Mad Max: Fury Road
82.5% Apocalyptic, surreal, exhilarating.
As with Mad Max 2, this latest instalment of the Mad Max franchise presupposes no prior knowledge of the preceding movies. The term “reboot” has been applied to it, which is perhaps fair enough. Having a new star as the titular character (Tom Hardy) lends credence to this view. As with Mad Max 2, Fury Road begins with a voice-over narration setting the scene. In Mad Max 2, that voice was some nameless man, acting as a teller of the myth of Max. In Fury Road, it is the voice of Max himself. Mad Max 2 struck me as more mythic, but Fury Road does not eschew this approach but it does appropriates other stylistic genres.
Perhaps the driver of this story is a variation on the story of The Iliad…all Hell breaks loose when the wife of a powerful man goes walkabout…off the reservation, so to speak. There seems to be more emphasis on a picture of a post-apocalyptic society here than in previous Mad Max films, although perhaps Beyond Thunderdome did delve in to this aspect…it’s just that I remember very little of of it, apart from that cage-fight setting etc. Early on in the film, at least, it’s more about creating a sense of place and society than focusing on Max. Most of the movie is one long, frantic, car/truck/motorcycle chase sequence…which might sound like a bad thing but director George Miller makes it exhilarating…although perhaps falling short of the standards he set in Mad Max…which happened to be more introduction to the franchise and made me conclude as a child that he had outdone Hollywood (later watching the first movie in the series was a disappointment, I have to say).
How does Tom Hardy fare in the role? In this, he seems a marginal character a lot of the time…an accidental/incidental hero, if you will…low intensity often, too. He looks buff compared to the lithe Mel Gibson in the first three movies. His accent seems a bit weird too…I can’t remember if I found it to sound South African at times…or maybe that was one or two other characters? Some of the other characters have weird accents too…either they’re not nailing what they’re going for, or it’s just a mixed bag of accents. Max’s costume accessories at times recall his role in The Dark Knight Rises. Sometimes Max’s predicament puts in mind James Bond being in a similar, outlandish circumstance.
In this mad world, it’s good that Max isn’t the be-all and end-all. Quite a lot screen time is spent on Charlize Theron’s character…the fancifully named “Imperator Furiosa”. One has to give Charlize great kudos…I doubt that any other actor has taken The Method to such an extent as to have their forearm amputated for the role! She is, in a way, a rival to Max’s myth.
Also impressive about the film is the cinematography and style of it all. The sea of humanity early on in the film, the aesthetic, which seems to draw on such diverse sources as “Beneath the planet of the apes” (perhaps…foggy memory!), underground American horror films about the backwoods people and Freaks…etc.etc.etc. The refugee camp aesthetic has a distinct looking cast but I don’t think that they have the memorability of the goons in Mad Max 2, with the likes of The Humungus, Wez and The Feral Kid (although he is not a goon!). Let’s not forget The Gyro Captain in that latter camp too!
Some really impressive visuals can be found in the dust storm sequence, which seems positively of The Apocalypse and one setting which brings to mind wastelands enchanted by an evil spell…a la “Lord of the rings” or “Excalibur” like. The latter setting has a surreal feel to it in stark contrast to its stark, monochrome colour palette.
Perhaps for the first time in this series, the “mad” part of the title character seems to be literalised. He has demons which torment him. To be honest, I wasn’t sure where to place these in the chronology…before going into this movie, I suspected that it was set some time after the events of the original movie and perhaps before or after the events of the second. Max has numerous flashbacks which unsettle him. I did wonder if one of the faces I saw was meant to be the Feral Kid or another was meant to someone from the first movie…but the age of the character in the flashback I Fury Road made me doubt that…although the original movie isn’t clear in my mind. It might very well be possible that the events of the flashbacks could be fodder for a sequel to Fury Road…assuming that they haven’t been covered in the prior movies.
My casual reading of the series is that the first movie was set in a remote, violent community. Some time between the events of that movie and the second, some sort of global catastrophe occurred which brought mankind back to a primitive, dog-eat-dog state. Speaking of which, there are some nice, seeming references to Mad Max 2…from the truck driven by Furiosa (is that where this movie’s title derives from?) to a nice nod to the dog food scene…but turned up to 11 (something the squeamish may want to close their eyes momentarily for!).
To be honest, I would have been happy for Mel Gibson to reprise his role as Max and I didn’t really need “name” overseas stars brought in, but Charlize is probably less of a marked choice than Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome (although she had a couple of great songs on that movie’s soundtrack!).
I’d place this movie behind Mad Max 2 and above Beyond Thunderdome, which I saw before rating movies at places like this. It’s an exhilarating ride. Notes to self: Pretty lame lines on posters for this film. I.e. “What a lovely day” and “The future belongs to the mad”…seems like the PR guy’s mother phoned those ones in! Music as if from a melodrama at times Dedication to two Professors in credits…who? Found the guitar guy bit a bit silly! “Cars that ate Paris” type car too!