Review | Mad Max: Fury Road
I must confess I never was a huge admirer of Mad Max, the post-apocalypthic action trilogy from australian filmmaker George Miller. In fact, it was only when the sensational first trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road launched, that my radar spotted the Road Warrior. And thank god it did. I would’ve hated to miss this new adventure’s action spectacle.
Without mentioning the three predecessor movies, the plot begins in a world devastaded by water and oil wars, which led to a nuclear destruction. There, loner Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is captured by warriors from a society led by the tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played the character Toecutter in the first film). When of his generals, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) rebels and escapes to the desert with his women slaves, Joe puts his entire war hand after the rebel, and Max gets mixed in the midst of the conflict.
First of all, let there be no surprise if the premise seems to simple or even flat. The franchise was never known for in-depth plots or huge works of character development, but for the rich, vibrant mythology which held a very linear story: the first one was a mere revenge story, and the second one was nothing more than a big defense mission, and even if Beyond Thunderdome had more subplots to work with, it was still a basic escape story. Now, Geroge Miller himself stated that Fury Road is “one big, 2-hour car chase”, and that’s exactly what we see, in its grand, satisfacting way.
At the age of 70, Miller showcases the energy of a teenager (kind of like Scorsese with The Wolf of Wall Street, stating how the old guys still got it) on the command of the best action scenes you’ll see all year: violent crashes of abstract customized vehicles, crazy races into the belly of a surreal sandstorm and insane fight sequences on moving trucks, bikes and even acrobatic stiks. All of this with a dynamic and comprehensible directing (no shaky camera here), favored by Jason Ballantine and Margaret Sixel’s frenetic editing and Junkie XL frizzled soundtrack. John Seale’s cinematography also contributes in the making of a mesmerizing look, with a collor pallet dominated by the desert’s orange on day scenes, and a strong blue during the night.
But even with such a sturdy spectacle and simple plot, Miller and scribes Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris are able to touch relevant themes and creatr strong characters in this rich universe. Starting with the water crisis, one that seems so present now as before (in the 70s, it was oil), going through redemption (theme for the three major characters, including Nicholas Hoult’s Nux) and feminism, which Miller knocks out of the park in the form of the wives’ escape (“We’re not things”, says one of the writings on the wall) and Charlize Theron’s Furiosa. There’s an example of a strong, ass kicking woman who can go toe to toe with the protagonist, directly reffering to Alien’s own Lieutenant Ripley, if not even stronger. Theron’s great, and not just by Furiosa’s thoughness, but for her moments of vulnerability and emotional outflows (the “silent shout” in the desert is outstanding).
Last, but not least, Tom Hardy reveals himself a worthy successor to Mel Gibson as Max. Sure, the actor doesn’t have too many dialogues or expressions here, turning Max into an enigmatic and disturbed watcher, as well as a funny presence with his moody behavior (his reactions when tied on the front of a vehicle are great). And, of course, we have the bad guy Immortan Joe, already born an icon: his mask’s design is truly menacing, and he’s definitely one of the most memorable villains to come in the last years. In fact, the whole department of art directing and production design deserves praise for their splendid work with vehicles, costumes, make up and objects; every single one of them with very specific details and crafstmanship – have I mentioned there’s a flamethrower guitar?
Mad Max: Fury Road is a symphony that brings together the very best elements of the action genre, guaranteeing a vibrant experience in a rich, completely loony universe. The marketing didn’t lie: 2015 truly belongs to the mad.