Despite my deep love for ridiculous movies, I had never gotten into the Mad Max series. Look, hold off on tossing your computer monitor/phone/tablet across the room in rage. I’m sorry. This will be rectified thanks to the stunning weirdness of Fury Road.
George Miller’s fourth Mad Max movie doesn’t hold back. Every crazy idea is right there. You want a baby sized man with a full beard keeping lookout? You got it. You want a community of mole people that captures blood donors and builds death cars in the shadows? Giddy up. There’s cars built on other cars. Chargers with monster truck wheels. Simple everyday cars turned into tanks. You thought the first three were crazy? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Max (Tom Hardy) is traumatized from his time trying to scrape by in (more) apocalyptic Australia. He’s always on the run, be it from his past demons or albino mole people. He finds himself in the middle of everything when he’s assigned as a living blood bag for War Boy Nux (an unrecognizable Nicholas Hoult). Max is over his head and propped up as a figurehead on Nux’s vehicle before you can even figure out what’s going on. Even though Max is ostensibly our main character, he’s just along for the ride. This flick is all about Furiosa (Charlize Theron).
Charlize Theron rocks both the buzz cut and the cybernetic arm as Fury Road’s War Rig driving goddess. Imperator Furiosa has finally seen her chance to escape from War Lord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). She’s not only taking that chance, but she’s taking his wives with her. She just has to stave off an entire fleet of deranged mad men in deathmobiles.
Theron is a force to be reckoned with as Furiosa. It’s not surprising since she’s a terrific actress. It is surprising, however, that this film is so thoroughly Furiosa’s story. That’s the “Mad Max” name up there on the poster, but you’re going to make this movie about a woman no one has ever heard of before? Madness. But not really at all. Putting Theron front and center in a big action movie seems like a no brainer to most people that aren’t insane Hollywood executives. Hardy is fine as Max, although he spends most of the film muttering or fighting. He really is more of a sidekick this time around.
Fury Road is a relentless, brutal chase through the desert wasteland. Director George Miller and Cinematographer John Seale make that wasteland look pretty damn great. During the day, the many colors of Joe’s absurd armada pop as they chase after Furiosa. Flamethrowers have never looked so good. The nighttime is painted as a melancholy dark blue, that almost looks like it was filmed in black and white.
Fury Road isn’t quite as mind-blowing as people have made it out to be, but it’s close. It features some of the best action I’ve seen in quite a while and uses practical effects for the most part. What really pushes it to the top of the heap is that it’s allowed to be completely insane. This is the kind of stuff you only see in comic books and video games.
I can’t help but wonder if the popularity of comic book movies helped Fury Road make it to the screen. 300 featured all sorts of gross and weird creatures. Marvel managed to bring robot Nazi Arnim friggin Zola to the screen. Why can’t George Miller feature an army of cars with war drums and a permanent guitar player attached? Surely there’s room for a fascist in muscle armor and a demonic respirator chasing after his many wives.
Miller does whatever he wants with Mad Max: Fury Road and the world is better for it.
Grade: 4 and a quarter flamethrowing guitars
- Yooooooo that friggin guy in the red longjohns playing the flamethrower guitar! He plays all day and all night! He sleeps in a hammock! He’s the greatest thing ever. I cheered every time he was on screen. Even better: the character’s name is “The Doof Warrior” and he’s played by someone called IOTA.
- It’s difficult to figure out who has the best name. There’s The Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whitely). There’s Toast the Knowing (Zoe Kravitz), which sounds like a mid-90s band. My money is on The Organic Mechanic (Angus Sampson) because it makes me laugh.
- The outfit of the movie goes to the guy in a suit with the nip holes cut out for his nipple chain. He’s here for business, but he’s also ready to party.
- Per this LA Times interview, George Miller apparently took a page out of Alfred Hitchcock’s book and tried to make a movie where “they don’t have to read the subtitles in Japan”. You can definitely see that in how little dialogue there is, especially from Max.
- Hugh Keays-Byrne played the villain in the first Mad Max (Toecutter) and this one (Immortan Joe). That’s pretty cool.
- Joe also got the best death in the movie, when his demon face respirator thingy is ripped out by his own car’s wheels.
- I can’t be the only one who has been singing the title of this movie to the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”. Sit tight. Take hold. Fury Roooooooad!