Mad Max: Fury Road
Review By Alex Yarde
“Oh what a day. What a lovely day!”
Mad Max: Fury Road is a remarkable film for many reasons. It wowed the art house crowd at Cannes and yet hovers at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. This unlikely universal praise for what boils down to an old school summer 80’s apocalyptic thrill ride speaks volumes. Mad Max: Fury Road was made to enjoy in 3D on the biggest screen you can find. It’s a glorious visual masterpiece with some of the best action & practical stunt choreography I’ve ever seen on film, and trust me I’ve seen plenty of this genre man and boy.
Mad Max: Fury Road is the singular vision of Australian Director George Miller who became the father of the genre when he made the original Mad Max 30 years ago. Then Miller worked within the confines of an indie budget. The sparseness of characters & availability of run down abandoned locations to shoot lent themselves well to post-apocalyptic tales. His next film the action classic Road Warrior – the sequel to Mad Max, he had the cash to bring his vision to life.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a reboot of the original dystopian masterpiece that starred Mel Gibson. This tale is less about the destruction of the old world but the birthing pains of bringing a new world into existence, rebuilt and retrofitted from the old world’s ashes. And interestingly, the direction we wish to go as a species.
This is a world of irradiated gear heads that worship automobiles, huff spray paint and ride into battle seeking a good death and the halls of Valhalla. A desert waste where bands of mutated freaks drive intriguing amalgams of weaponized vehicles like vintage Cadillacs bolted atop each other and band wagons with war boys pounding drums while a metal guitarist shreds on a flame throwing guitar suspended above the endless desert plains. They comb the wastes for any hapless traveler. In their Darwinian world it’s eat or be eaten then, they get more than they bargain for in “Mad” Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy). Driving his battered V8 Interceptor and clad in trademark leathers it’s a new Max but he’s as resourceful as ever. Max is the archetype of reluctant hero haunted both by the things he’s done to survive and the ghosts of those he couldn’t protect. As usual Max gets himself in a fix, he begins the tale as a prisoner of Joe’s War boys, a “blood bag” mounted on the fender of war boy turncoat Nux (Nicholas Hoult)
Imperator Furiousa (a well named Charlize Theron) one armed, no nonsense, high ranking lieutenant in the army of wasteland dictator Immortan Joe (Hugh Keyas-Byrne) defects in a prized war rig which contains cargo more precious than any octane fuel -Joes prized breeding wives, one carrying his heir “The Splendid” (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). The women abandon the relative comfort of Joe’s mountaintop sanctum The Citadel, for a perilous quest to a long remembered, “green place”. After an incredible chase through fiery lighting tornadoes of the wasteland Hardy’s Max reluctantly joins Furiousa’s fledgling rebellion but only after Theron and he tangle and Furiousa shows him how she rose in the ranks within a demented, male dominated, car worshiping warrior cult. Theron is no joke and she out Ripley’s Ripley in her tenacity and fortitude in this role. Mad Max: Fury Road’s plot line was simple – keep moving, fix the rig and fight for your life.
Make no mistake this roller coaster ride of a film is a visual orgy of highly produced, extraordinarily dangerous chase scenes and all manner of car based combat. Mad Max: Fury Road is unflinching in its portrayal of violence as a form of madness and in a society where breast milk is a commodity and fertile women are prized “possessions,” female roles within this society as it stands are far from ideal. At its core, believe it or not, it’s a story of redemption and hope. Hope is what motivates everyone; even villain Joe’s hope for non-mutated progeny launches his suicidal chase. Hope is as hard to kill in Max’s world as the hardy plant growing in an elderly warrior woman’s pocketbook. What motivates manic war boy Nux to join the small band of runaways and forge a new life instead of seeking a good death is hope. Furiousa, Max & company fighting impossible odds to make in an insane world a little better for all. Hope is the ultimate survivor.
As for the recently reported “feminist agenda,” the reality that women living in a brutal, male dominated society may need to become twice as intelligent, fierce and resourceful to survive? That’s just common sense. The truth that no one should live as a slave and people should work together to create a world they want is hardly unique or an explicitly feminist concept. Max & Furiousa grow to trust and respect each other as allies against a common foe. Their relationship reaffirms a civilized ideal that man forgot. Their forebears chose the path of war and in turn burned the world. The premise that a better world isn’t so much a location, but an idea that can spring up right where we find ourselves is universal. Isn’t it? In the end, Miller’s dark, violent world in crisis opens the door for an opportunity for altruism and hope for those willing to fight for it. Which road do we wish to travel? In that way the world of Mad Max: Fury Road minus the demolition derby and acrobatic combat isn’t so different than our own.
Mad Max: Fury Road is in theaters now
Run time: 120 minutes