Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Review:
It seems as though there’s always some form of impending doom on earth. The sea levels will rise, we’ll run out of water, the dead may rise again. Whatever news you follow, you can always find something to be extremely paranoid about. Something out there that will bring about the end of this thing we call life on earth. Thing is though, this has always been the case. There’s always been some prophecy of impending doom. In my lifetime, short as it’s been, there’s been at least 3 instances in which the world was supposed to end. I’m so desensitized to it at this point, that last time I made a sign saying “THE END IS NIGH” a la Watchmen. But as art tends to draw from life, it’s not really surprising that there are countless fictional universes which deal with the end of the world.
Sometimes it’s an uprising of cyborgs, of apes, or just the oppressed majority of society. Sometimes it’s the collapse of infrastructure and the massive lack of resources. Sometimes it’s a case of blowing it all up. Whatever the cause usually is, the best of these stories are those that have the most to say about the people living in this new post-apocalyptic world. We generally don’t care to see the world ending, we’re much more fascinated by what happens after that. We’re not sure what exactly would happen, but fiction seems to content with showing us as depraved, selfish, darwinistic savages that resort to the basic desires of survival. Basically, we won’t be singing kumbaya around a fireplace, unless the day’s hunt is above said fire.
Set in an undisclosed time after a nuclear war left the world to dust, Mad Max: Fury Road is a story about the titular character Max Rockatansky and his struggle to survive in a world gone mad. This struggle, it seems, is not going so well, as the film opens up with Max being kidnapped by a group of the desert army the War Boys. Max is designated as a universal blood donor, but seeing as society has collapsed, instead of donating his blood to be stored for later use, Max is shackled and directly plugged into the arm of Nux, a sickly War Boy, played by Nicholas ‘Beast’ Hoult.
As this all occurs, leader of the War Boys, Immorten Joe, decrees that Imperator Furiosa must go forth into the wasteland to bring back guzzoline, a precious commodity in this world. Little does Joe know, that Furiosa has taken it upon herself to kidnap his pregnant prisoners ‘The Brides’ who all carry Joe’s offspring. Once he realises this, Joe leads an all out assault to recover his stolen property, which Nux refuses to miss out on. Nux decides to strap his blood bag, human being Max, onto the front of his car and join the chase, on the Fury Road.
If you think all of that is too much to take at face value, and requires more information, then don’t see Fury Road. It will do nothing but frustrate you. I for one, have sat through countless films that feel the need to tell and tell and tell, over explaining to the point where it almost insults the audience’s intelligence. They even go so far as to create a character that doesn’t have a clue, just as an excuse to bog down the movie with exposition in a way that doesn’t break the continuity. Mad Max thankfully bucks this trend and basically chews you up and spits you out into this world and hopes you pay attention. It doesn’t make any attempt to explain itself, it just expects you to be able to keep up.
With that method employed, Mad Max has some of the best world building I’ve ever seen in a film. By not taking you out of the movie to explain the world your movie is in, Mad Max does the simplisticly brilliant thing of just leaving you in that world. You pick up everything you need as it goes along, just by watching the characters inhabit their environment. This is emphasized only by the movie’s improbable attention to detail. The amount of work put into the environments, the vehicles, weaponry and even the costumes is phenomenal. There are so many little pieces that serve as rewards to the viewer with an astute eye.
The movie also feels real because most of it actually is. Director George Miller has gone on record in saying that over 80% of the effects in the film are a result of stunts, set construction and make up, with CGI used sparingly. That sounds difficult, but not impossible. It however does seem impossible when you see just what Miller has been able to accomplish. The choreography of the stunts is simply staggering and this film will certainly be one that is studied for it’s contributions to cinema for years to come, which is mind boggling. Any film that comes out between the months of May and August aren’t supposed to be studied by anyone. Those films are supposed to sell tickets at exorbitant prices and provide flashing lights to eat your popcorn at. Sure everyone likes seeing Vin Deisel use a giant safe as his own person car hammer, but it’s hardly deserves deep thought.
Outside of the world itself Mad Max has a pretty simple story. The film is essentially one big car chase with 80 different cars. Max himself doesn’t have too big of a role in the film as he’s more of a drifter in this plot, someone who’s been thrust into someone else’s plight, just trying to survive. Truly, the hero in the film is Charlize Theron’s Furiosa. The world building I spoke of earlier is furthered in the performances. Everyone makes you feel as though they’ve been in this world for a long time and have become the creatures they are today to survive.
Nicholas Hoult gives the most psychotic performance which is fitting as Nux someone who was born into this world of sand, oil and bullets. Max is stoic and reserved, but has moments where he breaks, as a man who tries to cling on to the saner days of the past. Furiosa however is probably the most nuanced in that her character is sufficiently psychotic, but her hope gives her a focus that makes her seem not so much psychotic, but at least maintaining a controlled insanity.
The only time action movies reach this caliber of excellence is when they’re made outside of the US. Films like Snowpiercer and The Raid come to mind. even then, those films don’t portray the sense of scale that Fury Road does. This film has long sweeping shots with an army of vehicles that only grows and grows. It never lets you forget that you’re in a huge sweeping wasteland that seems to never end. Aside from that, even though the film is in such a wasteland, it never seems bleak. The colours are vibrant and the world, as dead as it is, feels alive. The road itself exudes a raw emotion that reflects the severe insanity of humanity’s last survivors. The film is simply a technical marvel and a damn entertaining one at that.
Rating = G.O.A.T