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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

| May 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

What a grand, insane work of vision is Mad Max: Fury Road. What a bold and visionary exercise has George Miller created.  In a world of action movies that are mostly thin soup, this is what you wish for from all of your action movies: something created out of sheer ingenuity and imagination, a movie that gets rolling and doesn’t have time to stop; a movie in which the bright and colorful visual palette is so audacious and so fully packed that your eyes can’t catch everything that the director is trying to show you the first time around. Half the time you don’t understand everything that you’re looking at, but you don’t really mind. It’s so big, so grand, so full that it demands to be seen in a theater. I pity those who hold out for television.

What surprises me is that all greatness happens in the midst of a modern practice that I normally despise: The Reboot. Yes, George Miller is rebooting the classic genre that he helped to create, but he’s not just slapping a coat of paint on an old fence, he’s embracing the new while taking us happily down an old familiar road.

Thirty-six years ago, when Miller first conceived of Mad Max, he effectively wrote the book on how to make a movie about the apocalyptic future. His was a world gone mad, a savage and unholy world in which The Bomb had tossed humanity back to its tribal state but only far enough back that it still had trucks and motorcycles to mow each other down with. The participants dressed like professional wrestlers and shot each other at will when they weren’t driving spiked vehicles into one another, ready to wage war for a tank of juice. It was unique, it was visionary, and it was such a riotous journey that filmmakers have been chasing his vision ever since.

In Mad Max: Fury Road, the McGuffin is a little more potent than just a race for gasoline. The plot here is thin enough that it doesn’t bungle the action, but what it boils down to is the soul of humanity. We meet Max (Thomas Hardy) a haunted man suffering with painful bouts of PTSD – he has flashes of memories of people he failed to save. Before we can get a good look at Max, he is captured by The War Boys, a bald and skin-bleached band of cultist working under the thumb of the tyrannical King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a fearsome being where wears plastic armor and a skull mask that is really unsettling – imagine if Sweet Tooth from “Twisted Metal” were a rock star and you’ve got the idea. His cult is so vast and so audacious that his caravan travels the wastelands of Australia with it’s own war drums and guitar solo. No kidding, there’s a guy in this army whose function is to play guitar while strapped to truck specially designed for that purpose!

What follows along a pattern of Miller’s four Mad Max movies is that in each movie, the world appears to be getting worse. In the first Mad Max, the world was devastated but still resembled one that we recognized. In Fury Road, the remnants of humanity have returned to their feral state, still able to drive cars and have religious rites, but closer in common sense to apes then to man.

In the midst of this chaos, one of Joe’s warriors, the one-armed Furiosa (Charleze Theron), goes rogue and steals one of Joe’s War Rigs. What the rig is carrying is more than just gasoline and weapons. I won’t spoil it, except to say that Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t all boys with toys. As the movie moves into its second half, it really becomes a story of tough women fighting for their own survival.

They exist amid a world in which every this is always moving. George Miller doesn’t want you to catch your breath. He allows you two or three slow beats, but for most of it’s running time, this is a movie that is always on the move. Essentially, it’s a chase pictures, but there are so many crazy images filling the screen at all times that you have to see it twice to catch them all. Even better is that fact that his action scenes make sense. The chase scenes have an orientation so that we don’t just feel that we’re watching a lot of nonsensical editing.

His palette is refreshing in that it’s bright and colorful, forcing you to realize how many movies these days are grim and dark and hard to see (look at the trailers for Dawn of Justice and The Fantastic Four and you’ll see what I mean). But Mad Max takes place mostly in broad daylight under blazing sun. We see everything, and there are bright colors, definitive colors. Every vehicle, every costume, every location and every character has their own texture and their own look.

What a crazy ride this is! What a unique visionary is George Miller. He is a man who can create something as violent and bloodsoaked as Mad Max and then pull the reigns back for something as sweet and beatific as Babe. What he proves with Mad Max is that there are original worlds to be created in the movies. It is still possible to make a great action picture that moves and pops and sings and excites us. He had a plan and he executed it beautifully. Just like his trucks, he kept his eye on the road, and he didn’t stop for anything.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Action