Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Two hours (minus a few meaningless minutes of talking while not moving) of vehicles chases and combat, with some of the best and creative (and mostly non-CGI) bizarre vehicles and amidst the stunning desolation of the Australian Outback.  Your attention will be riveted throughout.  Strictly from an action perspective, George Miller, who directed the previous Mad Max films, hits a home run.  The trailer gives a good flavor of the action sequences:

Fury Road contains the same themes as The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome; a reluctant Max, having failed to protect his own family, shepherding the vulnerable towards a safe home and then returning to the Wasteland in search of his own road home.

The story and dialogue are even more skeletal than the earlier films.  That's probably good because when the movement slows down and exposition and attempts at explaining motivation begin the movie comes thundering to a halt.

As much as THC enjoyed it one critical element was missing -  Mel Gibson as Max and he wishes this installment had been made 15 or 20 years ago with Mel.  Gibson brought a mixture of craziness (and for those who didn't realize he was crazy even before his off-screen blow ups you weren't paying attention to his films - Conspiracy Theory was autobiographical), heartache and spiritual desolation that allowed him an element of vulnerability and soulfulness amidst the chaos and brutality.  His replacement in Fury Road, Tom Hardy, has a fine reputation as a rising actor, but fails to convey the pathos behind the character as Gibson did so well.  As a result the ending lacks the emotional punch of the earlier films.  On the other hand Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa handles both the action and emotion quite well though the only character with an emotional arc is Nux, played by Nicholas Hoult who reminds THC of a younger Daniel Day-Lewis.
http://media2.fdncms.com/boiseweekly/imager/comic-con-george-miller-reboots-mad-max-w/u/magnum/3184389/1_max.png(Hardy & Theron from someplace)
http://www.radiotimes.com/namedimage/Mad_Max__Fury_Road_s_Nicholas_Hoult_reveals_it_s_not_all_that_great_being_tied_to_Tom_Hardy.jpg?quality=85&mode=crop&width=620&height=374&404=tv&url=/uploads/images/original/76858.jpg(Nicholas Hoult from radio times)

Miller also keeps the tradition of outrageous character names in Max films: Immortan Joe, The Splendid Angharad, Toast the Knowing, Rictus Erectus, The Bullet Farmer, Corpus Colossus.  But even with a great name the lead villain in Fury Road, Immortan Joe, does not have the evil gravitas of The Toecutter (Mad Max) or Lord Humungus (The Road Warrior) and as the main enforcer for the bad guys, Rictus Erectus pales next to Wez (The Road Warrior).
http://www.writeups.org/img/inset/Wez_MMRW_h2.jpg(Wez from writeups)

So where does Mad Max: Fury Road stand in the Mad Max pantheon?

Ranking them is harder than you might think because the three earlier films were very different from each other.  Mad Max (1979) was a tragedy and biker film set amidst the slow break down of society.  The Road Warrior (1981) is a post-apocalyptic horror film and Max Mad: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) a live-action cartoon, except for the scenes in the canyon with the Lost Children and its ending echoing the altered language of the novel Riddley Walker.

That said, The Road Warrior clearly stands above all the rest.  The action sequences are incredible, secondary characters well-drawn using very few words and you cared about them, a well constructed story and scenes that are both shocking but essential to that story, which is about what people are capable of, for good and evil, when societal constraints are gone.  It is Gibson at his best and also has my favorite closing scene from any movie.

After that you are free to pick 'em.  And if for some inexcusable reason you haven't seen the previous Mad Max movies you can watch this video and get up to speed on all of them in just seven minutes!

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