Holy shit, right?
What a movie.
There was a time when it seemed like this film was never going to get made. Some version of Mad Max 4 was considered back in the early 2000s with Mel Gibson likely returning to the role that made him famous. The Iraq War, the collapse of the dollar, and The Passion of the Christ made it so that didn't happen. Fast-forward about ten years and the film gets a second chance. However, even then there seemed to be a prevailing sense among the film fan community that we may never actually get to see this movie. There were reports of delays and for the longest time the only proof of its existence were some images of crazy cars on the side of the road. . . and then eventually a blurry image of Tom Hardy as Max.
Finally a teaser trailer hits in December 2014 and OMG IT LOOKED SO COOL.
Really, I think the trailers for this movie were some of the best previews for a blockbuster in a long, long time. They hit all the right notes, never gave too much away, and provided the film’s sound and fury in little bite-sized chunks. We get bombarded with trailers and TV spots for movies all the time and after a while you just want to tune most of them out—either because you've seen too much of the movie in the previews (I’m looking at you, Ultron!) or the onslaught on previews is simply annoying after a while (I’m still looking at you, Ultron!). But with Fury Road? I looked forward to those previews and could rewatch them all. Hell, I’ll still rewatch them after seeing the movie. They’re just cool.
OKAY, ONTO THE MOVIE.
Yeah, so, I loved Fury Road.
The film works on so many levels. You could've had the characters never speak a word and the visual storytelling still would've gotten the job done. It’s a chase film—one that rarely slows over its 2 hour runtime—and during the chase director George Miller conjures up enough invention and insanity for probably five movies… but he’s crammed it all into one, making Fury Road something of an overload of awesomeness. It’s inspired mayhem on an epic scale. The film demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
It’s the reason we go to the movies in the first place.
In addition to the visuals, there’s a fine script here. Most movies give us action, then stop to explain the character dynamics, then it’s time for more action, then exposition on why it’s happening and why we should care, more action, then setup the finale, then an action packed resolution. There’s nothing wrong with that formula. It works. Fury Road skips the pit stops along the way and tells its story and character drama on the move. We get character development in the middle of an action sequence. No, actually, let me rephrase that. We get character development through action. What the characters do in these crazy situations define who they are and where they stand. We learn the rest as we go. I really enjoyed that. It’s different and it’s not going to work for every story, but it works for the story that’s being told here.
Tom Hardy's good as Max. I think Mel Gibson in The Road Warrior might be my favorite interpretation of the character, though. The one thing Hardy did better than Gibson was to portray the actual madness of Mad Max. Gibson's Max had it together, seemed angry Mad instead of crazy Mad.
Really though, this is Charlize Theron's movie. I don’t think anybody’s going to deny that after seeing it. She’s really good, playing the head, the heart, and the hero of the film. She's played badasses before, but in much lesser films like Aeon Flux and Hancock. I've heard someone say this is her Aliens role, and I like that notion. One of the things that's spoken often about the film is that it's a feminist action movie. And it is -- and I like that. Charlize Theron’s character Furiosa is saving some women who are essentially sex slaves, and along the way she meets other women not unlike herself, and when pushed to the edge skilled survivalists fight to the death regardless of gender. In most similar movies, Max would be the one saving the women and along the way he’d meet some guys who are willing to help him. The end action sequence would have the women being helplessly threatened while Max tries to keep them safe. Fury Road has some fun with your expectations on how these movies are supposed to go. It stands out, so of course it's gonna become a topic of conversation. (Some idiotic men refuse to see the movie, calling it “feminist propaganda”) But maybe we shouldn't be so surprised the film went in this direction. Though my memories of the first film are fuzzy, Miller gave women tough, commanding roles in both The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome. Still, those were clearly Max’s movies, and fueled by testosterone (nothing wrong with that, just sayin’). Unlike the films that came before it in the series, Mad Max: Fury Road is very much a female driven action movie. And it’s one of the best representations of such a film since James Cameron's Aliens.
I love that so many filmmakers are ecstatic about the movie, some calling it the sort of thing that made them want to become a filmmaker in the first place. Others saying it inspires them all to up their game. And that's cool. Summer movies are a lot of fun but even some of the better ones of recent years haven't exactly changed how people make movies. You know, I'm thinking of films like Jurassic Park, The Matrix, Jaws, Star Wars, and Terminator 2, all of which brought something new to films, whether it be enhanced special effects, spectacle, ideas, or just a new kind of energy. Fury Road has energy to spare. Will it end up being one of those influential films? I don't know. We shall see.
It’ll be interesting to watch film studios try to interpret why people liked the movie so much.
“Is it because of the wacky costumes? The crazy hairstyles?”
“We’re not shaving Meryl Streep’s head.”
“Should we change our movie so that it has a vague post-apocalyptic setting?”
“What? No. It’s a period drama about—”
“Maybe what they really liked was the sandstorm? LET’S ADD A SAND TORNADO.”
Dear Hollywood: It’s none of those things… and all of them. Listen: perhaps the main reason why we love the movie is because it’s a blast of originality. This film isn't the result of brands getting involved and throwing their money around, it’s not based off a mega-popular property (it's been 30 years since the last movie), it’s not a movie all about setting up sequels and franchise and whatever. It’s not a studio movie. Not really. Though it cost over $100 million dollars, this is a personal work from George Miller, the man who first envisioned this world back in 1979 with a budget of $350,000. It’s the work of a creative mastermind, a visual artist, and a fantastic cast and crew who helped bring the vision to life. The lesson to be learned here is not that the world wants another movie just like Mad Max. No, the lesson is that originality and pushing the envelope is still appealing, it still sells. We want more movies that make us feel like this—not more movies that look exactly like it.
In closing: it’s a fantastic film. Not only is it the best film of the year so far, it’s also one of the very best action films of the past 20 years. George Miller has made an incredibly ambitious and amazing film, but it’s so wild and fun that it feels like it happened by accident.
Go see this movie.
*images belong to Warner Bros. and Mad Max: Fury Road*
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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