‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Review
Oh look, it another action-packed fourth installment to a nostalgic franchise that’s been dormant for a little while. Huh.
Unlike ‘Jurassic World’ however, I don’t have any history with the ‘Mad Max’ series. That’s mainly a good thing in this case, since this movie is structured like a standalone and I won’t feel the need to compare it to anything else.
So, what’s my reasoning for being the only person on the planet who doesn’t adore this?
Normally I would find it pretty pretentious to ask “what plot?” but here it’s almost fitting. We open with an introduction to the titular Max. We get a very, very concise series of clips and voice-overs conveying the post apocalyptic nature of the world, a brief narration by Max himself conveying who he is, and then the chase is on.
Max is captured by a crazed group of “War Boys” who follow the monarch-like Immorton Joe. Max is taken prisoner as a “blood bag”, his blood being fed to one of the War Boys on account of them not being the healthiest of folks. As a result he’s strapped to a car for a supply run led by Joe’s general Furiosa. It’s quickly revealed that Furiosa has her own has her own agenda, and is smuggling Joe’s unwilling wives to a safe haven.
Max’s car is the only one that manages to keep up with Furiosa, and through a mutual need to escape the two groups ally and make for the hills while Joe pursues. And that’s about it. There’s one twist in the mix that I didn’t see coming, but is still pretty derivative and makes the whole thing seem even more pointless, but that was probably the point.
There’s really not much more I can say. The movie makes what themes it has very clear and simple, and this is very much a film where the story services the action rather than the other way around.
As I said earlier, I’m not very familiar with Mel Gibson’s original take on this character, so all I have to judge Tom Hardy on is himself. In that sense, I think he did a good job. Max’s gruff anti-hero schtick isn’t as one-note and bland as it easily could have been. He doesn’t get much dialogue, nor does really anyone, but what he does have to say he says in just the right way for you to instantly get the emotion behind it. Max also has brief but frequent flashes of people he’s lost, something in can only assume is alluding to the previous films. It’s effective enough at informing why he does what he does.
Furiosa is played by Charlize Theron, and I don’t think I’m the only one who came out of the film liking her best. Like Max, it would have been so easy to make “tough” all there was to her, but she’s the one who comes out of the movie feeling most like a human being. Her desperation to get these girls to safety is ever present, and it never once feels like she’s invincible, which helps the tension. I wouldn’t go so far as to say she upstages Max, but the two of them are certainly equal presences in the movie.
Immorton Joe is, I feel, a rather unmemorable baddie. He’s got a very simple motivation, like everyone else, but there’s not much about him that keeps my attention. I can’t even bring myself to find him very intimidating. Nor can I give much praise to Hugh Keays-Byrne’s, since I really think he could’ve been played by anyone. He doesn’t even get much to do in action scenes on account of being ancient.
If there’s one thing that makes Joe (or at least his influence) somewhat effective it’s his legion of War Boys, who have somehow been indoctrinated into the belief that the only meaning in life is to die gloriously in the service of Joe. In particular, Nicholas Hoult’s Nux is both sad and entertaining, and along with the two leads is the only character in the film I would hazard to call a tad complex.
Immorton’s wives/slaves are all interesting, and I’m glad they’re not interchangeable, but again they’re shallow to the point that they start to blend together to a point. They’re performed well enough, though like the entire rest of the supporting cast I didn’t even catch a name for most of them. The performances and visuals are the only reason I could think of to remember any if them after the film has ended.
I found certain stylistic choices to be both fitting and unique, such as having almost the whole first third of the film sped up to really capture the adrenaline right off the bat. I also love how Immorton Joe’s entourage comes complete with guitarist and drummers, meaning the film’s rocking soundtrack during action scenes is totally diegetic.
Speaking of the action scenes, I gotta admit that they are something. In terms of pure spectacle, quite a bit is done practically so every crash and explosion has the appropriate impact. I’ve always been a fan of having fight scenes take place in motion, as I think it’s much more dynamic than just two guys going at it. With that said though, I do really like the one fight in the film that is stationery, between Max, Nux, and Furiosa.
It’s actually really hard to get my thoughts together on this one. It’s not trying to be anything more than a feature length action piece with some tiny bits of characterization to keep us invested, and as that it wholeheartedly succeeds. And yet, I don’t feel like giving it anything much higher than a 7 is something I’d feel right doing.
I just can’t help but feel like this whole movie could’ve been done exactly the same but better. The action is great but it’s not the best I’ve ever seen. The characterization is there but it’s mostly bare bones, even as far as action spectacle goes. I think it functions better than ‘Jurassic World’ at what it was trying to do but I just don’t get the same personal enjoyment out of it, nor the desire to watch it again.
I commend it for being so unabashedly style over substance, but I can only take so much of that myself.