MAD ABOUT MAX
This review is going to SPOIL the heck out of this film, so don’t read it if you haven’t seen it.
Ok, let me say this right up front. I don’t get it. I really don’t. The massive outpouring of positivity for this film has made me question if I even watched the same movie. At the time of this review, ratings over on Rotten Tomatoes are over 95%. A few film fans and critics that I know have had some very good things to say about this film and they make some valid points. So what am I missing? Allow me to try and lay out my grievances below.
Some have argued that Miller’s vision is fresh. Is it? This is basically one long chase sequence. Take the last part of THE ROAD WARRIOR where Lord Humongous and crew are trying to take down the fuel tanker and extend that into a two hour film and you have much of FURY ROAD.
Chronologically, I have read that this movie is supposed to fall between THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981) and MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985). Ok, but let’s address a few continuity points. At the start of this movie, Max is driving ‘his’ V-8 Interceptor. This vehicle was totaled about midway through THE ROAD WARRIOR (remember Max’s ‘kill’ switch?). Max himself was left on the side of the overturned tanker at the end of that film. So he what, went back and pieced it back together himself?
Let’s then look more closely at Max, who is almost a non-character in the film.
His classic leg brace (from an injury in the first film) is not present or highlighted. (Updated: His brace is there, but I didn’t notice it during the first viewing). They try to play up the ‘mad’ aspects of the character through ghostly visions of a little girl. I am not sure who this character is supposed to be, because Max had a wife and infant son who were both run down in the first film. Tom Hardy looks the part, but he brings no gravitas or swagger to the role. It could have, in fact, been any character playing the blood bag. Is this more a film about the ‘myth’ of Max, rather than the actual character of the original films? Perhaps, but the title itself is cashing in on the character, not the myth.
A ROAD BY ANY OTHER NAME…
Imperator Furiousa (Charlize Theron) has been given significant recognition in the film. Masculinist arguments aside, she’s a cool character that we deserve to know more about. I’d have been perfectly fine if Miller had simply called this FURY ROAD and set the story in the Mad Max universe with no Max at all.
But really, what’s the deal? She snags the beauties of the baddie, because why? She is woman, hear her roar? What about all those poor women down in the dregs of the citadel? What about those overweight milk matrons? Were their lives better somehow simply because they weren’t part of Immortan Joe’s attractive harem? Early on I really thought there was a deeper relationship element involved between Furiousa and one of the women which would have made it far more interesting, but nope.
By the end though, they decide to turn around and race back to the citadel (good thing everyone had enough fuel for the round trip in this supposedly fuel scarce world). And then there is the climax. They get back to the citadel and yes, let’s just let the water (this precious resource) flow down, unhindered on the masses, because yeah, it’s a post-apocalyptic party it’s not like we need to try and conserve it or anything.
GOING TO THE GREEN (SCREEN) PLACE
Of course the film has visual style that tries to surpass the predecessors, but it is also technically sloppy in quite a few places. Several of the character moments featured green screen backgrounds which were so jarring in contrast to other scenes that I thought I was watching an episode of METAL HURLANT CHRONCLES at a few points. Yes the action is great, but I still noticed a few shots where they undercranked the camera to cause a slight fast motion effect, a camera trick they did back on THE ROAD WARRIOR and do here again some 30 years later.
Is MAD MAX: FURY ROAD a bad film, not at all, but it’s mostly style over substance. The moment I really threw up my hands was when the guitar player’s flame-throwing guitar leapt out at the screen to be sure and make full use of the 3D effect (even though I was watching the 2D version). The exotic array of machines are metal mashups reminiscent of something between the old Odd Rods trading cards and a tailgate party at a muscle car show. The world building is also impressive and adds to the feel of existent material and though we never see them directly, Gastown and Bullettown (and their representative gangs) are quite evocative of Thunderdome’s Bartertown.
Yet, even so, I find little of the film was impressionable in the long term. Where my friends and I would banter back and forth with lines like “Just walk away…” in the mimicked megaphoney voice of Lord Humongous, or Masterblaster’s “Who run Bartertown?“, and the more ubiquitous “Two men enter, one man leaves“, here I found nothing truly notable. Time may reverse my thoughts on this though, maybe we’ll be throwing out lines about ‘not getting addicted to water’ at some point.
Is this explosive art? Cinematic spectacle? Perhaps, but it’s also seriously flawed. Here again though, maybe I am missing something, as I seem to be the odd man out. Maybe those lauding the praises of this film have not seen the originals, or just don’t care about the points mentioned above. Or maybe they are moving to the beat or a different drummer, or in this case flame throwing guitarist. Or maybe…just maybe, it’s me…I’m mad.