“Mad Max: Fury Road” is not the sort of movie I yearn to see.
OK, that’s an understatement. I really did not intend to see this movie AT ALL. But then The Santa Fe New Mexican gave it four chilies (and they are very snooty about which films they like). I could let that go, but then The Week, in its Review of Reviews (May 29 issue) gave it four stars. What’s going on here? OK, we have to see it now, before it gets an Oscar nomination or something.
Movie Poster for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road.’ Courtesy/Reel Deal Theater
Admittedly, it took me several years to finally rent and watch the original Mad Max movie (released in 1979) after hearing so many references to it in the culture. I honestly had to admit it was captivating, even if raising the level of film excitement beyond reason. That film has had cult status ever since, and it spawned several sequels, mostly not as good. Director George Miller rode on the crest of that success for many years. Now, at the age of 70, he has reinvented the brand with this new film, putting British star Tom Hardy in Mel Gibson’s original role as Max.
Fury Road takes us to a dark place, a post-apocalyptic desert Earth, where tribes of barely civilized human beings thirst after water and lust after oil for their vehicles of war. The warlord “Immortan Joe” runs the Citadel, where Max has been taken captive. When the hero warrior Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is tasked with taking a tanker war machine to get a load of fuel.
Immortan Joe has no idea she has squirreled away under the cab Joe’s slave harem. Furiosa intends to drive the five women to freedom, risking a route through the territory of opposing tribes. How Max gets involved is accidental, eventually joining her on this quest. Of course, it doesn’t take long before Joe learns of Furiosa’s treachery and the chase is on.
The action in this film is one of nearly non-stop, road rage style mayhem. It is one long chase scene with chop-shop vehicles attacking one another with very creative weapons, careening and exploding spectacularly across the screen, to the drumbeat and heavy metal guitar licks of their mobile musicians. (Yes, it is way, way over the top.)
The Citadel’s soldiers on the chase have shaved heads; their faces are painted like skulls and they proudly sport scars and tattoos—the look is where Goth meets Punk on steroids. There are many scenes you wish you hadn’t seen, showing how the Citadel society works. But this is not an intimate study of a survivalist culture, thank goodness. And, despite the grim reality it portrays, the film offers many sight gags that are so overdone as to inspire laughter in the audience.
So, obviously, this film is not for everyone… not only is it rated R, but it exposes the viewer to a culture of extreme violence; if you don’t want to visit, even on film, stay home and watch something else. But if you are one of those people (like me, occasionally) who has a strong stomach for insane sci-fi/action/adventure, you may appreciate the film history being made here, mostly all done with real vehicles and stunt performers, not CGI. I’m betting on at least a Sound Mixing Oscar for this one.