Since the first Mad Max was released in 1979, people have gravitated to them. The outrageous action and stunts fit perfectly into its bizarre post-apocalyptic environment. Max has been laying dormant since we last saw him in the Thunderdome, but director George Miller has gone on to have a very successful and varied career. Despite going through a lengthy and uncertain development, Fury Road survived its bumpy path to the silver screen. With Miller returning to write, produce, and direct this new chapter, we will finally have the chance to see what Mad Max could be with a budget ten times larger than any film in the franchise.
The film opens on Max being captured by the War Boys, a death cult led by the tyrannical King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). As Max’s blood is being siphoned out of him, Joe discovers that one of his Imperators, Furiosa (Charlize Theron), has stolen a war rig and escaped with his many wives. Joe rallies his entire horde to pursue Furiosa, including Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who is eager to sacrifice his life in battle and travel to Valhalla. Nux straps Max to the hood of his car, to keep Max’s blood flowing into his own veins, and rides out to battle. This relatively short opening sequence sets the stage for the rest of the film. Once Fury Road starts rolling, it rarely slows down. Fury Road somehow manages to pack an interesting, post-apocalyptic story into a nearly non-stop action film. Director George Miller’s ability to isolate the inside of the war rig from the outside allows for quick, but concise dialogue while a cacophony of blood and fire erupts outside.
Without a doubt, Fury Road has some of the best action sequences that I’ve seen in the last ten years. The mobile horde of Immortan Joe is filled with cars that make me smile and giggle like a kid in a candy shop: a colossal missile-carrier with war drums mounted on the back and a guitarist suspended on the front shredding with his flamethrowing guitar, a Cadillac welded into another Cadillac on top of a half-track, and motorcycles loaded with explosive-tipped spears. The sheer insanity of the stunts make Fury Road seem like Cirque de Soleil decided to put on a Monster Truck Rally. What pushes this film beyond your average action flick is the graceful cinematography applied to its chaos, zooming between cars and death then rushing back to show the scope of the horde. Fury Road is relentless in its action and has set the bar for 2015’s action line-up.
Charlize Theron absolutely steals the show, portraying a desperate warrior struggling against a despotic warlord. I was a little hesitant when Nicholas Hoult was introduced as a brainwashed, bloodthirsty cultist, but Hoult nailed the role; Nux has a solid character arc that feels organic and nearly makes you relate to someone who eagerly wants to blow himself up. Unfortunately, Tom Hardy’s Max didn’t seem to contribute much to the overall effort from the cast. The portrayal of Max was standard fare for an action movie: the brooding silent type haunted by his past. But, the character wasn’t nearly as fleshed out as he could have been. You could have swapped out Hardy for any other buff actor and they probably could have pulled it off. The Wives of Joe (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Courtney Eaton, and Abbey Lee) worked well as an ensemble, but literally took a back seat to the main cast.
The visual effects of Fury Road were crisp and clean, neatly blending CGI with the massive amounts of live action stunts to create an elaborate orchestra of butt-clenching action. Particularly in the opening action sequence, Furiosa drives straight into a gargantuan sandstorm with Joe’s horde in pursuit. The depiction of traveling through the storm is terrifying; lightning and fire briefly illuminate the dark, blinding wind and sand. Every scene in Fury Road seems to top the previous, but the visual effects never dominate the scenes and are kept to a minimum, which makes the stunts even more amazing. The score of Fury Road was composed by Junkie XL and is wonderfully executed in the film. The brass mixes with the roaring engines, drums pound in pace with the action, and the strings fluctuate the mood of the scenes from intense to twisted. Fans of scores/soundtracks are going to be pleasantly surprised by what JXL has accomplished with this.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a supremely satisfying movie. It pushes the border of ridiculous, but never becomes unbelievable. The narrative of the film creates an interesting post-apocalyptic world with plenty of room for Max to grow into sequels. While the lack of personality in Max’s character is disappointing to see, it is more than made up by a killer performance by Charlize Theron. But, what really crowns the film is the tremendous action sequences. The fast-paced excitement makes the two hour runtime feel like forty-five minutes, leaving the audience begging for more. Not only does the film live up to its predecessors, it surpasses them. Mad Max: Fury Road is everything you’d want to see in an action movie at 90 miles an hour.
Mad Max: Fury Road
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