After 30 years cinematic visionary, George Miller, returns to his influential post-apocalyptic franchise with Mad Max: Fury Road. In recent years, however, Miller’s work has been less shirtless-flaming-guitar-player and more baby-pig-roaming-the-city or overly-excited-penguins-dancing.
But don’t let that deter you, for Miller has once again cemented himself as one of the biggest names in action movies. Mad Max: Fury Road is without a doubt a contemporary classic – it has raised the bar of not only blockbuster action movies, but of today’s cinematic experiences altogether.
Mad Max: Fury Road throws you into an insane desert dystopia, ruled by a Darth Vader-esque Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his clan of crazed gear-heads. Max (Tom Hardy) is a shell of man, reduced to nothing but the will to live, is given purpose when he encounters Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a women who seeks redemption for those Immortan Joe has wronged.
It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but neither did the first two movies in the franchise. And, believe me, Fury Road is undeniably the best in the franchise. It expertly balances the heart and depth of a drama with the heart pounding thrill of constant raw action.
This blend is why I define Fury Road as a contempary classic, a term I do not use loosely. Where the first two installments feel flat, Fury Road is able to execute not only consistent but fluid action that modern audiances crave, with meaningful and current themes of objectification, feminism, and mental illness that give the film purpose and depth.
The world of Mad Max has always been a fascinating aspect of the series, feeding you only bits of information explicitly and instead revealing itself through stunning visuals of the deadly wasteland. Fury Road is no acceptation; a steering wheel shrine, chrome paint as a stimulant of sorts, a shirtless guitar player shooting flames, none of these things are ever explained, but the don’t need to be – through merely experiencing them and questioning these aspects you’re further engaged into this intriguing world.
Furthermore, Fury Road is an absolute visual feast. Although the wasteland is merely orange sand and blue sky, this constant color scheme is evident in every shot, reminding you of this decay of humanity and constant threat of the crazed gearheads.
The gearheads, however, are, surprisingly, another interesting facet of this film. Unlike the previous films, they’re presented more as a clan then a crazed mob. Although their leader is a self-proclaimed god, their vehicles are a mishmash of violence, and they’re bald albinos – but they’re still human.
Through the character of Nux (Nicholas Hoult) – a gearhead obsessed with the idea of a glorious and honorable death – we see a young and crazed follower transform into a somewhat wholesome and caring human. And thanks to an excellent performance from Hoult, Nux’s arc doesn’t come off as too ‘Hollywood,’ it grows through his voice and body, but through a constant craze in his eyes Hoult is able to keep the integrity of the character.
What’s more for the sake of avoiding spoilers, there is a particular scene where I actually felt bad for what Furiosa brought upon the gearheads due to this realistic representation, which evoked an underlying sense of empathy even when the deadly action is on screen, which, by the way is easily 70% of this movie.
That may sound like warning sign of a typical idiotic explosion fest that audiences are so accustomed to, but because of the way Miller shows the action, and simultaneously incorporates it into the plot – these scenes don’t stand out in a way were they push the drama and character building to the side. Instead like a well-oiled machine, everything works beautifully.
This isn’t to say the action isn’t a cut above every other action movie in the past decade because it is a stunning labor of love and imagination. The vehicle design alone is enough to captivate you, with each machine both respecting and building upon the franchise’s known legacy of death on wheels.
Yet, the heart of the action lies in its fluid and grounded presentation. Each set piece plays a significant role in the plot progression, giving these scenes an actual purpose in the overall story instead of a mere necessity to keep your attention. Miller has also taken the liberty of putting Max in peril. He may fit the mid-30s white male stereotype, but he tied to the front of a truck, beat, battered, and bloodied multiple times throughout the film – truly testing his will to live.
That said, Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t necessarily about Max. Yes, he is presented as the protagonist, but the plot really focuses around Furiosa and her drive for redemption; Max is simply the viewer’s connection into this world, and it is rather Furiosa who goes through the most development and progression to reach her goal.
This may shock or disappoint some viewers, that Max isn’t the focus of a Mad Max: Fury Road. While the concept of Mad Max is still evident (being sane in a crazy world makes you truly mad) viewers must understand this is the fourth entry into the series; over the previous 3 movies Max was worn and wronged, making him into the Max you see in this entry.
Furiosa, on the other hand, is the more interesting character in Fury Road. Themes of feminism and objectification aside, Furiosa battles with leadership and purpose as she guides a troop of surviving women. Theorn brings a physically demanding performance, casting a commanding feeling of drive and a steering feeling of guilt in every scene – an avenging goddess if you will.
Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t just the best Mad Max movie, it isn’t just George Miller’s finest work to date, it is the pinnacle of contemporary blockbusters. An astonishing amount of character development, world building, and modern themes is somehow squeezed into the constant tension and beautiful, raw and imaginative high-octane action sequences.
Max may not be the focus of Mad Max: Fury Road, but his plight allows us to enter this terrifying visual feast of a world. And as crazy as the wasteland and the gearheads appear, so much humanity underlies every character to a point where it’s difficult to distinguish true madness.
If you’re still on the fence deciding whether or not Mad Max: Fury Road disserves your $11 then I’m afraid I have failed as a reviewer. Fury Road is an instant classic, and one you should simply go out and watch this instant.
Just remember: drive carefully.
Mad Max: Fury Road gets a 10/10