Film Review: 'Mad Max: Fury Road'
Opened: 15 May 2015
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton
Director: George Miller
Producers: Doug Mitchell, George Miller, P. J. Voeten
It is the age of the reboot and nothing signifies this more than Director George Miller’s decision to drag Mad Max Rockatansky grumbling and reticent from his sandy cinematic grave. You could be forgiven, like me, for presuming that iconic characters of the 80s made famous by well known anti-semite and fanatical god botherer Mel Gibson would simply be left to dust in the retro movie bargain bin. No! Reboot! Reboot! What next? Lethal Weapon 5: Those Idiots Will Watch Anything!
Fine, fine, so the aggressive rebooting is getting tedious (Spiderman anyone?!) but that aside Mad Max: Fury Road has a lot going for it. As a raw action movie it will be nearly impossible to beat. With very little set up, and using brilliant film craft to do so, we are hurled into two hours of unrelenting and brilliantly choreographed action. If there is a book on what makes an amazing car chase this movie rips it up and burns it to cinders.
Two astounding set pieces form the backbone of this slashing and burning. In particular the opening chase, which sets the brutal tone for what follows. The stunt work and commitment to this movie by professionals and actors alike is breath taking and makes for some of the most exciting ‘real’ action on the big screen for sometime. Brilliant costume, set design and direction breakdown the plot for us so that the action does not have to slow down for plot or character building dialogue.
Fans of the franchise will recognise this version of Max’s post apocalyptic world as a composite of Mad Max 2 and Beyond Thunderdome, for the bloodthirsty car chases and the ridiculous camped up nature of the villains/sets respectively. The weakest element being the movie’s main villain who we assume should invoke some kind of fear, or at least disgust, but looks and acts like a has-been clown from a 90s cirque de soleil show. Keep an eye out for echos of the two previous sequels (such as a deconstructed Master Blaster) but don’t expect to see much of the simpler rogue road cop from the first instalment, this is a big movie, with big sets, big explosions and big trucks!
That said, there are definitely some loftier ideas in the movie than just a smash and grab in the dessert. The plot centres on human sex slavery and the power of corrupt old white men. Max (Tom Hardy) meets his female equal in the very soon to be feminist and neoliberal icon Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who shines through as the real focus of the movie. Unlike Max, she has suffered but still has hope and uses her position to help other women. It is very unclear throughout the movie if she will be right to hope, or Max is right not to, you will have to see it to figure that out for yourself. What’s clear, is the strong feminist overtones in the film that are not forced, and very relevant in the modern world. On a performance front Hardy is solid as Max but it is Charlize Theron who makes the most impact, not least because her character is infinitely more interesting. And haters of Transformers: Age of Extinction beware, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley appears here making a series of model poses that yet again do not add up to acting.
Mad Max: Fury Road is the action movie of the summer boasting some of the best car chase material ever filmed. It lacks some of the grit of the original movie, instead opting for the camp optimism of Beyond Thunderdome, which it also resembles more visually than either of it’s other two cousins. Taking this lighter approach in some areas detracts from the sense of danger and in so doing reduces the impact of the movie’s messages. If you like action you will love this film, and you may also leave believing a macho man’s movie can pass the Bechdel test. If you don’t know what that is, look it up!