Mad Max: Fury Road
I’ve never written a review before, but, since I (drunkenly) promised I would write one for the recent Warners release, Mad Max: Fury Road on the most recent Writer’s Room podcast, here we go. Beware of spoilers – go see this movie, then, read on.
I’ve been a Mad Max fan since I saw the original film when I was probably a little too young. Experiencing the octane-fueled ride of the original trilogy, in cooperation with the Indiana Jones trilogy inspired me to want to be a filmmaker and to pursue doing what I currently get to do on a daily basis, so the character of Max and his rich story library are important to me. After seeing the new Mad Max, I was compelled to share how much I loved it and why.
In this most recent venture by director George Miller, our hero Max is once again alone, wandering the Wasteland and immediately gets into trouble when he’s captured by “War Boys,” or soldiers from a nearby territory. In this thrilling opening sequence, we’re instantly thrown into the world first via Hardy’s monologue setting up the bleak environment for new viewers and introducing the character.
Max, the Wasteland, and the Mustang
I loved seeing the same model Mustang that Max drove in the first film as a throwback. Nice to get some references, for the old fans.
Max has a new face in this installment and I love Tom Hardy as the Mad man. I’ve heard George Miller talk about how he knew in an instant that Mel Gibson was Max as soon as he walked into the audition room thirty years ago and that the same thing happened when he met Hardy. He brings such a strong presence and is an interesting take on the character, even for a first time watcher who knows nothing about the Mad Max films. He has a totally different energy than Mel, but still brings the charisma.
Max is a hood ornament
Overall, the acting was fantastic, and I especially loved seeing Hugh Keays-Byrne return to the franchise as Immortan Joe (he played Toecutter in Mad Max). I salute Charlize Theron’s Furiosa for being a powerful and empowering character that we need to see more of in films and television.
Mad Max villain in the original, Toecutter
Immortan Joe - Toecutter got a lot scarier.
The action continues, after Max is captured, he is chained, used as a living blood bag for Nicolas Holt’s Nux, a “half-life,” whose time is almost up. Our other main character, Imperator Furiosa Theron), is setting a plan in motion – she’s turning a run to Gas Town into a rescue operation. Unbeknownst to Joe, Furiosa has taken his five wives away from their life of being prime breeders (gross).
Joe sends an army of War Boys after them and a wild chase ensues. This is when I started to feel like I was on a rollercoaster – just like when I was a kid.
The action is almost non-stop. Things really start to get colorful when the full War Boys’ army collides with Furiosa and the beast of a tanker she drives, the War Rig. She is fearless and drives straight into a tornado dust storm that's breathtakingly beautiful yet so deadly it wipes out a big chunk of the War Boys’ army and leaves only Max and Nux alive.
Furiosa, Nux, and the wives
The following shot is hands down one of my favorites in the franchise. Max, almost completely buried by a sandstorm, wakes up. It’s an epic rebirth moment for Max and is visually also thrilling. Max sees that Furiosa and the tanker have stalled due to too much sand in the engine and makes his way over, carrying an unconscious Nux on his shoulders. This leads to a great fight sequence that shows you Furiosa is not just a badass, but that she’s also a road warrior like Max.
Max in action
In the eye popping battle with Immortan Joe, driving an unbelievably cool monster truck, there is a quiet moment that shows how little human life is valued by this culture. Through the chase, one of the wives who is pregnant is mortally wounded, and I won’t recount the whole scene, but it’s disturbing. You can certainly see how the society that Joe has created is destructive.
We visit a new area of the Wasteland that we've never seen before in the last act of the film. The color palette completely reverses itself for night and there is thick fog and swampy terrain. When the heavy War Rig gets stuck in the mud, the many war parties start to catch up and after being stuck in the mud themselves, the leader of Bullet Town, The Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter) takes on the charge himself in his tank-treaded vehicle, but not before crack shot Furiosa blinds him with the glass from his car’s spotlight.
Bullet farmer car
I love the introduction of the next group of people to appear in the film. The Vuvalini are my favorite side characters in the whole franchise. I wish I could see a movie based on these bad ass older women who scour the plains hoping to rebuild their old world with the seeds they keep so close. The sad part about meeting them is that you realize that they are the only people left from Furiosa’s original clan. There is no Green Place, what was once green was the muddy terrain we just drove through.
At this point in the story, all hope seems lost. Max tells Furiosa that hope is the thing that drives people mad in the Wasteland. Furiosa decides to take what she can and keep riding in hopes that she, The Vivalini and the remaining ex-wives of Immortan Joe find redemption before their supplies run out.
Max decides he can’t feel responsible for any more deaths, but reluctantly shows Furisoa that she’s making a mistake and that the only way to redemption is by bringing the dead body of Immortan Joe back to the Citadel. So by God, they decide to remount the War Rig with the Vuvalini in tow and do the whole trip over again. What a lovely day!
The next portion of the film is pure adrenaline and as epic as you could ever want. Some people might say, Matt, you’re over selling it. To that I say, impossible. The epic chase/shootout/demolition derby/fight scene is almost ten minutes of carnage, high flying acts and an amazing practical truck explosion that made my mouth water.
It is an extreme rock opera of metal that inspires and generates a catharsis. Plus, it makes me want to go blow stuff up on film. Immortan Joe and the evil he has perpetrated on his people is defeated through heroic acts of courage and violence.
With Immortan Joe gone and the rest of the baddies running away with their tails between their legs, our heroes make their way back to claim the Citadel as their own and free the people of their misery. But not before we see that Furiosa was shanked by her own hidden knife she intended to stab Max with earlier in the film.Furiosa and her dead eye
This is the big moment for Max. He almost loses a great warrior and, finally, a friend. He uses the same IV tube from earlier in the film to once again be a blood bag, but this time to save Furiosa’s life. When Max returns to the Citadel with Immortan Joe’s body crisping on the front of his car, the people seem to quickly accept that Furisoa is their new leader, with the remaining wives by her side. Max exits, removing himself from that equation. After all, he is a road warrior.
I was fortunate enough to get to see Fury Road when it was early in the cutting stages. The film was nowhere near what it is today, but I instantly felt that this story was powerful and that it would be a movie that could inspire people to tell equally inspiring stories, without the need for inflated visual effects scenes like in Avengers: Age of Ultron or the Transformers sequels.
Director, George Miller and Tom Hardy as Max
Don’t get me wrong, I love good VFX and especially when used properly, but films and big franchises have often made the mistake of trying to go bigger with every film they make and it tends to diminish the charm that the original film possessed.
All in all, I absolutely loved this film and when the trailers say that this is from the “Mastermind George Miller,” they mean it. This film is a work of art. The cinematography, stunts and score absolutely keep you on the edge of your seat from the first frame to the last.
Review by Matthew Bolton. If you liked my review, please let me know. You can follow me on Twitter @splashdown1. Be sure to get more articles like this from Hollywood Redux