Exactly 30 years after “Beyond Thunderdome” audiences around the world can catch up with the road warrior himself… Mad Max Rockatansky.
George Miller creator, director and writer of Mad Max, Road Warrior, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and, oddly enough, Happy Feet returns to the apocalyptic wasteland with a vengeance!
The movie he brings with him has weathered hell and high water to make its way to the theaters and is a furious, snarling beast of an actionfilm, full of madness, chaos, fire and blood. This spoilerfree review will explain why I think this is one of the best full on action movies of the last decade, if not ever and a definite must see for everyone who is not averse against violence!
What a lovely day!
For people who haven’t seen the original movies (shaaaaaaaaame on you! At least check out the second one “The Road Warrior” or “Mad Max 2″ in parts of Europe), the story of Max Rockatansky is one of tragedy. Once part of an elite police force, Max lost his family shortly before the apocalypse happened. Now he wanders the wasteland as a legend, talked about only in whispers: the road warrior.
How the apocalypse and the crash of civilisation happened is never really shown or explained, but that is not the point of the story. The point is to see humans struggle against impossible odds and “Mad” Max tipping the scales a bit in their favor.
Mad Max: Fury Road is neither a reboot, nor a real sequel/prequel, even if it is a continuation of the old movies. It has much more in common with “The Road Warrior” than with the first or third movie and sits comfortably right in the apocalyptic wasteland we saw in 1981. Tom Hardy (Bronson, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Lawless, Warrior among others) is our new Max and takes over the role from Mel Gibson. A terrific choice, since Hardy has the same crazy eyed quality Mel’s anger always had and is at least as good a fit for the role as Mad Mel… if not even more. In “Road Warrior” tradition however, Max is not the main focus of the story, but more of a stranger who comes to help out, spill blood and gasoline, barely say a word and drive away into the sunset again. It is not his story but Imperator Furiosa’s (Charlize Theron in her bravest role since “Monster”), who tries to save a gang of captive breeders (women held captive for… well… breeding purposes) from their captor King Immortan Joe! Max is just along for the ride.
This is as deep as the story gets, since Fury Road actually is 80% giant chase sequence through the sandy wasteland, while being tracked by the lunatic remains of civilisation. The movie is like a muscle car where everything that is not absolutely necessary for power and speed has been stripped away, so don’t expect cushy seats or cupholders. This is not a problem though, because the action, visuals and direction is great enough to hold your attention and to let you fill in the blanks of this world with your own imagination. Nothing gets spelled out, which is a nice change of pace of exposition filled movies that are far more common these days.
If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die historic on a fury road!
The world Miller has created all those decades ago is back on steroids! The differences between hard edged hand made visual effects and CGI enhanced backgrounds meld together in a tornado of chaos and violence! The stunts and action are spectacular and all done practical and I bet you have never seen anything quite like this. Not one explosion or car crash is done with computer graphics, the CGI is used only to enhance the visuals, the backgrounds and it does that job beautifully. Its not exactly dancing penguins, but the experience Miller has made with movies like “Happy Feet” is apparent, since he knows exactly how to use the CGI convincingly without it ever feeling fake. All fight scenes are done by real people and real cars, not by CGI cartoon humans and you feel the difference. While the movie is not exactly as bloody and gory as “The Road Warrior”, it doesn’t pull any punches and made me flinch more than once in anticipation or shock. The action is choreographed that you really feel you are peeking into the brain of a madman, doesn’t matter if its car combat, shootouts or people fighting hand to hand on the back of vehicles racing through the sand.
This movie is a visual feast and makes the last Avengers movie look like a big budget TV pilot in comparison. This is how movies are supposed to look, this is how a theatre experience is supposed to be, this is why TV (no matter how good) will never be able to replicate the feeling of a great movie. Colors are rich and vibrant, eye popping and mesmerizing, while the direction of the action sequences is as crazy as the madmen who want to stop Furiosa and Max in their tracks. It seems at times like a feverish nightmare, dipped in hellfire, dirty, ugly and beautiful at the same time.
The score from Junkie XL sounds very Hans Zimmer like, which is perfectly fine with me since he is a collaborator of Zimmer (and I love me some Hans). It absolutely made my day that he incorporated the famous music cue from 1981s Road Warrior, which took me directly back into the wasteland.
Design wise Max looks like Max. He even has the same jacket, legbrace and shoulderpad. The crazy cult like crazies however are on a whole ‘nother level. Like with a lot of the movie, Miller takes what made the old movies great and amps it up considerably. The bad guy is huge, scary and disgustingly looking and the cult he commands is equally sick and disturbed. Those freaks have some weird traditions and quirks, which almost all go about unexplained by the movie, but it makes it all feel much more crazy and tangible. Years of inbreeding show their marks on the parade of freaks that hold women like property… which makes me think of another aspect the movie absolutely shines at: powerful women. If you want to see strong female characters, who are as layered as the small story allows them to be and who kick all kinds of butt this is the movie for you. Theron’s Furiosa is every bit Max’s equal, if not even superior in moments. She is not a love interest or something titillating to look at, but a force of nature and she is not alone. Even the sex slaves of Immortan Joe are all characters in their own right, who know how to fight back and don’t need a saviour. They save Max as much as he saves them and it is really great to watch.
As the world fell it was hard to know who was more crazy. Me… Or everyone else.
Mad Max Fury Road is a perfect storm of action and visuals, of 80s creativity and current movie making technology and as close as you can get to a perfect movie. There is not a single flaw that reared its ugly little head during the film and I still cannot find a single thing I would have liked different. 70 year old George Miller shows how a modern blockbuster has to look and move with a movie that is among the best I have seen in a long, long while. Especially in a time where stunts and action feel more weightless every passing year it is great to see tons of exploding car wrecks raining down on you and you actually feeling it.
This is jaw dropping, eye popping movie magic and hopefully a mainstream star making turn for Hardy, who has been one of my favorite actors for more than 6 years now, but to whom most people always react with “Who was that again?”, because of his ability to disappear into roles (like all the best actors are known to do). I hope this is finally over and done with and this is the start of his worldwide leading man recognition. The recasting of Max is one of the movies strong suits, since this is how characters turn into legends: through reinvention. It was the same for Dracula, Bond, Robin Hood, Batman and many characters more and I enjoy seeing Max making the first small step into that direction.
Again… this is pure action, so if you aren’t up for more or less one giant action scene with only a few short breaks between it, this might not be the movie for you. If you are an action fan this is unmissable. If you are already a Mad Max fan… this could very well turn into religion bringing you into actionfilm Valhalla.