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Film Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Imagine watching a cage fight, in the middle of an Iron Maiden concert, while a NASCAR race takes place on the surrounding track: That should give you a pretty clear impression of whether, or not, you are going to enjoy Mad Max: Fury Road. This long-awaited speedway rock opera is as loud, explosive, and demented as it sounds!

The film opens with Max (Tom Hardy, replacing the iconic Mel Gibson) staring out over the stark wastelands of post-apocalyptic Australia. His deep voice rumbles through the cinema speakers, as he gives his opening monologue; setting the scene for the unforgiving world he inhabits.

Climbing into his iconic V8 Interceptor (after chowing down on a convincingly CGI’d mutant lizard!), he immediately gets involved in a high speed chase; pursued by a group of fanatical ‘War Boys’. This sets the tone for the action to follow.

George Miller has managed to create the ultimate chase scene, and turn it into a feature length movie; the kinetic nature of the proceedings rarely giving the audience pause for thought (or breath). This is by no means a criticism, as it has led to what may be the best action spectacle of the Summer!

Max is accompanied through most of the film, by Charlize Theron’s ‘Imperator Furiosa’; a shaven-headed, oil-painted warrior, with a mechanical arm, and a no-nonsense attitude. Furiosa escapes her overlord, Immortan Joe (the original Mad Max’s ‘Toecutter’, Hugh Keays-Byrne), and rockets into the wilderness, accompanied by Joe’s favourite “breeders” (enslaved “wives”, intended to give birth to a post-apocalyptic dynasty).

Joe’s “War Boys” set off in pursuit, with Max in tow (a “blood bag” for the sickly ‘Nux’: X-Men: Days of Future Past’s Nicholas Hoult.). Max’s escape from the clutches of these demented road warriors, and his developing relationship with Furiosa (who requires his assistance to escort her female charges to ‘The Green Place’ of her birth), forms the driving force for the bulk of the story.

What follows is a masterclass in stuntwork, VFX, and demented characterisation. These are some of the most spectacularly inventive action scenes I’ve seen in the past decade; pumped-up vehicles crashing, exploding, launching into the air, and screaming with unbridled fury. Warboys (white-painted fanatics, screaming about their desire to go to “Valhalla”) launch themselves from one machine to another, swinging on poles, or leaping like baying wolves.

Furiosa holds her own against Max, being portrayed as an equal, rather than a sidekick. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a spin-off picture at some point, featuring Theron kicking ass in this desolate world. Her strong portrayal had led to some people seeing Fury Road as some kind of feminist power-fantasy. I disagree, but I can understand why the rumours are there.

Immortan Joe is a patriarchal monster, enslaving women for sex, and dominating his society with his masculine army. He is faced by Furiosa and Joe’s harem of brides, who overcome the hordes, and win the day. Of course, Max is central to this; which is often forgotten.

Whatever your thoughts on these theories, I thoroughly recommend dedicating your time to at least one viewing of this film. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a brave, inventive, spectacular achievement. Even the haters can’t deny that.

Welcome back, Road Warrior.

Verdict: George Miller has done it again! It has been 30 years since Beyond Thunderdome, and the time clearly hasn’t been wasted! This is a lean, mean, V8-powered machine of a movie: Miss it at your peril!

Author:  Iain Peter Morrison
Copyright:  Iain Peter Morrison

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