14
May
15

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

0514_01-MaxDOM

I’ve lamented it many times on the blog, but it seems like the studios keep putting out remake, after reboot, after reset. That said, when it was first announced that we’d be getting another Mad Max movie I was pretty indifferent to the news. Another remake? Meh, nothing to get excited for. When the first trailer came out it definitely looked cool, but yet even then I still wasn’t intrigued. Now that Mad Max: Fury Road is finally here all I have to say is that I thought no film this summer could top Avengers: Age of Ultron in the sheer amount of action in a movie . . . I was wrong.

Mad Max: Fury Road stars Tom Hardy as Max, a lone wolf of a man who wanders the post- apocalyptic wasteland just trying to survive; the role made famous by Mel Gibson who starred in the first trio of films back in the early 80s. Max gets caught up with Charlize Theron’s Furiosa when she initiates her plan to steal baddie Immortan Joe’s most precious cargo, The Wives. What starts out as a basic escape plan turns into a battle for survival against warring post-apocalyptic tribes with a chance at rebuilding civilization hanging in the balance.

Immortan Joe's wives. Who wouldn't want to get them back?

Immortan Joe’s wives. Who wouldn’t want to get them back?

Back to that action though, it’s the first thing that grabs when you once the film begins and never lets up till the end. And it doesn’t get tiring either. Well, okay, some might find it tiring, but I was entertained the entire time. The scenes are so masterfully put together that never at one point did it feel like cars just crashing together. There is real thought and coordination that went into producing some of these sequences and the stunt work is simply amazing. There are guys literally jumping around from car to car or falling of chase vehicles and when they hit the ground, you definitely feel it. The way the action is shot and how they handle the camera really put you in the middle of the action. When you have guys swinging back and forth on poles jumping from one car to another, you never really know what to expect next.

The world building is great as well. While the film is itself visually stunning, everything about the details–from the cars and trucks that are driven, to the costuming, to props, and to the way the characters talk to each other give you a good sense of how far humans have fallen in the years after a catastrophe struck. You definitely feel that everything in this world is just cobbled together piece by piece. All the vehicles are mutant versions of the vehicles they once were: dual Cadillac Coupe De Villes welded together on top of each other on top huge wheels; the War Rig (the main vehicle in the film) being a marriage between a semi truck and a hot rod. Things just feel as if they were Macgyver’d together as best they could by those that are still standing.

Immortan Joe and his band of "half-life" humans.

Immortan Joe and his band of “half-life” humans.

Even each of the characters in the film all really distinct and unique, which only adds to the crazy world that they all are from. First from a visual standpoint you can tell who each character is, even though you may not know their name, you know exactly who they are by the way they look. How these people speak and interact with one another also adds to each of their characters. While the film is more action-heavy than dialogue heavy, from the short lines or moments that people are given to speak, you can pick up on elements of their personality and sometimes even fills us in on why they look the way that they do.

And none of the characters are more unique than Max. Tom Hardy is not doing a Mel Gibson impression, and he doesn’t have to. We get everything we need to know about Max from from what we see of him in the film. In the first sequence of events, we get a good sense of who he is. We know he’s a tough guy from the way he puts up a fight as he is about to be captured and even after he is captured. We know he can think on his feet (which is a good survival trait) from the way he makes decisions in a mere second or two. The decision may not work out, but he commits to it as soon as he does make it. You get a sense that he is a loner and is fine working that way from the way he talks to people and how little he does talk when he’s around people. Whether this was the way that director George Miller envisioned this character or the way Tom Hardy wanted to play him, you get who Max is by the way he’s portrayed on the screen. It’s the same reason why I guess that Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception director Christopher Nolan tapped Hardy to play Bane:

Tom is somebody who really knows how to put character into every gesture, every aspect of his physicality in the way that great actors can. He’s a very, very physical actor. He transforms himself and it’s there in every movement.

Hero Complex, LA Times (2011)

Lethal Weapon this ain't.

Lethal Weapon this ain’t.

While you don’t need to have seen the previous Mad Max films to inform you as to what’s happening in this film, if you do have that knowledge, I think you are a little better off. At the very least you know what to expect from director George Miller as he’s back in the saddle directing Fury Road. Yes, the man that directed the first set of Max films (and who also directed Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet) is back for Fury Road. If you’ve ever seen scenes or stills from the first set of films, you definitely see that this Miller back in the world he created over thirty plus years ago. Visually, things look very similar. Mostly everything is shot in the same Australian desert that the previous films were shot in. And like I mentioned previously; all the characters, cars, and gonzo-ness of it all are nearly the same as in The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Though it’s not meant to look modern, Fury Road really is a Mad Max that was made today. While there are some visual effects at play here, I feel a lot of the practical work is on a different level from the first films and wouldn’t have been achievable years ago. Credit Miller for being able to bring his vision of Max to 2015 filmmaking.

Probably my only knock against the film is that there really isn’t too much to the story itself; which is a small nitpick and also totally fine. Even with the characters, outside of Max, what you see of these characters on screen is what you get. There’s some filling in of backstory for some of these characters, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because the driving force here is either that characters want to stay alive and survive or are following orders and are chasing people down. Having said that though, the way the story is told through the action, through the bits and pieces of dialog that we do get fills in enough details for you to understand what everyone’s motivation is.

Furiosa (Theron, right), Nux (Nicholas Hoult, left), and The Wives . . . the ultimate road trip. Are we there yet?

Furiosa (Theron, right), Nux (Nicholas Hoult, left), and The Wives . . . the ultimate road trip. Are we there yet?

In a summer where you have Avengers: Age of Ultron kicking things off, you wouldn’t think that you could get any higher than that. Mad Max: Fury Road proves that it can. You need to be a fan of action to be sure, but Fury Road is more than just action. It also showcases great storytelling and a distinct and unique visual style as well. Though this is a reboot/remake/reset or whatever you want to call it; it’s probably one of the better efforts Hollywood has put forth in the past few years. I’m not saying I’d like to see more remakes or that this proves the point. But I do think Mad Max: Fury Road is more the exception than it is the rule. And because it’s exceptional, it’s a remake that I won’t mind seeing again.

Mad Max: Fury Road is now playing in theaters worldwide.

4.5 / 5 stars // rated R // 2h

 

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