Mad Max: Fury Road ReviewJoe Shaffer
I count myself among the many who wrote off Mad Max: Fury Road before so much as seeing a trailer. As a member of the echo chamber, I sounded off that a Mad Max film without Mel Gibson wouldn't be worth a damn. Then again, I also initially thought Heath Ledger was a poor pick for Joker. As with the later actor's role, I eventually sang a different tune that allowed me to forget the embarrassing moment in which I doubted George Miller's and Tom Hardy's talents...
That moment arrived almost the instant Fury Road began and immediately picked up. Before I could grab my popcorn, the movie dove face-first into action, slowed briefly for tension, segued into exposition, and then picked right back up, trasitioning into a lengthy chase scene. Ordinarily, I'd slate a film with an action sequence as drawn out as this one. However, I lost my criticism somewhere between Max attempting to liberate himself from a contraption that was basically a car-mounted IV pole and the presence of massive metal-tearing funnel clouds. I was lost in the film's exuberance, drinking in every detail of the myriad vehicles and their inventive modifications as they tore across the wasteland: ridiculous lifts, spikes galore, and even a musical stage with a man playing a guitar/flamethrower.
Even when the film hit the brakes, it was still tense. Max eventually finds himself in a bind with Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a driver attempting to free a handful of maidens living in forced matrimony to a despot known as Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). The two clash, Furiosa initially more the dominant one, as Max has one of Joe's unconscious soldiers handcuffed to him. There's also a loaded pistol to consider in this situation, for which the two warring minds struggle. The scene is a real nail-biter, and shows that Fury Road doesn't rely on driving to provide all of the action.
...and, of course, there are accidents!
Bodies plummet from moving vehicles and roll under massive wheels. Roadsters explode and crash into their brothers. Projectiles soar through the air, most missing their targets while others pierce soft flesh and leave their victims to the first fate I mentioned in this paragraph. Crazies leap from one moving platform to another, pulling unsuspecting fools out of their cushy seats or off their perches. I don't think crazy even slightly covers the violent and oh so delicious imagery seen in Fury Road. I could sit here and think of adjectives to throw out, but do you really want a laundry list of those?
There's a lot of show-not-tell narrative throughout the movie, too. It's all in the way characters arrange their vehicles, don their clothing in a world where fashion has gone out the window, and handle themselves in various situations. It's seen in the nervous ticks and socially awkward idiosyncrasies displayed in Immortan Joe's troops and wives. This is something I've come to associate with George Miller, and it elevates Fury Road beyond your average summer blockbuster.
I think what I love most is that there's a dearth of eye-roll worthy scenes. Fury Road features its share of tropes, but few of them are of the typical, corny big budget movie sort. There are no instances where someone mutters a snarky quip or a sequence obviously used to set up a sequel. Hell, you don't even have to watch the first three Mad Max movies to understand the film or appreciate it. It stands on its own that well.
I now count myself among the many who deny doubting Mad Max: Fury Road. There have been few bone-crunching spectacles released this year--or even within the last few--that can compete with this one. George Miller's return to the post-apocalypse is triumphant in nearly every way, ushered in by a grim cavalcade that you hope will never end.
What a lovely day.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.