Max Rockatansky. Imperator Furiosa. Rictus Erectus. Toast The Knowing. The Splendid Angharad. Cheedo The Fragile. The Organic Mechanic. Keeper of the Seeds. Nux. Slit. Those are just a few of the characters I met last night.
If the future indeed belongs to the mad men and women of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, then strap me in for the long ride. This 120 power packed thrill ride is exactly the kind of movie to spring us into the summer wind. After getting superpower wasted with Avengers last weekend, Miller’s full throttle rebooting is just what the audience needs. Engine, grease, bullets, blood, tears and lots of extreme action. The kind of action that makes you forget about all the amateur action you’ve seen lately. The kind of chase scenes that make you want to get into a muscle car, find a sandy road and blow down it without thinking about anything else. Fury Road is an original model, something you’ve never seen before and may never see again, unless you see a chained up Tom Hardy swing into your front seat.
Hardy’s casting and Miller’s return made me get excited about this Mad Max return. Hardy doesn’t take a day off at the office and sinks his teeth into every single project he does. While some movie stars see fit to waste their lives and talent for a boatload of cash, Hardy doesn’t like to mess around and makes the Max role his own. The hero here is cut from the darker cloth and doesn’t speak a ton, so it’s good that Hardy can transcribe a thesis statement of emotions and words with a series of looks. Hardy is like Clive Owen and Russell Crowe at their best, actors who can carve a lot out with a little. People have complained Hardy isn’t fit to fill Mel Gibson’s shoes, and I’ll tell them Gibson signed off on Hardy and it’s easy to see. He’s dirty, grimy, and keeps you on your heels. This is his first bona fide action hero role and Hardy never lets it seem like a gimmick. He’s in every single scene and carries the weight of the film on his back, since his name is kind of in the title. Sure, the first 30 minutes of the film sees him wheezing out of a metal mask on his face, so people will think this is Bane reloaded, but Hardy turns him into something else entirely by the end of the film. A walking wounded loner looking for redemption. Aren’t we all?
Miller likes his female power as well, and gives Theron her best role in years. She chopped her hair off, left the makeup at home and makes her character, Furiosa, burn with passion and revenge. She has some fun and matches Hardy scene for scene as their characters come together in a common fight against Immortan Joe(that’s the original Mad Max villain Hugh Keays-Byrne bringing back the power of the 70’s) and his legion of white bodied killers. It’s the future and it’s a mad world full of greed, need and depravity. Oil and water are king and Furiosa sets off the plot by stealing a truck full of oil and a load of pregnant women with her, since Joe has imprisoned them into reproduction slavery for their entire lives. Miller’s story works well because it shines a fierce light on feminism and isn’t afraid to stay with it. When Furiosa and Max cross paths, they see a common goal. A need to get away, create their own life, wash away the sins of their past and maybe grab a little mixture of revenge and redemption. You ask me and those two themes can drive three films. Here, it’s at the core of every character. A desperate need to survive and live.
That’s what separates Fury Road from your other visual pleasure action films. An understated provocative core that simmers below the engines of all the car racing, killing and fights. It would be easy to name that man bad and the other woman good, but it goes deeper than that. In Miller’s world, everybody has their own agenda and sometimes it’s a combination of black and white morals.
It doesn’t hurt that the film is gorgeously shot. John Seale’s cinematography is an end all rediscovery of renegade visionary work that won’t soon leave your memories. Colin Gibson’s production design can’t hide the fact that CGI played a healthy hand in the creation of this world, but it also makes fair use of everything your eyeballs touch. Jason Ballantine and Margaret Sixel’s editing is a piece of work, cramming every cinematic tool and trick into 120 minutes of fast paced seat belt and we are off glory. Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris do a good job with the script in melding all the action into a cohesive vehicle that never runs out of gas. You never feel like you are watching a bunch of cool colors and gadgets. It’s all got a meaning and a depth that doesn’t overwhelm you.
I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t want this movie to end. I wanted more and didn’t like unstrapping my seat belt and getting i my very normal looking Honda CRV in the parking lot. I wanted to run into Nicholas Houdt’s Nux and have him tell me about his dream of walking into the immortal light(the actor who once played the innocent kid in Hugh Grant’s About A Boy is gone and a talented actor has taken his place). I wanted more fire, gasoline and white hot movie magic to unfold. Miller left the ice cube half chilled and half melting on the screen.
See this film. If you have seen the original films, that’s great. See George Miller’s new version. He basically took out the 1979 muscle car and gave it a fresh coat of thrill seeking CGI wizardry paint and took it out for a drive. When Tom Hardy told his story about the difficulties on the set and having a hard time seeing what Miller wanted to do before being blown away at the premiere of the film, I had a hard time realizing what he meant. After seeing it myself, I get it. Sometimes, when you are going through the hell of filmmaking, it’s messy and seems disorienting. Only when you return home and watch the finished cut can you truly see the vision of a director. Miller didn’t bring back Mad Max for cash or rewards. He knew this character was far from dead.
There was still some story to be told and some fun to be had with this beast that simply won’t die. I thank Hardy, Theron, Houdt, and a game cast for helping MIller and Seale provide this most rewarding escape. I’m going back for another visit.
Closing thoughts. Rosie-Huntington Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, and Abbey Lee for taking crumbs from the script and creating beauty in return. They are shiny beacons of light on a dark canvas. Junkie XL’s score is the kind of work Hans Zimmer would be proud of, raging high and slowing down perfectly. The need for a sequel isn’t dire but I would welcome another trip to this decrepit landscape.
If the future of reboots can burn as brightly as George Miller’s Fury Road and be as wild as its inhabitants, moviegoers will be a happy bunch of action junkie fools.