"Mad Max Fury Road" had the same impact to me that "The raid" did back in 2012. It is not that it has a striking story line or presents itself as a masterclass of acting and good taste. It simply offers the thrills that films of this genre do in the most effective way.
|If you villain looks like that, do you expect subtlety?|
Story: All the previous MM films had a very basic plot. Lone hero goes (unwillingly) against a gang of rapists, scumbags and killers in the post apocalyptic desert wasteland of Australia while half way through makes a pact with other survivors. Max, a man of few words, at the beginning is a human being investing only to himself but at the end superior motives and a good heart leads him to the path of the hero. Here, we have the same story with a bit of extension. A dictator - Immortan Joe - presenting himself as a god on earth controls that last few remaining resources - water, plants - and brainwashes people to commit sacrifice for him if necessary. However, he wants an heir for this massive "city" and hence the plot begins. See the women who are supposed to give him an heir are being smuggled out by one of his accomplishes named Furiosa. While escaping they encounter Max and their sole purpose is to avoid the claws of Joe and his massive gang (army). Plot is in a few words, simple and effective without deviating from its main characters and theme of survival. Like "Dredd" and "The raid" not all films have to shoehorn thousands of subplots and complex ideas in order to satisfy the now have seen pretty much everything audience ("Age of Ultron" and "Prometheus" are the most recent disappointing examples).
|Mad Max and Furiosa - one of the best duos on screen that get the job done with a love story. Thank god.|
Characters: The most surprising aspect in the now classic survival and car-chase franchise are the characters. Yes, you heard me right. What could have been easily the single element that would have MMFR being slaughtered by the critics is actually the most enduring part. Besides MM, we have Immortan Joe, our villain and although he is roughly one dimensional, his scenes have enough characterization. Sure he is a bad guy, but considering his rich backstory - ill in need of an heir and a god among his (brainwashed) people - even when he has the chance to kill his women, he (reluctantly) hesitates because he considers them sacred. It is a bizarre twist in the typical vile villain. Then we get one of the toughest female characters ever in the face of Charlise Theron as Furiosa (excellent performance). As her name suggests, this is not the typical man-needy damsel in distress. Despite having one arm - the other is bionic - not only she holds up her own against much more intimidating foes but she also has a nicely incorporated emotional arc and she is not defined by her sex. Rest assured despite this being a film aimed at guys (like "Aliens"), it is very surprising that there is no context for gender based jokes or action. And instead of following the traditional route of tough female characters - hateful and resentful towards me because they feel scared or were abused by them and even when a man saves them they still despises until the plot requires them to do an 180 turn and trust the hero - here instead they act as genuine INDIVIDUALS. Furiosa does not have to prove to Max that she is tough. She is tough and we know it. Period. She works with Max and does not try to screw him over in the first chance she gets (despite Max doing that initially). The fact is that women are trying to save the world from the mad men unlike other cinematic depictions as weak and fragile minded caricatures. Besides Furiosa, there are the five wives of Joe, all of them gorgeous (since the plot requires them so). Still, there is not a single shot that pervs over them. None of them act and feel forced nor require saving every five minutes and they actually feel an important part of the simple plot. What they lack in deep development, they make up for sharp characterization and they all work towards the final goal - to escape Joe. No one is going on their own somewhere so they can be kidnapped or last (action) minute freak out and start crying while the villain is up close and personal in order to provide the hero the necessary and cathartic cliffhanger. Well done screenwriters, well done.
Mainstream: which brings me to the selling point of the film. MMFR is not following the mainstream rules at anything that Hollywood has produced in the last couple of years. Not. At. All. No love story, no bullshit like that. George Miller (the director) treats his characters as actual humans which sole purpose is to survive in this insane post-apocalyptic world, not to make out (or chase doggies). Therefore, I must express my happiness when I discovered that not only I cared about every single one of the few individuals on screen but this greatly increased the dramatic tension in the practical made chase sequences. There are things here that will surprise you, especially for a film of that marketing hype that usually aims to please the 13-year olds and the overall unfamiliar with it audience. No scrap that, MM aims for your head. You either like it or leave it.
|That's a mad max vehicle. Seriously.|
Action: And now the second selling point of MM. What made the first trilogy instantly famous was the car sequences and crashes, particularly the car themselves. The filmmakers opted out to create the cars from scratch - especially in that cinematic era where GGI was not available - see the disastrous "2 Fast 2 Furious" stunts. Now, we are 2015 and Miller chose to create the most insane vehicles ever (there is a vehicle that looks like a rock stage!)being put up on screen for road mayhem in the dessert of South Africa. And oh boy not only he delivers the goods, he manages to make the entire "Fast and the Furious" franchise for pussies. Sure it can be described as excessive but when all the crashes, explosions and road fights are real with real people performing insane stunts in spectacular fashion, it is truly a sight to behold. People jumping left and right on moving vehicles and catapult themselves in over the top fashion without the slightest usage or help of CGI while at the same time vehicles are crashing and exploding at 100mpr in a gorgeous setting. And everything is presented in a wide and crystal clear frame. MMFR has pwned any single action film of the last 25 years and like the "Raid", sets the bar high now for future vehicular mayhem productions. FF8 has to really prove itself and now that I am thinking about it pales in comparison.
Direction: George Miller now at his 70's(!) directs with such panache and finesse with exhilarating rhythm. The film never (or rarely drugs) and it can be described as a two hour car chase (no really) with loud industrial music - provided by Junkie XL - that grabs you by the throat and never lets it go. I have not felt like that since "Gravity". Added by gorgeous cinematography, he stages his vehicular mayhem in such good taste (assisted by top notch editing too) that makes you wonder what a bad job filmmakers are currently doing now in action movies. This is a man who has not visited the world of MM since 1985 and in the meantime he performed director duties in family friendly flicks such as "Babe" and "Happy feet". Holy cow, try to top that.
|The world of Mad Max. Amazing.|
Mad Max: Played by Tom Hardy, Max is not a disappointment as douchebags have proclaimed him to be (because he assists Theron's character). He has his own moments to shine and at the end of the day he is the main hero. But his arc is not the film's emotional core (wise decision). Max is a character that has revealed all his cards in the previous movies. Having again to go through the same process will be a boring thing to do. Miller and co have thought it carefully and allowed this character to come and go as he should do. An enigmatic stranger, a man with a name but of few words, decides what to do when the right time comes. He is not the full blown hero but rather he follows the footsteps of Clint Eastwood's character in the Leone trilogy.
Anything I did not like? The film is an action masterpiece. Nothing annoyed me and everything has suggested a world that requires expanding (everyone is ready for a sequel). If I have to nitpick, it could be the relentless pace - combined this with the loud industrial music and the immersive car chases for 2 hours could be a bit tiresome for those who seek dialogue (very few bits). Also the insanity of the film might turn few people off so if you are not willing to experience this for 2 hours, I suggest do not bother to go. For those who seek high speed thrills and the BEST action thrills of the last 25 years, this is your chance.
+ action, THE ACTION
+ world building
+ no one does something stupid
+ brilliant music
+ Tom Hardy
+ strong but not in your face female characters for the sake of it
+ glorious direction
+ simple story, effectively executed