“She said…” by Ashley Mills
So I just saw Mad Max: Fury Road.
Much as I’d like to leave it at that, Harry (our wise and gracious leader here at PCU) would have words with me. So, here’s my best attempt at reviewing a film that left me speechless.
To those of you fearful of spoilers: don’t fret, there will be no spoilers here. What you see in the trailers is what you get in this film. If somebody held me at gun point and ordered me to give a synopsis, here’s what I’d say: Mad Max fights people, Imperator Furiosa drives, Max drives, they fight some more people, there’s some more driving, people die, people shoot at each other, more driving, sand storm, pretty ladies, more driving and shooting, more people die, more driving, aaaaand now it’s over.
See? All of that could have been discerned from the previews. No spoilers here.
I had never seen any of the Mad Max films before this week. I managed to watch the first two – Mad Max and Mad Max: Road Warrior – before seeing Fury Road. While you don’t necessarily need to be a Mad Max fan in order to enjoy the new film, I do think those who are already Mad Max fans will get the maximum enjoyment. This is pure Mad Max and it’s beautiful. The film is incredibly well-crafted, with seamless action sequences and great breadth. There’s no shaky camera work here. Most of the filming was done using practical effects, with CGI inputted here and there to fill out the scenes. The giant sand tornado was the only truly obvious piece of CGI. This lends a certain realness to the film. You feel the crashes and explosions. People go flying. It feels and looks real. (As a note, this is not a film that needs to be seen in 3D. Save your money. It’ll still blow your mind in standard definition.) This is the first film that I can recall that had me on the edge of my seat. When I left the theater, my adrenaline was still high enough that I felt like I could run home rather than take the train. The movie is rated R, but if you are a Game of Thrones fan or you’re aware of the floating fat man (aka Vladimir Harkonnen) in the movie Dune, you’ll be fine with the gross and gory.
Unfortunately for me and my fellow movie goers, there were numerous points in the film where the sound cut off. I assume the theater was having difficulty with their equipment. This was frustrating, but didn’t affect our understanding of the story. Honestly, you could probably watch the entire film on silent and still take away something of value. Yes, visually, it is that good. But the simplicity of the story lends itself to a beautiful film. Instead of worrying about convoluted plotlines, George Miller and company were able to focus on making the film visually spectacular. There’s isn’t much dialogue, overall. I lost count, but I’m pretty sure Max grunts more than he speaks. The quiet moments between action sequences were just that: quiet. The characters speak only when necessary, so when they do, it carries significant weight. Charlize Theron does a wonderful job conveying all sorts of emotions without saying a word. Tom Hardy’s Mad Max is weary, drawn into this fight unwillingly, but, while he may be mad, it is clear that he is still human. As a whole, there is an incredible humanness to this story. These are all people driven mad by the world around them. Their madness manifests itself in various ways, depending on the person. And while the story is set in a strange, dystopian landscape, it is still believable that, one day, our world could look like Max’s.
Some of you may have seen an article floating around on the Internet about a men’s rights website calling for men to boycott the film because it was “feminist propaganda.” To them I say: rewatch the original Mad Max films. In the first movie, Max has very little screen time as compared to Goose, his fellow cop, and Jessie, Max’s wife. In Road Warrior, like in Fury Road, Max gets caught up in somebody else’s fight. He doesn’t initially want to be there, but eventually he decides to help. While the main fight may belong to Imperator Furiosa in this film, by no means is this any less of a Mad Max story. He and Furiosa are partners, equals fighting for their own survival. Both mad in their own way. Furiosa’s femininity is deliberately muted and it’s easy to surmise that this is a survival tactic. It works, and so the truly feminine characters in the film are the ones that Furiosa is trying to save. But these women are not without claws. You see them grow in the film, aiding in their own survival, as well as Max’s and Furiosa’s. The women in this film may be strong, but there is no scent of a feminist agenda here. This is still Max’s story. He is just surrounded by fully developed characters, rather than the typical one dimensional sidekicks that we’re accustomed to seeing in action films. In my view, the article is just another case of BS on the Internet.
I really, truly enjoyed this film. It’s crisp, clean, visually impressive, and tells a lively, entertaining story that makes an impact. I highly recommend it to anyone who might be remotely interested. I’ll definitely be seeing it again.
“He said…” by Pete Robertson
**WARNING** THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
A stream of consciousness list of thoughts after seeing Mad Max: Fury Road.
‘Once more into the fray.”
Michael Mann. George Lucas. Ridley Scott. When one steps back into their most beloved franchise, after decades away, you can sense it. Unfinished business. Maybe even desperation. Like a mad scientist, determined that this experiment will be even better, or an old general returning to war with more money, bigger talent, and no one to stop them, you really want to root for the result. I do, at least. Sadly, disappointment seems somehow inevitable. As though after so much time, something’s just missing. But still I root for them. I believe that an old dog can catch lightning in a bottle one last time. And now George Miller has joined the ranks with Mad Max: Fury Road. Leaving only one question to be answered.
Is it Mad Max?
The movie follows a familiar path, with Max finding himself, as he does in the Road Warrior and Thunderdome, in the middle of trouble early on. Chased down and dragged from his car, Max becomes an unwilling one-man blood bank to Nux, a “War Boy,” part of the army of sickly pale and raccoon faced young men who serve their cult leader King Immortan Joe in the hopes of reaching the gates of Valhalla. When (spoiler!)Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, the mechanically armed, high-ranking driver of the tribe’s heavily-armored War Rig runs off with the Kings female breeding slaves, The king calls on all his horses and men, in this case his trade partners, Gas Town and the Bullet Farm – and their respective vehicle armies as well to hunt them down. This plot, as described could only be the plot to a Mad Max film. But is that enough?
As a series of checked blocks, it’s all there. There’s the wild eyed madmen. Bizarrely adorned. Scarred and painted. Driven and single minded. But is it really Mad Max? There’s the vehicles. As wild as the characters. Armored and armed to the teeth. Gunners hanging on precariously as drivers barrel across rock, dune and swamp in their modified monstrosities. There’s the names! Furiosa. Rictus. Queens Toast, Angharad and Capable.
But is it really our Mad Max?
The answer is undeniably “yes!” Or if you prefer less ambiguity, “Hell Yes.”
I looked to my left regularly throughout the entire movie. Trying to judge the reaction of my wife – decidedly and even bigger Mad Max fan than I. She did not look back at me. Her eyes were glued to the screen the entire time.
The cinematography is amazing. Up close, visceral shots of the action that somehow (unlike my beloved Avengers: Age of Ultron) still manage to convey everything that’s happening without confusion. Seriously, how rare is that?! There are helicopter shots of chase scenes that could easily have been capturing the beauty of wildebeest migration. Still angles where action bursts right into frame and back out again. Contrasted with brilliantly executed silhouettes. You could teach a course in action movie direction from this movie alone. FURY ROAD: 380 with Professor Miller.
I was at first a bit torn when it came to Max himself. Perhaps it’s the early voice over Max narration or the weird flashbacks. It’s a new feature in a Max movie and the flashbacks in particular never deliver or seem to belong. As for Hardy, he will never be Mel, but he knows who Max is.
Early on, there a little more grunting, gravely one-word lines than I’d want. But at one point about 20 minutes in, he shows up; and he never leaves. Max is a fantastic character because he is never really a hero – not even the old reluctant hero. In that constant mode of weariness, survival and lingering disbelief at the world he lives in. Max remembers the old world. He had a purpose then. And in every Mad Max movie we see it. Hands in the air – the “are you effing serious” exasperation. It’s all there in Hardy’s performance. He captures Max’s never-ending desire to be left the hell alone, his accidental heroism and even his fantastic pettiness – whether stopping in the middle of an urgent moment to rip his own jacket off Nux the war boy, or cursing out the warriors who have commandeered his car while dangling off the war rig. It was that element of straight-faced silliness that I love about Mad Max, and he’s still there.
He’s also there in Theron’s Furiosa. The tough war rig driver provides the moral center for the movie – though, this being a Mad Max movie, she is no fool. She know’s the world she lives in and, like Max, she has a weariness of her own from it, and a drive to find redemption for her own sins. It’s in this way, that once she and Max move past their differences, they have a mutual understanding that comes through in a rewarding way on screen. Like a rare good buddy cop movie, I found myself wanting to watch them go on adventures for eight more movies.
In many ways, the story of Fury Road is her story. Which makes this even more of a Mad Max movie. Since Road Warrior, this has been the formula. He does not drive the narrative, he is driven by it. He falls into it: other people’s fights. And so many times, he is left behind, somewhat worse for wear.
Big and bold
In Fury Road, George Miller has given us a grown up Mad Max film. A clear, if simple, storyline and intense action that almost never lets you have a moment to breathe. Gone are some of the 80s style avant garde bizarreness; in its place is a vision that seems somewhat “cleaner.” But despite a larger scope, a grander scale, and yes a bigger budget, it doesn’t feel like Miller just tagged it with an #epic hashtag and walked away. His success is knowing what to keep. And what he has given us might be the best action movie of 2015.
“All the feminismz!”
Feminism. I didn’t want to talk about this at all. The bizarre rants of (sigh) men’s rights activists regarding the inclusion of a major female character and several other women who have the nerve to be portrayed as varied and nuanced human beings was not surprising, but still disappointing – still seemed to come out of nowhere and put a sour note on the excitement I had leading up to the film. The expected and understandable reaction to the hate was a well-deserved dose of mockery of anyone crying in his popcorn about the mean ladies bossing Max around. But whether you called Fury Road a feminist Mad Max movie with a cheer or a sneer, I’d suggest that maybe you don’t know as much about Mad Max as you think – or remember. The women in this movie may be refreshingly more plentiful and represent a broader age range, but they do not feel out of place, shoehorned in, or all that different from the women we have already encountered in this franchise. Leaders, warriors, heroes.