A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
The premiere day of George Miller’s latest installment of his most famous series, 30 years in the making, has been one filled with fire, oil, dust, anarchy, chaos, pain and even some guitar shredding. “What a lovely day.”
Digging up the original trilogy in preparation for “Mad Max: Fury Road” brought a lot of insight going into the latest sequel/stand alone film/reboot. An adrenaline-fuelled, unrelenting assault of the senses, “Mad Max: Fury Road” left me speechless, exhausted and craving more!
As director George Miller states, “Mad Max: Fury Road” “is set about 45-50 years from next Wednesday when all the bad things we read in the news happen all at once and we end up in some sort of apocalypse”. Like the previous three films, “Fury Road” focuses on the human desperation for one of humanity’s most sought after commodity; mother’s milk, or ‘Guzoline’ (definitely not petroleum by the sheer excess of it all). The film opens with a marvellous ‘hero shot’ of Max Rockatansky (now embodied by Tom Hardy) and a voice over to match. From that moment on, the fun begins. “Fury Road” is on from the word ‘go’ and I’m struggling to think of a film where it is more so the case.
The opening action sequence grabs you by the scruff, throws you around until you’re beaten senseless, then throws you around some more. Within the first five minutes, we understand Max’s world, his predicament and his intentions, there’s no time wasted here.
From this moment on, we see Max’s journey run parallel and eventually intersect with that of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a hardened renegade with an agenda of her own. After yet another incredible chase sequence results in the two meeting and engaging in some fiery fist-cuffs, a fearsome partnership is formed. From there, Max, Furiosa and a bunch of vulnerable associates find themselves ion the run from the tyrannical and ruthless Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his gang of albino psychopaths.
It need not be stated, but “Mad Max: Fury Road” is one of the best films I have ever seen from a practical effects point of view. The stunts (of which a stunning 85% were practical) will leave you speechless, drooling and ultimately embarrassed when you notice the large pool of saliva formed around a rather unfortunate area… Never have I ever seen such incredible stunt work and choreography in a film. It’s not just the high-octane vehicle work that impresses beyond compare, there is colour, lights, quick fire editing and of course, lots and lots of wide shots! The vast, endless desert wastelands are exhibited in all their post-apocalyptic glory, and it’s wonderful to see.
The barren dust bowl of a world these animalistic beings inhabit is a character in itself, and this is achieved purely from the cinematography. For action films, the wider, the better (within reason of course) and it is obvious that George Miller understands this. It’s so refreshing to see fight scenes choreographed to a tee and shot in a way that celebrates the art. The action is never blocked out by a cut or a wasteful zoom-in, it’s left alone and given the chance to demonstrate some proper, hard-hitting qualities of a true action thrill-ride.
Quentin Tarantino gracefully once said, “Nobody shoots a car the way Aussies do. They manage to shoot cars with this fetishistic lens that makes you wanna jerk off!” I probably didn’t need to mention whose mouth it came out of, but nevertheless, I am sure Tarantino will find himself getting a little excited by “Fury Road”, if you know what I mean…It was the likes of George Miller that Tarantino was referring to. Watching the original trilogy, it appeared as though 1981’s “Mad Max: The Road Warrior” was the film that Miller originally wanted to make, but couldn’t given his severe budget constraints. It seems now that with $150million under his belt, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the film that Miller was able to make. There really isn’t anything like it, except the original trilogy, which receives its fair share of homages.
Now, Tom Hardy as Max. Do we need another hero? After being disappointed at the lack of a Mel Gibson cameo, I personally found myself being even more disappointed at Hardy. He gives it his all as Max, but his attempts at an Australian accent result in what sounds like a cross between American, British, Welsh, Australian and South African. That’s not all, his mannerisms aren’t like Gibson’s were back in the day, and this is okay as I understand he’s taking the character into his own, however it was difficult to get past the Tom Hardy-isms of his Max Rockatansky. I couldn’t tell you whom I would prefer to play Max, and Hardy seems to be a logical choice. I couldn’t help but wonder if at any stage an Australian was considered for the role…
There are some familiar Aussie faces to be noticed within “Fury Road”. People such as John Howard (the actor, not the former Prime Minister), Angus Sampson, Megan Gale, Melissa Jaffer, Josh Helman and as previously mentioned, Hugh Keays-Byrne who returns to the role of Max’s nemesis. From the originally flamboyant Toecutter Joe from “1979’s “Mad Max” to the menacing, intimidating and bellowing Immortan Joe, times have certainly changed over the past 36 years. His latest villain is a far superior antagonist that actually provides some genuine threat. With the help of his henchman, Immortan Joe hurts Max and those around him quite badly. You fear for the hero and really fear the villains, which is a successful dynamic to achieve in anybody’s language.
I’ve spoken about Hardy; I’ve spoken about Byrne, now to discuss the true hero of the film, Theron. Not only does Theron match her acting efforts in 2003’s “Monster”, she portrays the toughest, meanest heroine put to screen since The Bride from “Kill Bill” of the same year. She has a potent backstory, redeeming qualities and an attitude to intimidate the toughest of rev-head hooligans. With a forehead smothered in car grease (a sure fire way to get severe acne) and a robotic arm, Furiosa is not to be messed with. She puts Max in his place and almost steals the show outright.
Although “Mad Max: Fury Road” is almost unmatchable for its practical effects, the film has its flaws. As previously mentioned, the casting of Max is questionable upon viewing and some mismatched accents from fellow cast members simply add to the qualms. There is some alarmingly poor acting on show around the two-thirds mark of the film and a love story that seemed highly unnecessary. Furthermore, it was strikingly obvious when a shot was not practical, which is such a shame when looking at a film that prides itself on its old-school approach to action filmmaking. For example, there’s a shot that is so blatantly made for a 3D screening that simply takes you right out of the moment when watching it in 2D. Most of the time these alterations are glossed over and unnoticeable, however this was so obvious, it literally came out of the screen and smothered grease over the audience’s foreheads!
The last major issue I have relating to the film isn’t within the film at all. Not affecting the score in the slightest, I feel it is nevertheless necessary to address the ridiculous inclusion of a ‘Post-Apocalyptic Theme’ within the rating slate. Since when have we needed to be babied and forewarned about such a non-entity of an issue? Seriously, if it is violent, adult, supernatural or even potentially frightening to younglings, that’s understandable. But to warn viewers who are about to see a “Mad Max” film (for goodness sake) about its primary and continuous theme is about as useful as warning viewers of “Supernatural” that the show will contain ‘Supernatural Themes’… No s***, Sherlock!
But I digress. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is not the ‘perfect’ film in that sense. It has been critically acclaimed the world over upon its premiere and understandably so. As far as modern action films are concerned, “Mad Max: Fury Road” has set the bar at an entirely new level, leagues above anything before. Practically speaking, past action pinnacles have been left behind in a trail of dust, fire and smoke. I implore you to experience this film in the cinemas; it will not be justified at home, no matter how big your television set is. This is a genre-defining cinematic experience that needs be witnessed. It may have its flaws, and there are those who’ll definitely be put off by the unremitting chaos and anarchy, but for the price of an admission ticket, you’ll see for yourself that the action genre just changed forever, and it took a 70-year-old to make it happen…