is in fail. And that is what Tom Hardy embodies.
Max is kidnapped by scavengers and labeled a universal blood donor for Immortan Joe’s War Boys. Immortan Joe is a warlord who has set himself up with a huge supply of water, a loyal following of chrome-huffing War Boys (gearheads who view Joe with religious reverence), and a harem of “wives” for breeding and farming “Mother’s Milk”. When Imperator Furiosa, the leader of Immortan Joe’s raiders (played with a vulva of steel by Charlize Theron) takes Joe’s “wives” on the run to save them from a lifetime of sex slavery and breeding, Max is strapped to the front of a War Boy’s car (with a blood transfusion IV still running from him to Nux, the War Boy played by Nicholas Hoult) and a chase begins that doesn’t let up until the last few minutes of the movie. Max is dragged along through one scrape after another, always with survival at the top of his list of priorities.
In fact, this isn’t even really Mad Max’s story. The film is really about Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, and it’s a hell of a story. Furiosa is all sinew and grit, except for her robotic arm (how did she build a robot arm in the post-apocalypse? Who cares? It’s badass.) and a heart buried under a stony exterior. It’s that heart that drives the plot of the movie, and apparently there are people who have a problem with a female lead who isn’t there to take her top off and to fawn over how super-cool the male lead is.
Super cool, unstoppable hero
Furiosa’s back story is never deeply delved into, in fact no one’s is, but there’s enough in each major characters actions to give you an idea of who they are, where they come from, and why they are the way they are. All without a single conversation beginning with “As you know…” or a plodding scene where everyone sits around and talks about their past and their motivations. It’s all right there on the screen, a rarity in this day and age of filmmaking where every little thing is explained to the audience ad nauseum.
Now, this IS a Mad Max movie, so there are car stunts galore. And they are gloriously insane, especially going into the film knowing that most of the stunts are practical. This is the first movie in a long, long time that I had to seriously wonder “How’d they pull that off without killing everyone in a fiery deathball?” Miller’s direction gives us long, loving shots of cars and trucks, laden with post-apocalyptic accessories like skulls and tubes and harpoon guns careening into each other and flinging bodies and metal everywhere. But the best special effect in the movie is this guy, credited as “Doof Warrior”
Yes, the guitar plays, and yes, it shoots flames. George Miller does not fuck around.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a masterclass in efficiency in filmmaking. Characters don’t talk about their hopes, dreams, and motivations, they are constantly driving towards them. There is not a single wasted frame in its two-hour run time, and Fury Road’s breathless pacing make sure that from fade up to fade out you are on the edge of your seat, with everything you need to know on screen. I can only hope that other filmmakers see this movie, lose their shit over it, as I did, and take away the REAL message of this movie: with no agenda, no hidden purpose, no deeper, subtler meanings George Miller has made a triumphant return to the world he created in 1979’s Mad Max, and shown the world that action movies don’t have to be dumb, rote, loud affairs with massive publicity and toy lines and fast-food offers. The lean, stripped down feel of Fury Road puts it far ahead of its competitors for genre film of the year. So far, it’s got my vote.
Just go see the damn thing.