“If you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane.”
If everyone’s mad, who is the closest to being sane? Probably the people who are aware of being mad. If that is the case, that doesn’t make them all that mad, does it? A future exists in Mad Max: Fury Road, but in the form of a desolate and wretched desert wasteland. Humanity, or the scraps that are left of it, are strewn around here. The ruler of the wasteland is Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a tyrant who brainwashes minions, enslaves women for childbearing, and is extremely stingy with the most valuable resource: Water.
Former cop Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is a broken man, living but not really after the loss of his loved ones. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) makes a “living” collecting gasoline and supplies for Joe, but her true desire is returning to her homeland to start a new life. As fate would have it, the paths of these two will cross, and together, they may be able to change the shape of this desert dystopia. However, it is going to take an extremely long and treacherous ride across the terrain to do so.
Mad Max: Fury Road marks the first foray into the Mad Max franchise for yours truly. That is not to say I don’t know what the movies are about, or not aware of their impact on other movies or pop culture, it is just that I’ve never watched one. Maybe one day, but on this day, Fury Road is the subject. MMFR may fall short in a few places, but as an action summer blockbuster, it is damn spectacular.
The nice thing about this MMFR is that, for the most part, no prior history/knowledge of past installments is needed, I think. Certainly, more references and call backs to the earlier films will be caught with existing knowledge, but director George Miller, returning to helm the franchise he created, has made something that stands well enough on its own. It never feels like the uninitiated one is punished for not being familiar with this world.
To be honest though, part of the reason why it is so easy to hop right in is because of an underdeveloped plot. Here, perhaps having some previous exposure to this franchise would have worked wonders for yours truly, if there is backstory in those that could have been applied to this one. As for what exists though, there is some intriguing mystery that this wasteland carries, but also unanswered questions after a well-done story setup before the title sequence. More fleshing out of characters and plot could have made MMFR very well-rounded (could some additional Hardy narration have done the trick?), but alas, it is in essence a point A to point B and back to point A procedure.
While more of a story would be appreciated and could have easily been worked in, about a third of the way in I stopped looking for one and just started appreciating this for what it does amazingly well: Feverish, frantic, jaw-dropping action. The trailers offer a hint, but do not do this film justice. When the action occurs, they aren’t quick and brief moments; they are extended and really prolonged sequences of mesmerizing madness, full of unpredictability.
For the impressiveness of the first two thirds action-wise, the final third is unforgettable. Where so many other movies run out of steam in the last act, MMFR powers through it. And the majority of it is done practically, with the desert serving as a great backdrop for the mayhem. Simply put, the directing, cinematography, and entire production here is brilliant, from these aforementioned action sequences, to a score by Junkie XL that emphasizes them, and even just the way Miller uses his fade-to-black transitions to set up the next scene.
It helps to have legit, proven movie stars in your movie, especially in a big movie like this. Tom Hardy is one of the better actors today, but as Max he is more of a screen presence than anything. He seizes attention, yet also shares it with Charlize Theron as Furiosa, the talking point of Fury Road for positive, as well as negative and laughable reasons. Her performance here is nothing but positive though, and is a reminder that when she wants to, as described by Grantland’s Wesley Morris and Chris Connelly, she has a cape that she can put on when she wants to be a big movie star. Doesn’t put it on all the time, but the cape is there when she needs it.
The supporting character of Nux is played by rising actor Nicholas Hoult, and gets to do more than be just a crazy person like believed to be in the trailers. As for the big bad played by Keays-Byrne, who also played a villain in the original Mad Max, there’s nothing that really stands out aside from his visual appearance, but he does a solid and somewhat campy job.
Light on story but worthy of acclaim in just about everything else, Mad Max: Fury Road is a wild blockbuster that will likely be different than most. This film is madness, in a pretty good way.
Photo credits go to screencrush.com, screenslam.com, and newsnyork.com.
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