“What a lovely day!”
Directed by George Miller
Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Hugh Keays-Byrne
Years after the world burned, ‘Mad’ Max Rockatansky (Hardy) is a haunted man, surviving in the wastelands and fleeing from living raiders and the ghosts of those he failed to protect. Captured by the forces of the warlord Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne, who played the Toecutter in the original Mad Max) and destined for use as a blood donor for his ‘half-life’ War Boys, Max hijacks an escape attempt by Joe’s lieutenant, Furiosa (Theron), and five of the warlord’s slave-brides.
Max and his allies of necessity, including lost War Boy Nux (Warm Bodies and Jack the Giant Slayer‘s Nicholas Hoult,) flee headlong across the wasteland in search of the Green Place of Many Mothers, with Joe’s forces, and those of his allies the Bullet Farmer and the People Eater, in pursuit. They struggle through sand and mud to reach a sanctuary that ultimately proves a false hope, before turning for an audacious charge against Joe’s Citadel itself.
What’s wrong with it?
Fury Road is a big, dumb B movie on a blockbuster budget. It is fundamentally one extended chase sequence, with a grim and unsympathetic protagonist fighting far nastier villains.
I misheard the chanting of Immortan Joe’s War Boys and thought that they were the ‘Wild Boys’. I genuinely thought they might be quoting Duran Duran.
It’s supposed to be 45 years since the world burned, but Max is barely that. He also seems to be hallucinating his dead daughter, when in the original film he had a son.
What’s right with it?
Okay, so here’s the thing about Fury Road. It’s really, really good. It’s fundamental dumbness conceals a raft of rich characters and astonishing, grand visuals.
Tom Hardy’s Max is a snarling beast of a man. He begins the film barely capable of speech, threatening pregnant women with shotguns and generally being an arse. As he travels with Furiosa’s party, he finds the man who used to be a cop inside him, in a much more organic process than the flip-flopping motivations of Mad Max II and Beyond Thunderdome.
Nux first appears in the mould of a disposable mook, then develops into a sympathetic hero and the voice of Joe’s half-life slaves, duped with the lie of eternal life in Valhalla.
The brides are wonderfully nuanced, and like the larger characters, each has an arc, be they ever so slight, growing from weakness or fear or anger into something more. Given the superficial machismo and misogyny of the setting (and of past installments), it is especially impressive that the brides and their older, harder counterparts the Mothers, are such amazing characters.
And speaking of which, Furiosa is just awesome; a badass, amputee road warrior with a mechanical arm, striving to return to the home she was stolen from, and to redeem the evil she must have done to earn her place in Joe’s warband.
The action is impressive; visceral and gory, but always clear and coherent. I’d be remiss in not mentioning the vehicles, both the overall look of the cobbled-together cars, and their array of outlandishly practical weapons.
And then there’s the world. The film lacks any major blocks of exposition, leaving the War Boys, Joe’s Citadel, and the allied Gastown and Bullet Farm, and the rival gangs and the Green Place to explain themselves. What emerges is a rich and unusually convincing post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Oh, and the scenery porn is breathtaking, with the grandeur of the location filming competing with a lightning-filled dust storm of Jovian proportions.
How bad is it really?
You see above where I said it’s really good? It’s not a dramatic tour de force, but if Mad Max set the bar for apocalyptic car movies, Fury Road raises it significantly.
Best bit (if such there is)?
There’s a lot to like, but the stand out is the long shot as the vehicles approach the towering wall of the dust storm.
What’s up with…?
- Max’s age not matching up with the time scale?
- Max’s son becoming a daughter? Was there another family he lost in the meantime?
Production values – Just… wow. There are a couple of slightly iffy mutation prosthetics, but the rest is awesome. 2
Dialogue and performances – If the film has a significant flaw, it’s that much of the early dialogue is incomprehensible past the score and soundtrack. I think that might be deliberate, but I’m not sure. 3
Plot and execution – An absolute text book example of how to build a world without exposition. There are just a couple of timing issues that niggled me. 2
Randomness – This film be full of crazy shit, like Joe’s personal band vehicle, complete with a guitarist suspended on the front playing a constant accompaniment to the pursuit on his flamethrower guitar. 10
Waste of potential – A new high for post-apocalyptic action. 0