Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Currently, “Mad Max: Fury Road” has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 98%. Critics love it. It’s one of the best-reviewed movies of the year. But I was underwhelmed. To me, it’s “Meh Max.”
What didn’t I like? What’s my major malfunction?
Well, it’s a two-hour chase movie. It’s expertly done, with powerful photography and great imagination. It’s over-the-top the way operas are over-the-top, an aria to chase in a post-apocalyptic world. But it’s a two-hour chase movie. And I could give a shit.
Why do I think critics love it? A few reasons, beyond the superlatives mentioned above:
- It’s directed by George Miller, who directed the original movies with Mel Gibson (“Mad Max,” “The Road Warrior,” “Beyond Thunderdome”), as well as small indies (“Lorenzo’s Oil”) and feel-good biggies (“Happy Feet”). So the auteur whores are on board.
- Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is a kick-ass character who is the equal, or better, of Tom Hardy’s Max. So people in favor of strong female characters are on board.
- It relies on stunts rather than CGI. We get real people up there on the screen. So the folks who are tired of CGI and want some semblance of authenticity from their absurd action movies are on board.
- Its dystopia is saturated with color and gorgeously photographed; it’s not the gray, rainy dystopias of “The Dark Knight,” “Hunger Games,” et al. So the cinematographias are on board.
Plus some people like a two-hour chase movie. I’m just not one of them.
In this post-apocalyptic world, in which the lone and level sands stretch far away, Max is haunted by the past and the present. The past is made up of loved ones he couldn’t save (wife, children). In the present, he’s simply hunted. The bad guys want him for his car, his hair, his blood. They get it all.
We’ve been reduced to a barbaric caste society: peasants (most of us, begging for food and water), the warrior class (chalky-skinned and in need of blood transfusions), and the ruling class, led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Bryne, Toecutter in the original “Mad Max”). He’s got massive sores on his back and a harem of Victoria’s Secret models with whom he’s hoping to breed the future of the human race. Or something.
Why does civilization end? We get snippets and crackles of news early on. Something about running out of oil, then water. Why do we run out of water? Is it global warming?
Pipe down, Brainiac, the chase is on.
The plot is propelled by Furiosa, who steals Immortan’s harem with the hope of taking them to “the green place,” the Edenic land on the other side of the desert where she grew up, and where life is good. Or reasonably so. At the moment Furiosa’s treachery is revealed, a captured Max is providing an upside-down blood transfusion to the warrior Nux (an unrecognizable Nicholas Hoult), and Nux insists on joining the chase, so he does it with Max strapped to the front of his car.
After much flipping of cars and riding into sandstorms, and after much mutual suspicion, Max and Furiosa join forces. Which makes sense. The heroes are all good-looking (Hardy, Theron, the harem), while the villains are mostly grotesques (sporting boils and gout; swimming in corpulence).
I do find it amusing that in a world of scarcity we still waste shit. We drive gas-guzzling monster trucks and spill water everywhere. No one’s careful about anything. We haven’t learned a thing.
A few moments I liked:
- When Max turns the corner and sees the supermodels washing off. It’s so absurd, such a soft-core image in such a gritty wasteland, I laughed out loud.
- The near death of The Splendid Angharad (supermodel Rose Huntington-Whitely), pregnant with Immortan’s child, since it’s followed by her actual death a second later. We go from “whew” to “oops” in a second. It’s Miller shouting, “Psych!”
- How “the green place” is no longer green, and that the answer to their problem is the place where their problems began. The chase is full circle.
- The third-act attack via poles bending over moving vehicles and dropping warriors onto our heroes.
But “Mad Max” is all about that chase, bout that chase, and I’m not. It’s an Aussie exploitation film with “A” production values. It’s what we fiddle with while the world burns. “What did you do before the apocalypse, Daddy?” “I watched post-apocalyptic movies, son.”