Hollywood: “Here George, take this 150 million dollars and make the best Mad Max movie you can.”
Dr. George Miller: “What a lovely day.”
It’s been 36 years since the very first Mad Max film was made on such a limited budget that Miller had to destroy his own car to film all of the scenes. Now he has the appropriate budget and all the cars he needs to make one hell of a movie. It is a two hour long ride that takes its characters through hell… and back.
The story of Mad Max: Fury Road follows Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa driving an oil rig across the post apocalyptic desert while fending off different colonies filled with homicidal crazies. Max at one point even wonders who was more crazy, him or them. They are being chased primarily by Immortan Joe, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne. I’ve heard many descriptions of this character, but I like to think of him as a cross between Beetlejuice and Bane.
That’s all you need to know if you haven’t seen this movie yet. And you should definitely see this movie if you are even a little bit interested in action films. Fury Road is out of control, hypnotic, visually striking, and pure adrenaline. No movie this year has matched it and I doubt one will. Well maybe Star Wars. But I don’t even think the action in a galaxy far far away will compare to what Dr. Miller has achieved with this.
Miller goes old school, utilizing practical effects and amazing stunt work to create an ultrarealistic universe where everything you see is actually happening. You see a car get blown to pieces and that is actually happening. With so much movies today using CGI unsparingly it is a huge relief to see these real effects presented so well on screen. I honestly have no clue how it came out so well, needless to saying making me beyond impressed. By the end of filming there were apparently over 400 hours of footage to work with. Major props to the editor.
Miller can direct action, but he can do even better than that. The imagery was literally breathtaking throughout every single shot. I’m certain you could pause the movie anywhere and would have a great picture. If you’ve watched the trailers you’ll recognize the first shot of this movie. But it still amazes. The day is filled with vibrant orange skies and night time glows with blue. There’s also an indescribably magnificent scene inside a tornado/dust storm that has to be seen on the big screen to get the whole effect.
There’s another scene inside a canyon that I have to mention because of how good it was. It probably lasted to no more than 30 seconds, but I loved it because it was the first time everything came together. Hardy and Theron have a mutual distrust for each other for the first half of the film, but in this scene they find a mutual goal and dominate from then on. The score fit perfectly and I fell into a moment of bliss.
This is definitely a Mad Max movie. Miller has not lost the edge for these films that make them so unique. However, I think he has made Fury Road more accessible to today’s generation. There’s a little bit of narration and exposition in the beginning that introduces the character of Max to a new audience. It is the same Max that has been around for more than thirty years. Hardy became Max so easily because Max is a legend. He enters these worlds, makes an impact, and leaves before anyone really knows who he is. His story is told by the people he effects, who each have a different idea of what he looks like and who he is.
In a franchise that has been solely about a man, this movie is more about the women that are in it. Author of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler, who also consulted on the script called it a feminist action film. Theron’s Furiosa was one of the strongest characters I’ve seen this year, man or woman. I believed her ferocity every second and that she could go against Hardy’s Max. The five wives that are being rescued hold their own too. Each has a distinct personality that created an incredible dynamic. They weren’t restrained by the archetype, abused female roles we’ve seen too much of, they used their vulnerability and strength to exceed greatness.
There are two minor gripes I could find while watching this movie. The first is a shot where large debris flies into the camera, clearly made for 3D, which bothers and confuses me because I’m pretty sure Miller prefers the 2D version. The second complaint is only there because I was so spoiled before. This is also a partial spoiler. After going East for so long in the movie, a decision is made to go back West. I bought into this because I thought I would be seeing the same action spectacles again. I did, but not as much. I completely understand it logically, but I wanted so much more.
Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action films I have seen in a long time. The action was real, energetic, and beautifully shot. How does a 70 year old man create a film so exciting? He’s done something filmmakers half his age couldn’t fathom making, much less be successful at. Taking place on the road with almost no down time, there’s a surprising amount of great character development and story to accompany it. Hardy and Theron are a juggernaut, surrounded by a strong supporting cast. Miller has not confirmed a fifth film, I’ve heard Hardy has signed on for more, so all I can do now is hope that Dr. George Miller has another stroke of genius.