Mad Max: Fury Road – Review

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Starring: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keyas-Burne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoe Kravitz
Written for the Screen by: George Miller and Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris
Directed by: George Miller
Metacritic Score: 89
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
IMDb Score: 8.2 (#150 in IMDb’s Top 250 Movies)

Mad Max: Fury Road is essentially on rarified air when it comes to action films. In fact, the last time that an action movie was so beloved by critics and also had a sizable audience who liked it was Casino Royale, way back in 2006.

Which, quite honestly, is very surprising. Critics slam movies with thin plots, big explosions and very thin character development, but Mad Max: Fury Road seems to be much different.

What is it that makes it different then? Some say it’s the fact that the action set pieces are mostly authentic with very little CG to enhance the stunts or the visuals. Others say it’s the fact that deep within its bombastic machismo is a character that may be considered a feminist icon from years to come.

As for me…

Imperator Furiosa (Theron) is a subject of Immortan Joe (Keyas-Burne), a dictatorial ruler who lets his subjects squaller in poverty while he gets to enjoy all the fresh water, greenery and milk left in the world. However, Furiosa frees his captive “Breeders,” young women whose only job is to be impregnated by Joe, to live a life of freedom that she once had. She’ll have to rely on her resources, her deadly intuition and a drifter who was captured named Max Rockatansky (Hardy) to get them to “The Green Place”.

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Fury Road has a few differences that make it different than most action films of the present: it uses elaborate stuntwork to create wholly organic set pieces, the main hero is a female and the film has the feel of a Cronenberg film directed by Michael Bay in the best ways possible.

However, let’s not get things twisted here: The film, for all the different things it does, is very much the same as many other action films. The difference here, mainly, is that it’s made with 70’s-80’s action film sensibilities with today’s technology.

This comes with some strengths, but some weaknesses that don’t necessarily change the way action films will be made. In fact, the film is going to be one of those rare oddities that will puzzle film lovers for years to come. You know, those head scratchers that make you ask “How the hell did this get made?” but in a good way.

In fact, a review of this movie now would possibly be unfair to what most will come to for a review. This will be a fascinating film to revisit 5 – 10 years from now to see if it stays an anomaly or if this film upstarts a revolution in filmmaking to de-make action films all over again.

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With that said, on to my musings:

Mad Max: Fury Road, distilled simply, is a mindless action movie. The plot is simplistic: Furiosa needs to go from here to there and obstacles on her path are preventing her from doing so. The dialogue is, essentially: “We need to get to this place!” “How?” followed by explosions and stunts. The plot doesn’t deviate from this one iota: It’s two hours of “Desert Bus” with violence and explosions.

The film is helped immensely with its excellent direction and cinematography. The landscape setting of searing reds, light browns and beiges mixed with it’s obsessive chroma, white and blues from its main antagonists. Each shot has an incredibly spastic and hyper violent tension that gives the film a feel that is most felt in some of the more intense horror and thriller films.

The film can be described in pace as one word: exhausting. The film never lets up with its sense of breakneck bewilderment. Scenes of dialogue is followed quickly by shots of destruction and complex choreography and stonework, filled with stilted gunmen and flying albinos with time bombs strapped to them.

Is that last sentence made up? Maybe, I don’t know, it might not be because it sure feels like it came from this movie.

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It’s the little details that do wonders in this film. Small, innocuous pieces that could have been green-screened, computer generated or done with puppet strings most times are just eye grabbing when it feels so realistic and expertly crafted.

Now, I don’t know what is CG or not, even after two viewings, which is an absolute plus for me in this film. Nothing looks fake or created through computer: it all feels and looks like a fully created world that is detailed in minutiae that makes second viewings rewarding and watchable, even after watching it hours earlier.

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Yet, as fascinating as the visuals are, it is still an incredibly simple movie. Some might find this to be no problem at all or might even praise it for just standing up for what it is: a brainless action movie.

As insulting as it sounds, it’s a very true statement. Performances by the central actors are literally just scowling and making intense faces while they shoot people. Dialogue is incredibly simplistic and at times eye rollingly bad. The arc of the film is little go-here-then-there.

Again, some will find this to not be a problem at all because of the incredible visuals and great stonework.

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But the technical masterpiece that is this finely created film can’t hide the fact that its incredibly lacking in depth.

So, essentially, this film is Avatar with sand and insanity. It’s a technical and directing masterpiece that film lovers will surely enjoy on the visuals alone. Yet, the film will only keep you as in the film as the visuals will because there’s literally nothing else to keep the film enjoyable in anyway possible.

It’s a plus that the visuals are incredibly complex and beautiful. Just wish there was something…hell, anything…to attach yourself to.

3.5/5 – Miller’s direction and the cinematography are incredibly stunning and worthy of praise. The action is fantastic. The rest is just passable. 

The Wiz Says #44

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