By Laurie Coker
I have watched all the Mad Max films and enjoyed Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the wild-eyed, crazy titular character. I took my friend to see the most recent Mad Max film because of his excitement to see it, not really mine. Still, going in with an open mind, I planned to take the film, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, at stand-alone, face value – good or bad. Director George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is a wild, over-the-top, non-stop thrill ride of crazy chases, insane stunts and disturbing characters.
In Miller’s hands Mad Max: Fury Road is visually stunning. He creates a post-apocalyptic world filled with car chases, involving impressive vehicles pulled together with everything from semi rigs to VW beetles. There is so much to take in and see, making for some exciting and intense scenes – bodies flying, vehicles flipping through the air and massive explosions. Miller’s despotic world is ruled by evil overlords and built on bleak and gloomy settings – dismal color pallets, grim desert for miles and a monumental tsunami of a dust storm. He creates a true spectacle in action filmmaking, seamlessly melding CGI with live action in a way that keeps audience engaged in spite of the uninspiring storyline. From start to finish, each scene is an action-packed rush of adrenaline.
Tom Hardy plays Max, a quiet and dejected, but powerful man, who is kidnapped, by an malevolent, terrifying tyrant who keeps women for breeding purposes and who controls all of the water supply. One of his warriors Imperator Furiosa (Theron) escapes the compound with several of Immortal Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) prize female stock, heading to the “green place” a paradise from Furiosa’s past. The pickup Max along the way and Nicholas Hoult, barely recognizable, plays a minion who switches to the side of the good when he meets one of the pretty “wives” of Immortal Joe. Together they charge across the desert with evil right on their tails.
While the film is titled Mad Max: Fury Road, the true protagonist here is Furiosa and not Max. It is her struggle, her dream, her plight, her anger that fuels this war. Mad Max falls into her favor pretty quickly, but it truly Theron’s film and a plotline (such as it is) with Furious at the center. Theron is excellent and it to be fair, so is Hardy – an ideal Mad Max for this generation. Even with the bland storyline, co-written by Miller with Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris, Miller keeps the pace extreme and heart-pounding and its worth watching – perhaps even a second or third time to catch more details in the imagery, vehicles and allusions.
Between 1979 and 1985, Miller directed the three previous Mad Max films. It has been nearly thirty years since he brought this character to the big screen. Miller and cinematographer John Seale go beyond the basic action dystopian movie. They artistically, and at break-neck speed, take audience into a world vivid in it bleakness and electrifying in its imagery, taking away any notice that the story is just plain lame. I am placing a B in my grade book.