If you’re an internet-dwelling
loser guy like me, then chances are you’ll have heard some people on your internet travels raving about Mad Max: Fury Road. In the past few weeks, the Tom Hardy starring action flick has been subject to a hype train so ferocious it actually caused several volcanic eruptions across the globe. Because of this immense amount of hype and excitement over a movie not many people probably expected to have a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (okay, they may have guessed 97% or 99%, but the point still stands), dozens upon dozens of much more interesting internet bloggers than myself have spilled gallons of digital ink ruminating on the themes and motifs of this strangely meaningful blockbuster. Since every inch of the movie has been scoured over online, and there is almost nothing new to say at this point, I’m writing about it anyway, so here are my vaguely coherent and mostly unoriginal thoughts on Mad Max: Fury Road.
Your average $150+ million blockbuster nowadays has a lot to accomplish in two and a half hours. A story needs to be told, obviously, but a bunch of major franchise movies are required to pack in teases for future instalments and spin-offs, service a small army of named characters with some form of development and so on – the case study I’ll use is Avengers: Age of Ultron, which included almost certainly studio-mandated sequences teasing the sequel set to release in 2018 as well as teeing up some of the solo movies to come before then, as well as a romance subplot between Bruce Banner and Black Widow, on top of visions and crises for each member of the increasingly expansive team. Despite all that content making the movie a little overstuffed, and not entirely satisfying on its own, I enjoyed it. It’s a fun, well-made popcorn movie with interesting themes and several terrific moments – it’s not quite at the premier league for blockbusters, but it’s a solidly enjoyable sequel nonetheless, even taking into account the overstuffed nature of the movie.
Mad Max: Fury Road is almost the antithesis of that. If Avengers was the War Rig from Fury Road, packing a ton of power and mostly working well, but often getting stuck in the mud and running out of gas, then Fury Road is a stripped down kit car – lean, dynamic and breathlessly fast. It’s a movie that basically just has one ongoing action sequence, and a few breaks to catch breath at certain points in the sequence, and a movie where the plot can pretty much be summed up in a couple of brief sentences (which I won’t include here, because of spoilers). Yet because of this, Fury Road is one of the best blockbusters in ages. It packs in compact character arcs that are more powerful and effective than in most blockbusters yet unfold in a fraction of the time, and packs a surprising amount of thematic depth, with several meaty, rarely touched-on topics explored in genuinely interesting and creative ways (there are people who’ve gone into far more detail than me, so I’ll leave my praise of Fury Road‘s depth at this point).
Fury Road‘s main trinity of characters – Max, War Boy Nux and Imperator Furiosa have relatively little dialogue between them, yet each goes through a meaningful and powerful character arc. Max learns to trust and be a hero, but can’t quite shake his past demons, Furiosa gains redemption and finds a new home, and Nux finds renewed purpose and importance after his entire belief system is torn to bits. All of that is packed into efficient, brief drama scenes and often in the midst of the action itself, and each arc, though not always perfect in execution, has a sizeable and satisfying payoff at the end. The fact that a lot of the big, defining character moments are incorporated into the action scenes gives Fury Road‘s balls-to-the-wall action a clear meaning and purpose rather than simply serving as an eye-candy feast of CGI. The other characters don’t quite live up to these powerhouse figures, but Fury Road still does an admirable job of giving all of its sprawling cast distinctive qualities and characters, and ensuring that the clusters of people Max and Furiosa meet don’t blur into one weird entity like the 12 dwarves in The Hobbit.
Speaking of those clusters of characters that the heroes meet; they’re almost entirely composed of women. Yep, Mad Max is unashamedly and proudly a feminist movie, with a pretty clear message against female objectification, over a dozen female heroic characters and a woman, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, who plays the de facto lead role. While the Daily Mail comments section is probably furious at this, Fury Road‘s feminist message is not only completely appropriate (just take a look on the internet for 5 minutes, and report back), but it’s delivered in a way that isn’t remotely condescending or obnoxious (even mens rights activists may struggle to find issues, because, of course, that’s important). In other words, despite having a mainly female cast of heroes and a 100% male cast of villains, Fury Road promotes and showcases the widely-held version of feminism that can often be overshadowed by the overblown vocal minority Tumblr nonsense; complete gender equality, and that’s pretty damn impressive in a market where gender equality is a hard-to-reach myth. It also shows how easy it is to make interesting and unique femalecharacters as engaging as their male counterparts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other major blockbusters began to follow suit and learn some lessons from Fury Road‘s use of female characters.
Moving away from the morally complex rabbit hole that is gender equality, let’s talk about pretty explosions. Fury Road is about 80% action – one super-extended car chase, yet the action continues to be astonishing and surprising from the first to the last scene. It’s coherently and professionally shot, only falling into rapid-cut territory a few times, and is utterly batshit insane in a way that’s actually kind of endearing. There’s a scene where Max does battle with a man wielding a massive electric guitar that shoots fire, and I think that pretty much sums up how good Mad Max‘s action is. It’s insane, but in a characterful way that makes the action terrific to watch even in 2D on an average sized screen.
If this review sounds a bit breathless, it’s because Mad Max is genuinely exciting to talk about – there’s so much to say about it that a full and in-depth review would be reaching into the several thousands of words. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly the best movie I’ve seen this year – with exhilarating action and a surprising amount of narrative heft, Mad Max: Fury Road brings George Miller’s post-apocalyptic franchise roaring vigorously back to life.
Oh wait, that’s the Rotten Tomatoes summary. I told you this review would be unoriginal.
In short, if you haven’t seen this movie, go see it as soon as possible. If you have seen it, go see it again. And so on. It’s a good film.