Last year I posted one or two film reviews mostly of dramas or historic themes but recently I watch Mad Max Fury Road and thought it was worthy of my attention! I originally posted this review on the wonderful Smorgasbord blog by Sally Cronin.
Mad Max Fury Road has been rated as in the Top Ten action movies of all time by several British reviews and whilst I can’t quite rate it so highly it definitely makes for an enthralling trip to the Flicks. The original Mad Max trilogy made a star out of Mel Gibson who started off as a lone Australian Cop and ended up a tough survivor in a post-apocolyptic world that revolved around guns, souped up cars and trucks and very precious petrol (gasoline). With the last Mad Max film coming out nearly 30 years ago and with the latest movie being delayed by reasons as diverse as 9/11 and currency exchange rates, Mel Gibson was for a long time up for reprising his role. However the extra 5 years made all the difference to his age and suitability for the part and combined with Mr Gibson’s sometimes extreme statements he has made in the past it was decided to cast the talented British actor Tom Hardy to keep Max in his young prime.
Mad Max Fury Road is the type of film that doesn’t let plot get in the way of telling the story and the action starts within a few seconds of the beginning of the film and with just two or three minutes in the middle it is one long two hour action-packed car chase. The plot such as it is involves Max being captured by the henchmen of the hideously ugly and obese yet surprising mobile Immortan Joe. Max is used as a living blood bank which as bad as it sounds is maybe no worse than the group of women who seem to spend their lives hooked up to milking machines. For in this Mad Max movie it is not just bullets and petrol that is rare and valued but also mothers milk and babies themselves.
Charlize Theron plays Imperator Furiosa, one of the inner circle of Immortan Joe who has planned an escape from his evil tyranny whilst also smuggling out some Joe’s prize pregnant wives. When it is revealed something might be up, Nux, one of Joe’s young half-life warriors intent on reaching Valhalla goes into battle again Furiosa’s convoy. He like many others is almost killed which gives Max the chance to do what he does best, survive. Following a tense and well-executed fight between Max and the robotic armed Furiosa, it becomes clear that both must join forces to escape the clutches of Immortan Joe. Together and with a lovely character arc for Nux, they all head towards a green area rich in water and cultivated lands but to get there they have to battle for their lives through a succession of never ending attacks by the forces of Immortan Joe. Then just when they escape his clutches forever, Max informs the group that their plan to drive for 60 days over the desert to another supposed patch of green is crazy so they all do a U-Turn, beat the baddies again and claim his citadel and all the water and riches that he had been hoarding from his desperate and squalid people.
What made the original Mad Max films such a joy for those of who watched them the first time round, even underage children such as myself, was the physicality of the films and the out and out macho confrontationality of it all. If I just patched that word up together, then it is fitting for Mad Max as the film is full of some of the most imaginatively souped up petrol guzzling cars, jeeps, trucks and motorbikes all loaded up to the tilt with machine guns, bazookas and who knows what else. At times it is rather like being right in front of the speakers at a heavy metal concert as the film-makers really indulge the scenario whole-heartedly with a tuck full of mutants bashing away on large drums and the amazing sight of a electric guitarist mutant on some sort of rigging swaying around, strutting his guitar and when he does so, it turns into a flame-thrower, spewing out fire into the air. There are also pole-cats who are tired onto tall poles attached to the back of trucks that sway around allowing them to harpoon petrol tanks and take out enemy combatants. Even aged grannies all donned up for battle on motorbikes, in Mad Max everyone is up for violence whether they want it or not. All in all it is all good violent stuff. Like the earlier films this Mad Max takes a very earthy style when it comes to action and battles. Much less CGI than in comparable movies and lots more physical real-life action. Additionally it is a beautiful film to look at, some wondrous desert scenery and magnificent vistas.
Few watch Mad Max movies for the dialogue or characterisation and though there are characters, they often take a back seat to the relentless action. In fact the much increased budget over the previous films means that at times the film runs the risk of tiring out or even boring the audience as each blown up car is replaced by yet another. There is little time to savour each minor victory or to worry about each impending attack. There is a wonderful and understated relationship between Max and Furiosa and though they work increasingly well as a team together and care for each other on a level of human decency there is never any pretence at romance. Also this Mad Max is quite happy to take a back seat if necessary or leave the action to someone better suited on occasions such as his failed attempt to use the snipers rifle with only a handful of bullets left. The character of Nux is also an unexpected pleasure and though always portrayed as believable in a world of largely cartoon characters, his path to a place beyond redemption is great to watch. One thing I appreciated about Mad Max was that this isn’t a plain reboot story. Unlike the seemingly endless Batman, Spiderman and Superman movies which always feel the need to put their own spin on his first ever adventure rather than simply tell a new story about his 47th, 96th or 893rd adventure, Mad Max makes no allowance to explain to audiences the back story to the character or the franchise as a whole. Similarly there is a surprising wealth of consistency and background detail in the world of Mad Max, however none of it is spoon-fed to the audience and you can either lap it up or let it pass over your head. Being someone who likes detail in movies but don’t want everything explained to me, I like working it out as I go along and if somethings don’t immediately make sense or their importance is unclear then that’s okay, I save that for the next viewing. I knew nothing about Mad Max Fury Road before watching the film, in fact I didn’t even know it had been made despite being a big Mad Max fan. It is certainly perhaps the top action film of recent times with no pretence of complexities or hidden agendas and I really enjoyed it. At times I did miss Mel Gibson but I enjoyed being back in that world and enjoyed how they not only failed to ruin the Mad Max universe but kept true to the feelings of the originals albeit with a hugely increased budget and corresponding action.
Tom Hardy plays his part well though the Aussie accent often goes missing whilst Charlize Theron seems to make no effort with hers whatsoever but then most people are probably watching her character often out-shine Max despite or because of her robotic-arm like add-on. The idea that milk and children are even more important than oil and ammunition also add a twist to the formula and the slow realisation over the women that Joe is only interested in their unborn children rather than themselves plays out sometimes in unexpected ways. At times I did think little bits of it were slightly repetitive towards the end and I really think the idea of escaping somewhere successfully only to do a U-turn and do it all again was because an alternative good way of ending the film could not be found. However the enthusiasm by which it throws itself at the viewer with the sometimes bizarre ideas, excellent mutants and vehicular designs, crazy stunts and flame throwing guitarists means I will be getting this on Blu-Ray and watching the inevitable sequel.