A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about summer blockbusters and my disdain for the growing crop of qualifiers (and would-be qualifiers) over the last few years. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is on track to be one of this summer’s mega hits, and I’m happy to report that after seeing it Sunday, I think it’s a worthy entry to the summer blockbuster canon.
There is a lot to see in this Mad Max series reboot with Tom Hardy taking over the role of the tormented former cop from Mel Gibson, but I’m going to keep this brief and try to limit my use of the words “post-apocalyptic” and “wasteland” to this sentence. The Earth has more or less been destroyed due to a nuclear holocaust that has left much of the population disfigured and desolate. But there’s a place called The Citadel where there is water and even plants, but of course it is controlled with cruelty by a warlord known as Immortan Joe. It’s similar to the set up in “Total Recall” except that was set on Mars. Immortan Joe is backed by his sons and an army of brainwashed “war boys” who believe their greatest glory would be to die in battle for Joe.
The title is fitting when it comes to Fury Road since that’s where the bulk of the movie takes place. Charlize Theron plays Furiosa, a trusted driver for Joe who decides to flee Joe’s brutal world and set off for her homeland with some precious cargo in tow. It doesn’t take long before Joe gets wise to Furiosa’s plan and pursues her with nearly all the “troops” in his desert army, including a live soundtrack provided by a comical, souped-up electric guitarist on an equally souped-up rig that also carries a backdrop of amplifiers.
You may be wondering where Max fits into all this, especially since I’m already four paragraphs into this review. Well that’s precisely why the title is not so fitting as far as Mad Max goes. Max’s journey is defined by these other characters. He is captured at the beginning of the film by Immortan Joe’s war boys and crosses paths with Furiosa when the war boy he is chained to (Nicholas Hoult) manages to be the only one to catch up with Furiosa’s rig on the initial chase. In one scene when Max goes off to try to thwart one particularly tenacious car of bad guys, the audience doesn’t even get to go with him and see him take them down. The camera stays with Furiosa and her crew.
Yes, the movie belongs to Furiosa, but Max definitely pulls his weight once they join forces. Both Max and Furiosa are seeking redemption for the people they failed to save earlier in their lives. At first it’s a matter of flight, but eventually it becomes a plan to fight. And that spirit is what gives the movie its heart – the “all in” nature of their commitment. Still, it’s riveting from the start. You can’t ask for better action sequences. You may want them to be less confusing because of all the chaos, but they are intense, eye-popping and effective. Even when the action slows down, which is not often, you are invested in the characters and intrigued by the landscape. It’s a very basic story of good vs. evil, but as with most enjoyable stories, it’s all about the journey. And to add to the many clichés out there already, this journey up and down Fury Road is worth taking.
DIRECTOR: George Miller | HEADLINERS: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult