Geeked Out: Mad Max Fury Road reboot is a winner
Did Mad Max: Fury Road live up to its expectations? Read John Lindvay's thoughts on whether it did or didn't.
Director George Miller has returned to his beloved Mad Max franchise 30 years later and has created a film that is not only an action movie masterpiece, but also a beautiful, thoughtful film driven by a story that is surprising everyone. My social circles can't stop talking about it, and now I am going to perpetuate the glory and hysteria of Mad Max: Fury Road onto all of you here because I can't stop geeking out about it.
Mad Max is a cult classic that with subsequent sequels grew into a genre-defining franchise. Most films and games that are set in a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland will often have homages to what began as a 1979 Australian look at a dystopian society, where tribalism rules the barren waste land and the currency is gasoline. Mad Max forwarded the imagination of what these types of stories could look and sound like. 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road doesn't just meet those imaginations – it exceeds them, giving us an explosive action film steeped in mythology that starts before you are ready and daringly places Max himself in the passenger seat.
Let's start with that.
Max, in this installment played by one of my favorite actors of all time, Tom Hardy, is still the lone warrior, right up there with the Man with No Name, Yojimbo, and any other lone warrior from countless films and stories told through the ages. He is a cipher for us the audience into a world in which we have very little basis in. But while Max (played by Mel Gibson in the first three installments) drives the plot in earlier films, be it for revenge or something else, in Fury Road, Max is our eyes rather than our feet. He rarely speaks, and Imperator Furiosa, played by the impeccable Charlize Theron, is our heroine who advances the plot. Furiosa is a truck driver who commands a pack of white-painted "War Boys" who go out on missions for the world's second-most precious resource: gasoline.
The second incredible thing about this film is its abandonment of traditional action film conventions and franchise reverence that is typical in the film industry. Remember, Mad Max is a franchise, and Max has been built in pop culture as a bad-ass anti-hero with a kickass car. The car is taken away in the first few moments of the film only to be seen later briefly, as a War Boy is driving it.
The film structure abandons the traditional rise and fall of action. Instead, we get a roughly two-hour-long car chase that was shot, conventionally for the most part, in the deserts of Namibia, Africa. Those car flips and explosions you see? Yeah, most of those are real. Those long poles with dudes swinging to and fro on the back of moving buggies? Also real. That guitar with a flame thrower at the top? ABSOLUTELY real and ABSOLUTELY fitting.
But what makes this Mad Max, different is Furiosa. In short, Immortan Joe, the tribal warlord of Citadel, has been using slave wives to continue his lineage. Furiosa, who was herself enslaved as a younger girl and watched her mother die, has been plotting on smuggling the wives out to take them to "The Green Place." So with a War-rig under her command for a supply mission, she smuggles the wives in and rolls out. Joe doesn't like that and sends out his War Boys to recover his property. The plot is just that simple and all the more delightful because what on the surface is a glorious chase turns out to be so much more.
This is where the movie begins to defy logic for what constitutes your typical action movie fodder. Furiosa is an amputee and the hero of the film. The major theme at play in the film is about Joe's supreme capitalism over all resources all the way to human life, but what we are shown is women fighting for the rights of women to not be property. "We are not things" is scrawled on the walls of where the wives were held. The triumph of the film is the subtlety it uses to explore capitalism (water, playing first fiddle in resources to gasoline, rules the masses) and feminism (women are, first and foremost, in this world chattel – good only for reproduction and objectification). The beauty here is Miller's ability to explore heavy issues without being overt, not drawing viewers out of the visceral, sensory blast unfurling on screen.
But let's be clear: the film itself is beautifully shot. While it is awesome to see huge explosions, the composition of the film will make film students and movie nerds like me freak out over each shot we are given. In a quote from the New York Post, Miller said, "I wanted to make a movie [in which], as Hitchcock [once] said, they don't have to read the subtitles in Japan," adding, "A full visual exercise."
I enjoyed how the composition of the film was juxtaposed with the inherent grotesqueness of the world in which Mad Max is set. The War Boys are all cancerous with tumorous lumps and chapped lips. Immortan Joe is basically a walking corpse. And the scenes of the life in The Citadel, while all beautifully shot, contain levels of horror that many people might not be comfortable looking at. But this helps really ground this world of "fire and blood" as Max states in the opening.
It has also been reported that Miller's preferred version of the film is in black and white. In a recent interview he confirmed that on the DVD/Blu-Ray release that a black and white version will be on there as well as a version of the film with no color and no sound, except the movies score. Now that has me even more excited because Miller isn't just continuing the genre, he's driving it forward.
Have you seen the latest Mad Max? What do you think of George Miller's return to the franchise after his departure to films like Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet? Is Furiosa the most bad-ass character we've seen grace the silver screen this year? Head to Erie Reader's Facebook page to let me know in the comments or email me – because this is a summer blockbuster that will be talked about for years to come!
John Lindvay can be contacted at jLindvay@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @Fightstrife.
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