On the surface Mad Max: Fury Road could easily be misconstrued as the latest addition in an endless line of re-imaginings and reboots, constantly being tossed on the conveyor belt that is Hollywood’s business model incarnate. You know the ones, the movies the billion-dollar studios make these days to pull a new set of billion of dollars in name-recognition alone. These movies are almost exclusively boring – in the sense that they lack ambition, imagination and passion. Mad Max: Fury Road lacks none of these, rather, it possesses them all, and becomes an avant-garde action-buzzed extravaganza of unparalleled proportions that will blow even the most cynical action-critic away.
It feels odd to finally sit down and write a review for this movie. Not only because its been through production-hell for decades (yes, literally decades), but also because the only trailer I saw for the movie pushed my level of excitement to a point I wasn’t sure excited within me anymore. In the weeks before the release of Fury Road, I wanted to manage my childlike expectations, but to no avail. I continued to steer clear of any promotional material for the movie, and I even forced a friend of mine to convince me the movie would be horrible, sending her entire passages she could copy & paste in our Facebook chats – I guess it goes without saying, the latter didn’t really work. For me it can become very toxic to enter a movie – or any activity – with high expectations, as experience has thought me it will lead to disappointment more often than not (see Prometheus, Inception etc.).
With all that out of the way, allow me to say this: Mad Max: Fury Road delivers on every level. It’s a kick-to-the-balls explosive action-flick, and it knows it. It takes the term Blockbuster-movie, smashes its face in and reconstruct its own definition of the word. George Miller returns to the franchise he created in the late 70s, and it doesn’t take much to feel the love he has for the universe in which the movies takes place, the character of Max, the insane unprecedented vehicular race-combat-manslaughter, and the rebellious nature of action filmmaking. I hesitate to say Miller understands real action – because who am I to define real action – but he does understand how to direct – and depict – action, violence and adrenaline that punches you in the face, with real physicality in its stunts and explosions. Where most modern action movies – even the better ones like Marvel’s flicks and the past few Furious movies – lack this real physicality, and leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to excitement and actual adrenaline, Fury Road does not. Where most modern action flicks is so reliant on computer-generated imagery (CGI) that any illusion of authenticity is tossed out the window, Fury Road does not. Where most modern action flicks thinks shaky-cam creates tension, and not nausea and a sense of loosing braincells, Fury Road does not.
All of this is thanks to Miller and his team. First and foremost it would be a sin to review or talk about Fury Road without mention of Supervising Stunt Coordinator, Guy Norris, and applaud him and his team. Norris worked on the stunts back in Road Warrior in 1981, but to say the stunts in Road Warrior is matched, or slightly surpassed in Fury Road would be a grave understatement. Please don’t misinterpret that as to say the stunts in the previous movies were bad, au contraire, it’s just the only way to really articulate the stunts you’ll see in Fury Road – because you’ll see a lot you’ve never seen before. People are either hanging by the foot from speeding cars, or swinging back and forth between said cars on poles I can only assume is about 20 feet high. People are jumping dirt bikes above a convoy of cars, or sliding beneath a huge truck. People are jumping between speeding cars at a rate we only day-dreamed about in Road Warrior and the final act of Beyond Thunderdome. This time it’s real, it actually happens before our eyes. Like a pre-pubescent child who lights his Hot Wheels on fire and tosses them down hills, Fury Road is every-bit as fantastical as those moments were – only with R-rated violence and language.
The movie is written by Nick Lathouris and comic-book colleagues, George Miller and Brendan McCarthy. The comic book heritage is easy to spot, and once again demands a comparison to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where The Avengers: Age of Ultron finally seemed set to capitalise on it legacy in comic books, it’s an element that’s been sorely missing from the previous movies – both in terms of characters and world-development. In Fury Road every frame is reminiscent of a comic book strip, so richly detailed and developed, that it manages to construct a believable world and universe within its highly limited time-frame. The characters as well, are as absurd as the world they are bred in.
Max is masterfully played by Tom Hardy, subdued and dangerous, but he takes a backseat in his own story to let Charlize Theron shine as the deadly Imperator Furiosa. Beside her is a rag-tag of other female characters, whose origin I will not talk about in fear of spoilers, and they are surprisingly well-developed. When Furiosa enters a fist-fight early on in the movie, Miller showcases exactly how one should direct a physically capable female character. No, you shouldn’t ask her to be sassy and make a point of her gender, and you certainly shouldn’t find false pride in your attempt to diversify the modern action hero. You should simply create a capable female character, and that’s what Miller does. Sure, the rag-tag are all incredibly sexy (played by Rosie Huntington-Whitley, Zoë Kravitz and others) but neither the movie, nor themselves, are actively sexualising them. The monstrous Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is.
Mad Max: Fury Road is literally incredible. No, not in the vague, half-assed definition of the term where it’s used to showcase disbelief, but in the truer sense. Fury Road has been to hell and back over it’s 25 year production period, and when it finally arrives, it’s not only the best in the series, it becomes the first action movie I’ve ever felt inclined to give a perfect score. That IS incredible.