Mad Max: Fury Road Review

Posted: May 15, 2015 in Action, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Mad MaxFor once, you can buy the hype.

You will see the screaming shout-outs in the Mad Max: Fury Road ads on line, in print, and on TV, and you will ask if it is really that good.

It is.

Mad Max: Fury Road is cinematic insanity. It defies routine film criticism. It exceeds the highest standards of the best moments of the three previous Mad Max films. It kicks ass, over and over and over again.

You will crawl out of an IMAX screening of this movie drained, with drums still pounding in your head. You will scan the horizon for Pole Cats, Gas Boys, War Pups, and Imperators. You will ask yourself, “What the hell did I just see?”

For contemporary audiences, Mad Max: Fury Road offers a rare treat: the chance to be truly wowed. Watching it, you will experience what those who went to the movies in December 1923 and saw Cecile B. DeMille’s original The Ten Commandments must have felt – a sense of awe at the sheer spectacle of what is on the screen. Forget Avengers: Age of Ultron and every other summer film that is 90% CGI. There are no substitutes for stunt action shots and fabulous sets in creating a sense of wonder.

Plot? George Miller don’t need no stinking plot. This is a straight-up, two-hour chase movie that travels in the most linear manner imaginable. It’s Point A to Point B and then back to Point A. Sure, if you insist on subtext, it’s a rebellion against tyranny, an assertion of populism, the empowerment of females, and the redemption of the human soul. But mostly, it’s a super souped-up ride through the apocalypse.

Is it a remake or a reboot of the Mad Max franchise? Neither so much as a reimagining of the world Miller created in 1979 with the original and then fleshed out in broader strokes in 1981 with The Road Warrior and 1985 with Beyond Thunderdome. Then, Mel Gibson strode through the wasted landscape as the ultimate survivor. Now, at age 59, Gibson is too old and still too radioactive from his career meltdown to carry on in the role.

Tom Hardy is Max, and in a wonderful nod to Hardy’s most memorable previous role – Bane in The Dark Knight Returns – he is fitted with another face mask in the early going. Max is scooped up with barely a fight at the onset and is reduced to being a mobile blood bank. His chance for escape comes when one member of this totalitarian state under the control of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) goes rogue, escaping with a war rig hauling gas and stowaways – the five concubines of the leader.

Charlize Theron is the rebel, Imperator Furiosa, and while Tom Hardy may be Mad Max, Charlize is The Road Warrior. Max rides shotgun here. Furiosa is tougher and smarter, and does it all one-handed, having lost her left arm below the elbow. We don’t know how; we learn little about her, other than that she was stolen as a child and taken to the Citadel, where she occupied a trusted position before heading out for her homeland, The Green Place.

Max is haunted by his own child and by his wife and by a host of others who he has been unable to save. The dead beckon him. Hardy plays Max straight up as a tortured loner, who is most comfortable on the run from everyone and everything. He lacks Gibson’s twinkle and does not even try to duplicate it. This Max Rockatansky is a hard-headed, two-fisted pragmatist, whose idea of subtlety is to dive into the belly of the beast.

But make no mistake. The real star here is Miller. This is his masterpiece, the full realization of his vision. There may well be other Mad Max movies. It is hard to imagine a better one.

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