Mad Max: Fury Road. 2015. Directed by George Miller. Written by Nick Lathouris, Brendan MCarthy, and George Miller. Starring Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton. Village Roadshow Pictures. Rated 14A. 120 minutes. Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
To start, I’m a fan of the original Mad Max films. Even Beyond Thunderdome, for all its faults, was some good fun; not saying it was great or anything, but fun indeed. I wasn’t exactly hyped about George Miller going back and revisiting Max Rockatansky. Although the addition of Tom Hardy and then Charlize Theron really intrigued me, I like them both, I do like Miller, so it was worth a shot.
What came out is a pretty good action film, with that post-apocalyptic-Max feel. However, it isn’t all perfect. Yet even with a few blemishes I do think this is absolutely the best action film I’ve seen since 2000, and probably up there with some of the best action flicks in the past 20-25 years. A lot of fun practical effects mixed with the familiar Mad Max story, plus an excellent duo in Hardy and Theron, make this a real fun movie.
Fury Road sees Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) in a predicament immediately, and though he leads an amazing, fast-paced chase he just can’t seem to shake the ragged crew of post-apocalyptic savages chasing him down. The opening sequence is real fun, real fast, and gets the adrenaline prepped for a non-stop action chase scene for about two hours. Things really kick off as Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) decides to detour and take some precious “breeders“, as they’re called in Miller’s film, away from the horror they face at the hands of the wretched, dried out Immortan Joe (familiar Mad Max face Hugh Keays-Byrne) and to a greener, happier place. As Furiosa takes the women and a War Rig off-route, they eventually come across Max who is trying to escape the War Boys, especially the lunatic Nux (Nicholas Hoult) who used Max as a “blood bag” sucking him dry of type-O blood. After an initial rough patch Furiosa and Max, each for their own reasons, decides to face down the evil Immortan Joe and take back the Wasteland from his awful grip.
I really enjoyed how Miller took the Mad Max world he’d already created and basically added on, like building pieces onto a house once you’ve got more money. Sure, I like the simplicity of the first film, and the second. I think one of the reasons people weren’t into Beyond Thunderdome, aside from it not particularly being well-written or directed due to Miller sharing duties with George Ogilvie, is because the plot of the third film was so much more out there even within the universe of Mad Max that this set it apart too far from the original movie and its sequel.
What works for Fury Road is the fact that Miller had much more money to work with this time around – the difference between Beyond Thunderdome (somewhere near $13-million) and Fury Road (about $150-million) is roughly $137-million, whereas the very first was only around $650,000 and the sequel at $2-million. So with a big budget comes not just the ability to spend more on effects and costumes and cars and overall design, Miller also secured Hardy and Theron, as well as a nice cast of secondary characters, plus the returning Keays-Byrne who played Toecutter in the first Mad Max. Miller really put the budget to use when it comes to effects – of course there are bits and pieces which are pure CGI, but the real important work is all done practically. It’s actually a wonder that nobody was killed or seriously injured on the set during some of the wild stunts. It’s equally wonderful that Miller is 70 and directing the most high-octane film of his career. There’s the same weirdness of Beyond Thunderdome here, only the actors in Fury Road are better than those he worked with then – and yes, I also include Mel Gibson who didn’t step it up for Thunderdome either. Plus, the budget allows for Miller to not really need to worry too much about one set, one single location, and instead he put all his energy into coming up with the most inventive chases, cars, weaponry I’ve seen in a film since The Matrix.
My only real complaints about this movie have to do with the fact that Fury Road is almost totally one long chase right until the end. That’s not entirely true, as there are moments where things break down, and of course the moments before the big chase is ignited, as well as the film’s finish. But, yes – most of the movie is a big chase. I’m not saying that’s bad. I really enjoyed it, the adrenaline was pumping from start to finish; my girlfriend and I each rocked in our seats, back and forth sometimes with the punches and blasts and other events. All the same, SPOILER AHEAD: at the end when it’s like “Oh the Green Place doesn’t exist – let’s head back to where we came from”, it personally felt a bit frustrating.
Yet some of the pieces of this film really begged to be explored, and Miller was unable to go too deeply into any of the characters and their backstory while they were all fighting, driving, trying to get away constantly from Immortan Joe in the bleak desert. Not saying there is nothing in the way of backstory. Max goes through many a moment of deep trauma, flashing back to the obvious death of his wife and child in the Wasteland.
What really gets me about the lack of character development is the women. I thought they were excellent characters, what little we knew of them, but there was so much more could have been done with them if Miller could’ve allowed a few points where the action ceased long enough for more dialogue to happen. I’m not a person who needs constant expository dialogue – not at all, as a writer myself I don’t particularly like too much exposition or dialogue in general, I like short, succinct information in the best and most fluent way possible. I just wish we could’ve learned more about the society these women were forced to endure; I don’t need any graphic depictions, but at least let us hear them chat about it more than the brief pieces we were allowed in the film. I guess there are plans for sequels – I heard at one point Hardy was either willing to sign or already had signed on for at least another Max film. So maybe we’ll see more in those about it all. I just think that sometimes, even in action movies, we really need a bit more character development, in order to both care for the characters more and also to get our fill of them, like we always want to do with great characters. That being said, the dialogue was good stuff, and I think they did a perfect job making the female characters less typical than we normally expect (my favourite bit is when one of the women says “doesn’t anybody notice the flashing lights and the approaching gunfire?” or something along those lines, which I thought was funny and clever). Not to rag on Miller, he does a great job, I just wanted to know more about the characters.
I think my problem with the female characters stems from the hype on this film about how Miller had a feminist come in to oversee the dialogue, so that the women in the movie wouldn’t seem like they do in all other mainstream Hollywood films, and to ensure they weren’t under-represented as so often happens. Yet, there’s really no big difference. Other than the fact these women are fighting against the patriarchy and trying to escape, there isn’t much else in the way of their characters, or their dialogue, that spoke to me as having been looked over thoroughly by a feminist. Aside from Furiosa, we don’t get a whole lot out of the other female characters.
Another major problem I have is that stupid guitar playing character. Why, George? Did you not stop and think about this future apocalyptic wasteland, its lack of fuel, and how that big rig would’ve had to be converting gas to electricity with such a massive amplifier and all that? Sure, it’s fun to see a wild guitar player almost playing a kind of battle anthem, but does it need to be there? No. Does it make any sense? Nah. You can try to say other things don’t make sense, I just think that this little character was unnecessary and foolish, and just another excuse for something weird to add in. I liked a lot of the other wild-looking maniacs, this guy was just dumb, and the whole truck with the amp on it and him playing looked ridiculous.
There is a lot of great work going on in Fury Road, from the costumes, to the weird cast of extras and characters on the various cars, to the car designs themselves to the acting.
Hardy doesn’t have much to say, which fits for Rockatansky’s character. He plays the tough and silent deal well. Hardy also further infuses the character with a quiet humour, which comes out more clearly in certain cases than others.
Theron is always a great actor and she does good work here with the character of Furiosa. She is tough, and there are also times where we see the vulnerability lurking inside her. I think Theron is very expressive when it comes to the looks she gives, especially with her eyes, and this gives Furiosa character and soul underneath all the anger she is containing. Her and Hardy work well together, as well as look like they kicked each other’s ass in the initial fight scene they share – good pairing.
There’s no doubt Mad Max: Fury Road is a real fun and great post-apocalyptic action film. For me? A 3.5 out of 5 star movie. It has a few flaws – Miller opts not to go for too much character development and instead works well with the movie’s design/atmosphere, relying on the performance of a couple fantastic actors to make the characters interesting enough to care about. Not to say they’re bare bones characters, but they’re not exactly fleshed out much either. Regardless, this is non-stop adrenaline, and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself. There were times I wished the runtime were a little shorter. Other times I was hooting at the War Boys springing around on their bending poles, the explosives going off every so often, and generally having a good time. It isn’t the smartest action film out there – no matter what people tell you. Though, I like how Miller opted to have Furiosa push a very feminist-type agenda saving the so-called “breeders” from Immortan Joe and no doubt most of their primitive, creepy society. Perhaps if there are sequels Miller could continue to fight the patriarchy through his balls-to-the-wall action like he did here because that is something I found highly interesting, certainly when compared to so many run of the mill action flicks out there these days.
In a sea of crap films, a 70-year old George Miller does what many young action filmmakers are not doing: generally thrilling the hell out of people. His use of practical effects and stunts instead of going for CGI-laden scenes from one shot to the next, in a day and age where The Avengers and all the rest of Marvel’s garbage is the latest hot thing, is really refreshing, and it helps to show young filmmakers in general that they don’t need to rely on computers, they can get things done perfectly on the day of shooting, in certain cases anyways. See this movie, enjoy – don’t try and let people make this into something it isn’t – but take it for what it’s worth, and see that Fury Road delivers as a great action adventure in the post-apocalyptic world of Max Rockatansky and George Miller.