By the time I got to catch Mad Max: Fury Road in theaters, there was already a huge amount of hype. It still has 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, even with 200+ reviews.
For those of you unaware, this is the fourth film in the franchise, with the first three starting back in the late 70s and 80s, starring Mel Gibson. I caught the original Mad Max on Netflix a few months back but didn’t get a chance to catch the others (and now, they’ve all been removed from Netflix). So I went in knowing almost nothing.
When our film opens, Max (Tom Hardy) is being captured by a group of savages who take him back to their city and use him as a “blood bag,” so he gives blood transfusions to warriors who need it. The head honcho in charge is this creepy looking old guy named Immortan Joe, who runs the city known as the Citadel. While Max is there, he witnesses one of Immortan Joe’s lieutenants, named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), as she steals away his “brides” and attempts to bring this group of young woman to a much nicer and better place. In an effort to bring her (and the brides) back, all the savages mount up, including a warrior who needs Max as a mobile blood bag (Nicholas Hoult).
The rest of the movie is basically a moving fight scene, as these savages try to chase down and stop Furiosa from running away with the brides.
This movie is the complete opposite of most action movies these days. As opposed to a movie being built around 3-4 big action setpieces, this movie has only 3-4 moments of non-action. About 30 minutes in, things slowed down a second and I realized that this was the first calm part of the movie, but then it picked up again. It’s nonstop. And when I say that the movie is a moving fight scene, that’s accurate. Almost everything takes place on these tankers and trucks and motorcycles. And director George Miller (who directed the original three films as well) sticks with doing mostly practical effects, meaning they actually had cars exploding. They actually had guys on thirty-foot poles swinging around in the air. There was the occasional moment that I knew had to be computer-generated but it was rare. And these practical effects make these action moments incredible. And there’s plenty of more intimate fight scenes as well, as these savages latch onto vehicles and try to board them. There is a lot of creativity here, as bullets are scarce.
But we wouldn’t care about these fight scenes if we didn’t care about the people.
While the movie is called Mad Max: Fury Road, it’s really Charlize Theron as Furiosa that carries this movie. Max is just a bystander for the entire first half of the movie. Theron delivers not only some incredible action scenes but manages to pour emotion into this role that gives these crazy exaggerated moments some weight.
One thing I realized in retrospect is that this movie doesn’t treat you like a child. There’s no explanations or exposition. They may reference moments from the past three films but I didn’t need to know those things, to understand what was happening. And the same is true for the characters. They didn’t lay out Furiosa’s past for us but instead let the story give us context and clues as to who she is and why she’s doing this. It was smartly done.
The last thing I want to applaud here is the world building. That may be a term you’re not familiar with, so let me break it down. “World building” is what J.R.R. Tolkien did when he created The Hobbit. It’s creating languages and people and cultures and traditions. And once you have all those things, you set a story in that world. Good world building means that you never even notice that the world isn’t real because everything fits together. And in Mad Max: Fury Road, Miller has thought of everything. There’s a fully fleshed out culture and people and we are just lucky enough to look into that world for a few hours and see this adventure play out, but the world will exist long after we stop watching. That’s a monumental feat.
The only thing that might be a detractor is how out there this movie is. It’s strange, twisted, violent, and will likely make you feel uncomfortable at a few moments. But if you watch the trailer and think it looks interesting, this movie won’t disappoint.
It’s rare that a director gets to revisit a franchise that he created nearly 30 years later. But here, George Miller reinvigorates the franchise and creates one of the most fascinating worlds I’ve seen in recent years. Charlize Theron carries the movie, delivering a great and moving performance, while still kicking plenty of ass. The action is what you’re going to appreciate most, as almost everything is done with practical effects, not computer generated. It’s a colorful movie, with nonstop action, great music, and it rekindled my desire to play a guitar that shoots out fire. You won’t find another movie like this.