It has come to my attention that despite it’s almost near perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes some may not have seen this movie yet. I feel it is my duty that I say this review does talk about the plot in depth, thus there will be spoilers.
You’ve been warned
Mad Max: Fury Road (Rated R)
Written By: George Miller, Brendnan McCarthy, & Nico Lathouris
Directed By: George Miller
Fury Road playlist for your listening pleasure
30 Years* is a long time to be away from anything. But, that’s how long it’s been since George Miller has given us a look into a not to distant future where only the mad survive. (*A bit of info about yours truly to put things in perspective, I’m about to be 32 (July 26th if anyone wants to get me anything) so this movie has LITERALLY been in the works almost my entire life!) After multiple false starts and delays (mainly due to security restrictions involving shooting in Namibia) dating all the way back to 2003 this film’s journey to the screen resembled a long slog through the very wastelands Miller envisioned. Luckily, unlike many things taking years, if not decades to create this was worth the wait; Sorry “Chinese Democracy”. It’s worth noting that George Miller does not see this as a sequel, because of the amount of time it’s been since the last film (“30 years!”, he exclaimed from behind his keyboard with a maniacally to no one.). This film is viewed more like a continuation reboot with Tom Hardy this time around as the iconic Road Warrior.
Our journey begins with a lone figure standing beside his chosen mode of transport/survival looking upon the vast plains of tan dust that was once civilization. Suddenly, a voice begins to narrate what we are witnessing. He calls himself Max and recalls memories of a man he once was a man with a job, and a family, but that man along with his wife and child died a long time ago. What remains is someone who has been ravaged physically and emotionally by this new brutal landscape. Miller’s choice to reveal our protagonist through voiceover in the present was a great choice, as a flashback sequence would have put the pace at the start of the film in molasses. We are shown the rigors of The Wasteland through Hardy as he like everyone else is trying to survive the day and make sense of a world that makes anything but. Almost immediately we are given a taste first hand at one of the many dangers that is in store for Max as a flock of War Boys are in pursuit. The movie steps on the gas with a lead foot from this point on rarely letting up on the pedal of pace. This chase through The Wasteland begins in on four wheels and ends with an Extreme Makeover gone wrong. Tattooed, nearly scalped, and stripped of dignity he is on his way to become a “blood bag”. Normally, this sort of exposition is reserved for a second act but the world we are being guided through doesn’t play by our rules. Soon, another chase ensues on foot as Max makes a run for it. During which we are treated to a peak in his mind, which is a waking nightmare as he hears and sees those he couldn’t save long ago. It seems Max is suffering from a case of Post Apocalyptic PTSD which would drive most insane, but this gives our hero the motivation to run for his life from the depths. So far there have been two chases within the first ten minutes before we see a title card for the movie. Not one to slow this ride down, the title sequence is about 10 seconds and we are plunged back into the thick of it.
As the movie continues to unfold we see more and more how far gone the world really is. The huddled masses that inhabit The Wasteland are sickly, frail and dirty looking for some semblance of hope which is found in the main baddy Immortan Joe (HughKaeys-Byrne). Like everyone else, Joe has seen better days as he suits up to address his subjects. Kaeys-Byrne, is no stranger to The Wasteland though, playing Toecutter previously in Mad Max (1979). Once Joe begins to speak through his modified breathing apparatus, there is a palpable charisma that glows from every fiber of his large pale frame. His faithful hang onto his every word like scripture as he delivers his impassioned sermon. The thousands in attendance are rewarded with a shower from the heaven’s of Joe’s Ivory tower.
Immortan Joe joins a long line of charismatic men who were able to control large groups of people who were lonely and looking for hope. Kaeys-Byrne’s performance has shades of Jim Jones and David Koresh that can be seen in his demeanor, as he unites the people with a messianic aura. Another cult leader trait of this literal “Great White Hope” is his harem of five wives who are beautiful living trophies tasked with birthing his heir. This part of Joe hit close to home as a few years ago Warren Jeffs’ compound The YFZ Ranch in Eldorado a few towns over in Schleicher County was raided. One can’t help but wonder did George Miller base part of the DNA of this character on Jeffs? For the moment I’ll chalk this up to coincidence as many cult leaders through the years have taken multiple wives with charisma or coercion. Once Joe is done with his speech he has arranged a convoy to go on a fuel run, lead by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). There is a feeling that something different about this trip to Gas Town, Joe retreats to check on his brides on their quarters only to find they’re missing. This event will set in motion the rest of the movie as the chase to retrieve Joe’s property becomes priority number one for him and his war party.
A strong theme in this movie that is garnering much attention is it’s feminist angle, which has many up in arms mainly the MRA (Men’s Rights Activists/Meninists) set. Let’s get one thing straight, strong individuals know no gender, race, creed,etc.! Second, I think the Venn Diagram of people who cannot accept that in the world we are presented in this film a woman can be strong are also avid fans of Michael Bay, a strong purveyor of reinforcing stereotypes and gender roles. Those notions became obsolete in this version of the world when survival by any means necessary became top priority. Max and Furiosa are one in the same when it comes down to it. They had to both rebuild themselves Max emotionally, by having to come to grips with having things he loved taken away from him in this unforgiving future and Furiosa physically, as her arm became a casualty in the name of survival. Both of these characters embody strength in every sense of the word. If the world goes to shit, which may be sooner rather than later I bet MRA supporters will be singing a different tune when the person that saves them is a woman. Meninists, no one is forcing you to watch this! If they are shut the fuck up and look at all the cool cars & ’plosions! Deal?
With our chase in full swing, I think it’s time we check in our hero don’t you?? Looks like Max is in yet another predicament, he’s now been rigged up to Nux’s vehicle so that he may join Immortan Joe for the chance to die valiantly in battle and be sent off to Valhalla. Max is bound, muzzled and strapped to the front of Nux’s vehicle like a living hood ornament. Warboys are quite an interesting group of characters: undyingly loyal to Joe, worshippers of the V8, “family” oriented (as much as one can be in The Wasteland), nothing to lose and everything to prove, in short Juggalos of The Wasteland. Although there is something different about Nux that separates him from the rest. He seems to be a gentle soul with his heart in the right place but it doesn’t look like all of his cylinders are firing properly. Nux is runt compared to the rest and ill (mentally and physically by all accounts), but his heart pumps motor oil and revs with passion. His life’s mission is to end said life on Fury Road in such a fashion that would appease his deity. Huffing away at spraypaint to reach a “higher” plane during battle I couldn’t help but think of Steve-O ripping into a balloon back in his whippits addiction era. All of these flaws would make him such a despicable character if played by another actor, but Nicholas Hoult seems to have the niche on misunderstood freaks you can’t help but root for (previously playing R in “Warm Bodies” and Beast in “X Men: First Class”).
Miller and company achieve so much on visuals alone one has to wonder at the onset how long the shooting script was. Mind you Tom Hardy has barely spoken since his voiceover at the beginning, but it’s all conveyed with his eyes and face. Hardy would continue this minimal approach in The Dark Knight Rises as Bane shooting these films almost back to back.
John Seale and the production design team will hopefully be recognized for their ability to make this vision of the future one that is both bleak and beautiful. The director actually insisted that this film have as much color as possible rationalizing that people in this future would go to great lengths to find beauty within the gloom. The brides of Joe also believe this to be true as well.
Their bodies are draped in fine virginal white rags symbolizing their naivete’ to the world outside of their golden cage as well as their optimism that here is something better somewhere. The paradise in question is “The Green Place”, a mythical land filled with lush landscape and plentiful resources. Furiosa, has been tasked with leading the charge to this place that is the stuff that dreams are made of. This plot point actually smooths some of the edge off of the sharp corners in the story as this journey can be viewed as Dorothy’s trek to The Emerald City with more sand and despair thrown into the mix. Miller has traded the quest for fuel a concrete concept in the original for an abstract in “The Green Place” with this version. Continuing with the “Wizard” parallels, Furiousa and her bunch along the way encounter Max and Nux as they are both desperately seeking something other than this harsh world.
The quest for this long rumored oasis continues as we begin to see how it’s taking a toll on Max, Furiousa, Nux and the brides as night falls upon them. Tough exteriors begin to show cracks revealing vulnerability as guards begin to come down and everyone must rely on each other if they are to survive. The rig carrying the crew is stuck in mud in the middle of nowhere susceptible to attack by Joe and his forces. Joe taking all of the measures in his arsenal gets his ally The Bullet Farmer to stage an attack on the party. This assault ends with the death of The Bullet Farmer by Furiosa. Max volunteers to rush into the smoke filled aftermath to retrieve any ammo possible. Everyone is worried that Max has signed up for a suicide mission being one man against a squad armed to the teeth. Max emerges bloodied with weapons in tow, but he doesn’t seem to be affected much as we find out that isn’t his blood. We are only left to imagine what transpired in all of the smoke.
Finally, it seems that things are looking up as there is a sign of life encountered by the group. Max believes it is a trap, but Furiosa seems to think otherwise as she identifies herself and this female clan is relieved to see one of their own. Good fortune takes a turn as the swamp land that they were previously stuck in was “The Green Place”. Left in utter disbelief Furiosa and the wives feel all of their hope leave them. Max ravaged by battle and his psyche implores the others to go back as it is the only place that they may have a chance at some semblance of happiness. Luckily, Max didn’t have some sort of hacky monologue saying that “The Green Place” was in them all along. George Miller knew that this was not in Max’s character; his motivations were much different than the others. The thing about the Mad Max universe is that everyone has their own motives in order to survive.
Fury Road has everything that a moviegoer could ask for. In a world where CGI is the norm and plot/character development is scant in favor of flashy effects. I urge everyone to see this movie especially in 3D something that I wouldn’t normally say. This movie is very much an oasis from all that is the dry and abysmal movie landscape.