I just got out of seeing ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way, the movie definitely lives up to the hype. I was totally hooked by the first teaser that I saw for the movie, but I worried that there was no possible way any filmmaker could sustain that level of raw entertainment value over the course of an entire film. I worried unnecessarily. Director George Miller returns to the franchise with what feels like 30 years of pent-up creative power and a movie that sears and titillates the senses from start to finish. Judging from the style of the movie, if I were to hazard a guess as to how George Miller spent his time since the last Mad Max movie, I could only assume that he spent that time smoking crystal meth, tattooing unholy symbols on his face, mutilating his body with every piercing imaginable and listening to the most aggressive death metal he could get his hands on. What is astonishing is that George Miller is now a 70-year-old director who puts most action directors half his age to shame. Miller could have easily coasted into retirement making millions of dollars with more movies for kids like the ‘Happy Feet’ franchise but instead he chose to dive into the abyss one last time in order to fry our eyeballs and explode our eardrums with a movie that is easily the best Mad Max yet.
I should say that I am not a rabid Mad Max connoisseur. I’ve seen ‘Mad Max’ (1979) and ‘Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior’ (1981) a few times each but I have a hard time getting through ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ (1985). That said, I am in awe of what George Miller was able to accomplish for the Australian film industry in the late 1970s and anyone that is interested in George Miller’s roots and the film culture he comes from should watch the highly informative and very entertaining ‘Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!’ (2008). The documentary is a love song to Australian genre films and their abundance of lurid sex, car chases and raging mutants. In ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ George Miller has managed to resurrect and channel everything great about Ozploitation and then magnify these qualities one hundredfold.
If my praise sounds a little hyperbolic, you’ll understand why after seeing the movie. The entire movie is hyperbolic, extreme, over-the-top, and any other crazy adjective you can think of. The scale of the film is completely unhinged with a cast of what seems like thousands of deformed, mutilated, tumor-ridden lunatics who want nothing more than to fight to the death in the most glorious way imaginable for their lord Immortan Joe, a villain who is the most deformed, diseased monstrosity of them all and who rules over an enormous water reservoir with an iron fist. In this world, water, gasoline and blood are the most precious commodities and the strong take all three of them at will from anyone unable to resist. Into the mix steps the incredible character of Imperator Furiosa played to perfection by the insanely sexy Charlize Theron who completely steals the show. The movie gets underway when Imperiosa decides to rescue some of Immortan’s slaves that he uses for breeding purposes. After an initial knock down drag out brawl between Imperiosa and Mad Max, the two of them join forces to escort Immortan’s brides across the desert to safety. Three massive war parties with every kind of vehicle and weapon imaginable pursue them and their truck of precious cargo to the ends of the earth fighting to the death every step of the way. ***getting into spoiler territory*** If I were to sum up the story in a few words, it is as simple as the bad guys chasing the good guys out into the desert where they turn around and drive all the way back. The end. What’s remarkable is that George Miller stages and paces the action in such a way that the overall effect is one of exhilaration as opposed to the exhaustion I feel when most action movies don’t know when to stop or where the story should go.
If I have one grievance against the movie it might be that Tom Hardy’s interpretation of Max is a little monosyllabic but he does a solid job overall. I was relieved to see that he still uses his leg brace which every fan will recognize as being necessary ever since he got shot in the leg near the end of the first film. All the little details one expects from a Mad Max movie are still there to be enjoyed but while the original trilogy of films felt like an end to the old world, this movie feels like the beginning of something new and could easily evolve into an incredible new franchise. I just hope that audiences aren’t too intimidated by the high octane style of the movie, a movie that has about six or seven lines of spoken dialogue amidst all the operatic carnage. This is a world where babies are carved from their dead mother’s wombs, old women are expected to pull their weight in pitched battles with raging marauders, and bald-headed warriors with chrome-painted lips draw happy little faces on the tumors that will surely be the death of them unless they manage to die in combat first. The movie just kicks ass and is a breath of fresh air for the action genre. I will definitely be returning to the cinema for second helpings and hope that whatever fire was in George Miller’s belly while making this movie can be sustained for one more trip into the Australian desert.
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