Mad Max: Fury Road

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Why bother writing a review when IMDB’s plot keywords beats you to the punch?

australia | tyranny | guitar | woman kills a man | dystopia

Anyway, bother I will. The film is very much set in a dystopian Australia, there is tyranny, and a guitar. And a woman does kills a man (yeah, bloody thought police).

Fury Road slots perfectly into the Mad Max series. This is Mad Max in its purist form: a 2 hour car chase through a desert. Dialogue is an unwanted distraction in George Miller’s script, which must be almost entirely stage direction. Max gets captured by the War boys clan headed by the villainous Immortan Joe who hordes supplies of water from the parched populace of the wastelands. Imperator Furiosa, who is trusted with some kind of war lorry, goes rogue and smuggles out Immortan Joe’s concubines, in a bid to escape to the fabled ‘green land’. Mad Max escapes in the first bout of motor madness and aides Furiosa’s mission.

The cast plays true to one of the franchise’s greatest strengths: a goofy 2000 AD-style collection of grotesques. Everyone is covered in war paints, and scars of self-mutilation to mark past misdeeds on the highway. Although this is by far the biggest budget for the series, Miller and the cast still manage to encapsulate the threatening persona of a pack of marauding workshop theatre types from the first film.

Hardy is great as Max, and provides a performance, which alongside the motor/crash fetishism, ties the film most strongly to the original trilogy. Hardy isn’t just playing a tough nut with a heart and an Australian accent: his focus on the character of Max has led him to many of the same acting decisions as Mel Gibson. His Max is very much the same character, but one who has been in the wasteland a bit longer, and has become a bit more deranged. Charlize Theron plays Imperator Furiosa, matching Max for madness but exceeding in morality. That is not to say that she is reduced to the gooey soft heart of the film: she very convincingly will not tolerate any sort of nonsense. (The fact that she’s a woman who gets SHIT DUNN has somewhat overshadowed the fact that she is a character who is disabled. I don’t think there is any mention of this in the film, and although her prosthetic arm is ‘gear-an- cogs-kewl’, it is never used gratuitously to punch through someone’s chest or double up as a desert moped. Here is a lovely blog from nospockdasgay who puts it much better). Nicholas Hoult plays Nux, a naïve War Boy of Immortan Joe’s clan, who achieves a sweetness through his worship and desperate need to impress Joe with an all-encompassing death wish on the “roadway to Valhalla”.

For a film as visually spectacular as this it is amazing to consider how little CGI was incorporated. For a film that was at one stage being set up as a CGI animation, it is refreshing to see CGI being employed in such a considered way. The policy seems to be that if it can be done in front of camera a car is going to get mashed for real. Nothing less should be expected from a director who worked outside of certain health and safety laws when filming in the early 80s. The visceral force of what I was seeing conveyed a sense of actual danger that is absent from any of Michael Bay’s floaty CGI extravaganzas. I saw a 2D screening and there is no way that the 3D effect could have made the film any more immersive: I felt that I left the cinema stinking of oil, and there was sand bloody everywhere.

Anyone interested in Fury Road is probably aware of the manufactured outrage in the media concerning its gender politics. Most prominent is the criticisms coming from men’s rights activists, who are displeased with the prominence of Charlize Theron’s character in the film. As I’ve already said, the film is undeniably a Mad Max film, but I don’t think that the sanctity of the franchise is the primary concern of these commentators. The franchise as a whole suffers from a mistreatment of women in a way that is common in any exploitation genre. It’s a bit weird (and creepy) to think of this an imperative ingredient of a Mad Max film. Anyway, there are undeniably strong women in the series who display true agency who are free of condescension in their construction. Lest we forget, the one person who bested Gibson’s Max was Tina Turner, who was (and still is) a bloody woman (!) (and Swiss citizen) (FACT) (CHOON).

A great film which plays well as part of the franchise, but also on its own terms. Mad Max distilled into its most clear form. Brum! Brum BRRum!

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