Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult
Directed By: George Miller
Running Time: 120 minutes
Warner Bros. Pictures
Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars
From smashing real life cars in the early 80’s to CGI spectacles of today, it’s been quite the road for vehicular mayhem on the big screen. One of those movies to pioneer heart racing chases and motorized feats that could decapitate a stuntman was “The Road Warrior”. In 2015, George Miller has come full circle with his “Mad Max” franchise. He’s stepped on the pedal and revved up some life into this old franchise. While the original “Mad Max” movies were the quintessential action movies of the 80’s, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is undoubtedly the quintessential action movie of the 21st century.
This isn’t your typical summer blockbuster that requires knowledge of the backstory to understand the current predicament of the characters. “Mad Max: Fury Road,” much like the other movies, follows our hero, Mad Max. Max opens the movie with a narrative that packs more words than he’ll say for the rest of the movie. And trust me, that opening narrative still isn’t that long. His gritty and heavily accented voice grumbles out, “I exist in this wasteland, hunted by scavengers.” And that’s all you need to know about this world.
Fans of the previous movies will know that we’re plopped down in the fierce unforgiving deserts of Australia, but a sandy wasteland speaks for itself in a post-apocalyptic world. The movie establishes very briefly that there’s been a shortage of oil, a resource richer than water, which has thrown the world into chaos. Wars have torn us apart and devolved us into a primal state of mind. We no longer remember have a sense of normalcy and some have been born into this rustic nightmare.
Max is imprisoned in a mountainous fortress known as the Citadel. The Citadel is under the tyrannical control of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). He dilutes the populace with promises of guiding them through these end times and delivering them to Valhalla, sometimes personally. His operation includes a variety of different slaves, including men who churn a monstrous machine that pumps water from the ground, an army of pasty lunatics, simply called the “War Boys”, a row of women who are constantly being pumped for their breast milk, and five wives who he impregnates. He sees everything around him as his property and especially covets the angelic women like Gollum lusts after the One Ring.
But under the sanity of Imperator Furiosa (Theron), the five wives have hope. They escape with the battle hardened woman who burns with a deep hatred for Immortan Joe. Furiosa is in a position of power though, as the driver for the rig that transports precious gasoline, from a lone oil refinery, to the Citadel. With this super fitted and armed to the teeth war rig, she takes off with Immortan Joe’s “property”, sending him into a blind rage. He gathers the war party and storms into the desert with altered vehicles that seem born out of a NASCAR race from Hell.
“Fury Road” is a hot, violent, fever dream in the dunes of despair. There’s so much insanity to cover, I wouldn’t even know where to even begin. The chase after Furiosa drags Max into the fray as he’s used like a sick front hitch ornament for a pursuing vehicle, with his blood literally being siphoned from him into the deranged driver. Then throughout the movie, our enemies, when facing certain death, kamikaze after inhaling what appears to be spray paint, like deranged suicidal junkies. Main villain after villain appears with some sort of disgusting physical complication. While Immortan Joe needs a breathing apparatus, one villain has the teeth of a meth addict and the blind fury of an insane asylum patient, while another appears to be a discount Bond villain with a golden nose, a chain hanging between his pierced nipples, and a severe case of diabetes. And I haven’t even talked about the faceless creature that’s shown constantly playing an electric guitar that shoots flames.
Then there’s the thing you will be hearing about all summer, the stunts and the action. Yes it is relentless and fierce, and yes it avoids CGI, most of the time. Once you hear the sounds of gears shifting and nitrous being kicked on, you’re hooked from scene one. There’s such an adrenaline rush from watching real metal being chewed up and spit out, you can’t take your eyes off the screen. It also helps that every weapon and vehicle is unique in its brutality, while the chase itself seems like structured pandemonium. After watching the green screen CGI, sequel after sequel, and superhero epics, it’s refreshing to watch a realistic circus of carnage.
For being such a grotesque visual spectacle, it manages to be a very thoughtful movie, speaking volumes visually, without uttering a single word. Even though his name is in the title, the movie focuses heavily on Furiosa, who provides the bulk of emotion. While Hardy’s notes must have been very bare, Theron must have had a lot to handle. The movie begins with her as a cold, calculating, man-eater, but as the movie goes on she becomes a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak landscape. But “Mad Max” movies, forego the first, aren’t really about Max. It’s about the world he inhabits along with the people he helps, despite his usual reluctance in the beginning. “Fury Road” is no different. Max joins Furiosa and the five brides on this journey, fraught with despair, but ultimately driving towards hope. It took nearly three decades for all of this to come together, and after an over 10,000 day wait, it was worth every millisecond of my time.