You might want to watch this video before reading this review of Mad Max: Fury Road
We live in a time of epic hyperbole where everyone wants to be part of a movement. Nobody wants to fall to the wayside and be left in the dirt, trampled on by the masses following the piper. Phenomenons such as this exist in all mediums. People queue for hours for mobile devices just so they can pound their chest and proclaim proudly “I got it first”. Here in Singapore we might not witness endless lines for a new pair of Jordan kicks but this too happens. People want to toss bouquets at the latest darling of the art world be it music or any other medium (Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” comes to mind as a recent example but I’ll leave that for another day).
Being on the fringe and opposing popular opinion is a daunting task but somebody has got to do it. Might as well be me.
Mad Max: Fury Road is by no means a terrible experience. Quite the contrary. When was a last time you could boast about having seen something with this many crazy practical vehicular stunts? As far as a plot goes this is as desolate as the barren desert where
much ALL of the action is set. Surprisingly though it’s the subtle character moments which uplift this endeavor past a B chase movie.
Social media outlets have enabled regular folks, such as yours truly, to chime in their opinions on everything to either great or detrimental results. 2015’s Fury Road is a visceral visual experience which should be viewed without succumbing to the unnecessary (over) hype machine. Again I reiterate it’s a good experience which just about fails to be great.
Australian auteur George Miller, who created the world of Max Rockatansky with 1979’s Mad Max, revisits the world and shows you don’t have to slow down with age. Perhaps you haven’t read how a director, in his 70’s, managed to put together such a thrilling spectacle onscreen but it is something which needs to be discussed. Miller, in my opinion, doesn’t get the credit he deserves. His diverse body of work already is befitting of applause. How many directors can swing from carnage (the Mad Max series) to comedy (“Witches of Eastwick”) to drama (“Lorenzo’s Oil”) to child friendly entertainers (“Babe” and “Happy Feet” series) without missing a beat defies even the most optimistic of opinions.
Many had doubted his ability to commandeer another big budget action extravaganza. The repeated delays in getting this project going and the long shoot had people spelling D-O-O-M. Only a true master of his craft, a perfectionist if you will, will take however much time is needed to sculpt a piece of art.
That is not to say Fury Road isn’t without its misgivings. Being furiously tossed into this world one is lost at moments wondering who some of these characters are and their motives. We’re also saddled with a protagonist who largely plays a secondary role in his own movie.
Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is the true hero, or heroine if you will, here. Her strong desire for redemption leads her down a path where her will is tested but her resolve never shattered. Rightfully the debate is steered to how strong the female characters are shown her while the men, besides Max (Tom Hardy), are shown are warmongers with a despicable appetite for violence. I say why not? Don’t know if that makes me a “feminist” but the role reversal is a welcome change from the usual damsel in distress scenario. You’d think in a their world women would have to be hard as nails to survive.
Meninist’s might be up-in-arms about the strong role of women in a once male driven franchise but the real issue here is more so how the titular character is almost shoved into a secondary position. Maybe getting a studio to greenlight a female led production of this scale would be next to impossible and they had no choice but to sell it on a cult figure.
Tom Hardy’s version of the character, who bears little in common with the one originally portrayed by Mel Gibson, says very little and does equally less. For most of the running time he’s trying to escape past memories and/or his pursuers. His only meaningful contribution to the entire plot happens to be towards the climax when he suggests an end game. Otherwise he could’ve just been any Joe helping a band of capable women. Robbing Max his one solo moment to shine towards the tail end only further lessens his significance.
For the longest time we haven’t seen a triumphant fist bumping climax. Here we get an amazing villain in Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne who also portrayed the memorable Toecutter in the ’79 original). As an audience you root for our protagonists to one-up him in a classic fist bumping moment but never quite get a satisfactory moment. Similarly Mad Max: Fury Road never quite achieves the sky high expectations unnecessarily set by its cavalcade of followers.