Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road photo starrating-4stars.jpgMad Max: Fury Road is a visionary work of production design. It isn’t a story in the traditional sense with a lot of plot. This is more like a symphony of chase sequences that undulate like the movement within a classical piece. You might say the action is “mad”. Each setpiece is carefully modulated with deft precision. They’re punctuated by bursts of violence like trumpets that then ease into quieter moments like the calm violins of a soothing melody. The tempo rises and falls before culminating in a coda that leaves the viewer debilitated but relived.

In a future world, a nasty cult leader named King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules over a collapsed civilization . Keays-Byrne also portrayed the main villain “Toecutter” in the original Mad Max (1979) but there is no connection between these evildoers. In order to breathe he wears a mask with horse teeth arranged in a skull motif from which two vacuum pipes extend. A shock of white hair and ghastly skin contribute to the overall nightmare that is his face. He’s a frightening sight. Just watching him suit up is kind of mesmerizing. He commands a group of white painted minions called “War Boys” at the Citadel. They help him maintain control over the masses, hoarding this world’s most precious commodity, water.  His dependents include his son Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones ), a muscular warrior that looks like he could take on The Rock and War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult) in a captivating performance.

Tom Hardy is”Mad” Max Rockatansky, one of the rebels trying to out run Joe and his army. Max is haunted by the loss of his wife and child. This is a reboot of the same character that Mel Gibson played in the previous 3 installments. He speaks with a deep, raspy voice rarely stringing more than 2 words together. Initially he is a hapless hostage strapped to the front of a car. Thrust into this supposed male dominated world is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who drives “The War Rig”, one of Joe’s vehicles. She sports a metal prosthetic arm and can speak in full sentences thank you very much. Theron is a female badass that ranks with the icons in cinema. I’m thinking Sigourney Weaver in Alien and Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. She dominates the story. While Mad Max may bear the movie’s title, he’s not the star of the show. Furiosa has decided to rescue King Immortan Joe’s five beautiful wives out of the Citadel. Joe pursues her. And they’re off!

The action is the realization of a perfect manipulation of cinematography and production design. The futuristic terrain of Australia here is courtesy of the Namib desert in southern Africa. It’s an arid land with an inhospitable climate. It’s a post apocalyptic dystopia, but cinematographer John Seale should get an Oscar for making the desolate wasteland look so visually stunning. The landscape has the energy of life. There’s a massive sand storm that will blow your mind. Even the heroes look good. They all have the healthy looking bronze of a sun kissed glow: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and the five wives of Joe that she rescues in tow. They are the emotional core of the film. Joe’s favorite is played by the gorgeous Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Side note: how do these women look so ravishing in these dusty conditions? Seriously. No I mean seriously.

Any studio with a lot of money can put on a CGI fest these days. Watch a superhero movie. Take your pick. It takes a visionary to present action in a style that propels the medium further. It’s essential that every automotive monstrosity in Mad Max: Fury Road is a physical entity that exists. The danger is real. The 88 uniquely different cars are characters themselves. I’m told 150 vehicles were actually created because, well ya know, they take a beating. One roadster with porcupine spikes is called “Plymouth Rock”. Another called “The Doof Wagon” is fronted by a blind electric guitarist (Sean Hape better known as iOTA). The mutant dangles from a bungee cord above an epic sound system made of amps and speakers. There’s a separate truck that holds massive drums of course. They pulse like a heartbeat. Some cars are outfitted with long spires that swing hundreds of feet in the air like metronomes. Enemy acrobats ride atop the poles enabling their aerial attacks. Charlize Theron drives “The War Rig”, a six-wheel-drive tanker powered by two supercharged V8 engines built to haul gasoline and annihilate anyone that crosses its path.

The spectacle of Mad Max: Fury Road is a symphony of action under George Miller’s direction. It’s gleefully insane! Like some unholy union between The Wacky Races cartoon and an Iron Maiden album cover. Miller has described the film as one long chase sequence. When you get right down to it, that’s pretty accurate. Plotwise it’s a race to there and back again. But it’s Colin Gibson’s production design, John Seale’s cinematography, Junkie XL’s immersive score, and Jenny Beavan’s costumes that define this movie. The look is absolutely bonkers. It’s a testament to the visual and aural overload that it propels an adult like me into giddy exuberance. Mad Max: Fury Road is an all out pedal to the metal, full throttle chase with nothing held back. You know those pre-teens raised on heavy metal music and 80s action movies back in the day? Well we’re adults now.  This movie hits the sweet spot.

05-14-15

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44 Responses to “Mad Max: Fury Road”

  1. GaryGreg828 Says:

    Hey, I thought this was the “Fast Film Reviews” blog! You’re so excited about this one, you couldn’t condense it. πŸ™‚ I am on my way to go see this now. I will stop back by to comment further.

    *Gonna use my free pass from Avengers 2 to see this one for free! πŸ™‚

    • Hee hee. My excitement got a little out of hand.

      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        Just got back! Was a lot of fun. Nolan really knew what he was doing when casting Hardy as Bane; he was great as Max, as well. It’s good to see an action hero that isn’t all pretentious and cutesy, etc. Charlize Theron was great! I think this is my favorite performance I’ve seen from her. She looks finer here w/ a buzz cut than when she first came on the scene 20 years ago. She was great in “Young Adult”, too. πŸ™‚ The visuals were amazing here. The location and the costume designs. This should win some Oscars, although it probably won’t since these kind of films rarely get recognition. I thought the villain’s wardrobe was pretty stellar. Great visuals here!

        *PS: I don’t know how much this matters, but I never watched any of the original Mad Max films. Is that a cinema sin? How were those films compared to this one?

      • The Road Warrior is worth checking out. Quite different. Far lower budget than this. It’s like a little independent art film.

  2. Terrific review of what will become a classic film. Not seen it yet – but this breathless review is likely the only way to review a film that is, you know – above all else – fast-paced.

  3. Great piece. I finally decided to wait til Avengers is available for rental and instead I’m going to see this beauty this weekend. Can’t wait!

  4. Yep. This movie was positively insane. For better and for worse. The film should receive an Oscar for most-hyped film of the year! Lol. But in all seriousness, you captured the intensity of this beast very well here. Great review.

    • Thanks. I feel like calling it the most hyped film of the year means you didn’t like it. I saw you gave it 4/5 stars. You’re part of the hype! LOL

      • Yeah right now I’m trying to explain why I still think ‘most hyped’ isn’t necessarily a detraction. If I said ‘overhyped’ that would def connote something more negative. Honestly I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the thing! Haha. It might deserve a second watch. . .

        And as for the rating I put on RT, I tried forever to reduce it back to a 3.5 stars but the site wasn’t working on my mobile for some reason.

      • Funny thing about Rotten Tomatoes is that it doesn’t quantify how much a critic enjoyed a film. All it measures is the number of critics that gave it 60% or better. That means a movie can get 100% positive rating even if every critic only gave the film 3/5 stars. Conversely, if every critic gave a film just Β½ a star less for 2Β½ stars, it would get a 0% rating.

  5. Great review! I loved this movie so much!!! Lol – I loved the comparison to an Iron Maiden album cover. My favorite band! Yes, I’m one of those 80’s heavy metal & action movie fans so I guess that’s why I loved this. πŸ˜‰ That and STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS! Yes!!! It’s about time we see that in an action movie again. πŸ™‚

  6. abbiosbiston Says:

    I love the image of Wacky Races combined with an Iron Maiden cover and there really is something so 80s about all of it.

  7. So how come not 5 stars?

    Its a B movie action classic, maybe the best I have seen (since Crank or Terminator 1) . Can’t low-brow get 5 stars? Or did it lose the star through lack of plot (the weakest link).

    But regardless, great review, and the colourist at least show win some kind of award. It was visually superb.

    • Visually stunning but yes the story was lacking. From my review: “Plotwise it’s a race to there and back again.”

      1984’s The Terminator is a low budget classic.

      P.S. I love Crank too!

  8. I think this is the longest review I’ve ever read of yours!! hahahaha so worth it though !! It’s so hard to not want to tell everything, as it’s such a fantastic film..but that would take 10 pages at least..plus everyone should just experience it on the BIGGEST, LOUDEST screen you can find. Shocked you didn’t give it 5 stars though. it got my highest grade and I don’t give those out lightly.. πŸ™‚

    • You’re right. I do believe that at almost 1,000 words, this is my longest review.

      It’s a solid 4 star movie. It satisfied my senses, but that script. Was it written on a cocktail napkin?

      πŸ˜‰

      • A post apocalyptic movie with a post apocalyptic script. made all the sense in the world to me. Plus everything else was so simply brilliant, so what if the script wasn’t perfect. The rest of it was mind blowing.. and deserves it from me! πŸ˜€

      • There was a refreshing purity to the story.

  9. Well-written. I think you said it best in the first few lines, not so much a story in the traditional sense (which does bug me a bit only because I had heard previously that it was one of its strong points from other write-ups), but an action spectacle that is more “blockbuster-ey” than I thought.

    And for this period in the year, that is more than fine πŸ™‚

    • That’s a good word “blockbuster-ey”. At $150 million, it was financed like a blockbuster. Even accounting for inflation, this cost more than the all the other 3 movies combined. Right now, it’s unclear whether it will make that money back domestically, but worldwide, most definitely.

  10. Nice review Mark. I’m surprised about the huge amount of praise this has received, I didn’t see that coming. I hadn’t seen any of the Mad Max films before, but I love your description that it’s like a cross between The Wacky Races and an Iron Maiden album cover.

    • Thanks. Surely the huge amount of critical praise is a relief to Warner Brothers – that this very troubled production turned out to be so good.

  11. I loved this movie. Now I should probably see the original Mad Max movies.

  12. One of my favorites of the year. Especially so since it kept the CGI hijinks to a minimal. Fine review, Mark.

    • YES! I am so much more a fan of practical effects over CGI. Back in 1991 when Terminator 2: Judgment Day came out, the technology was so novel that I enjoyed it. But we need to move forward with the process. It’s so overused to the point where it distracts from the story. It just looks fake.

  13. Wacky Races and Iron Maiden, love it. I loved the guitar player too. This movie was pretty hyper. I was outta breath a few times and those acrobatic creations, wow. They were awesome! This was a lot of fun. 4 stars

  14. Nice review, Fury Road certainly was mad but enjoyably so!

  15. I will review this on bennyhreviews if I get the chance or feel like it. The film looks like harmless fun
    Ps. I am just starting out so I am going to self promote here since this is good site: visit bennyhreviews. Haha. Thanks for bothering to read the comment. Haha.

    • Welcome to the world of blogging. Good luck!

      • Thanks. I did do one on politics but it was a bit… Well… Not the kid of thing that was particularly good to write articles on so I ditched it and started doing bennyhreviews instead which is going well. Thanks again.

      • I am fifteen and since loads of my friends seem to spend their time on games and stuff I thought I would be awkward and instead if get a games console like that keep saying I should use start a blog instead. Ha. But I enjoy writing stuff and this seems like a common sense thing to do if or some one who likes writing, right? Good blog by the way. Anyway, I will stop bothering you since reading these replys is taking up time and effort ha. See you.

  16. “This is more like a symphony of chase sequences that undulate like the movement within a classical piece.” – What a wonderfully apt description of this film Mark. I agree that the cinematography is top notch. You’re right that Seale makes the desert seem full of life. And the cars are certainly characters, something I haven’t seen acknowledged in a lot of reviews, so kudos for pointing that out. I loved the heck out of this film and so far it’s my favorite for the year. Now that I’m done with grad school though, I have plenty to catch up on, so we’ll see how long it stays in my top spot.

    • It’s defintely Top 10 for me but the second half of the year is always stronger.

      P.S. Cinematographer John Seale hasn’t been Oscar nominated since Cold Mountain (2003). I think it’s time again.

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