We’ve been transported to other worlds, different dimensions, to heaven and hell and everything in between, but you’ve never been anywhere like the world that Mad Max: Fury Road creates. That includes all of us that have seen the previous trilogy because Fury Road is unlike anything we have experienced. It will have all the adrenaline coursing through your body as if it were being boosted by nitrous, and that’s just the opening sequence.
The evolution (and devolution) of the Max (Tom Hardy) character naturally and perfectly reflects the dehumanizing, desolate nature of the desert, especially in this post-apocalypse setting. His hero psyche is broken from all the losses he has faced and his isolation spent in the desert. Facing some sort of post-traumatic stress, he has been living his life on autopilot, never really living, but only surviving. He needed a jolt to remind him of the man, the legend, he once was. After getting captured and used as a blood bag/hood ornament, he escapes from/with his capture Nux (Nicholas Hoult), while they are in pursuit of the bionic-armed Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who has passengers she is smuggling to safety. Among the five passengers is a very pregnant Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) and the resourceful Toast the Knowing (Zoë Kravitz). They are all on the run from Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who Mad Max veterans may remember played Toe-Cutter in the first film), who was keeping them locked up for breeding purposes. Joe amasses an army to go after them, but the team of Max and Furiosa prove more difficult to capture than they originally thought.
All the bumps along the way are intentional and unavoidable, with more than a few of them being people. No decision or design is done arbitrarily. Each has a certain amount of thought put into it that not only makes sense to the world it has created, but also to us as the viewer. There were no half measures taken. Writer/Director George Miller set the GPS, aligned the steering wheel and then unrelentingly stepped on the gas, never once stopping or slowing down to second guess himself. For better or worse, he crashed through every stop light and warning sign, but only because he has a clear vision in the horizon that he needed to reach. My only complaint, or thing I would change about the film, is keeping it 2D. The visuals stand well enough on their own without needing the ineffectual conversion of the film into 3D. The film was already in your face without having to resort to gimmicks. Fortunately, the vision was preserved by production designer Colin Gibson (who is an Australian film veteran) and his magnificent designs of every car, and expertly shaping them to fit every character’s personality and purpose. The best thing about the designs were that even though they were taken to extremes, they had a completely functional and believable aspect in them that grounded them in the realm of reality.
Unlike any other of the Mad Max films, this film explores a symbiotic partnership; the partnership between Max and Furiosa. Too often had Max been the sole hero of each film, never truly allowing someone to get close to him. We are introduced to a broken shell of Max, who needs people (and a win) to put him back on his path of (often self-serving) vigilante heroism. Likewise, Furiosa, also seeking redemption for her past mistakes, needs Max to reawaken a part of her that’s been long dead. The partnership goes beyond the characters and reached the actor’s territory. Tom Hardy’s feral, almost animalistic portrayal of Max is balanced by Charlize Theron’s more somber, but just as deadly demeanor as Furiosa. It’s easy to think that Mel Gibson passed the torch of Mad Max on to Tom Hardy, but after seeing Fury Road, you’re more than prepared to accept that Furiosa could just as easily take over the mantle of Mad Max.
The so-called “feminist agenda,” according to men’s rights groups, is really just a humanist “agenda” for equal rights. There is more of a message against classicism in this film than there is for feminism. Not to say that there isn’t also a feminist side, because thankfully there is. In Fury Road‘s society, there is a long-standing patriarchy (not unlike the one we can still see today in our society) that considers women as property. Having women fighting for the right to be considered people and not possessions doesn’t seem particularly feminist because that notion should be a fairly obvious one. Emphasis on “should be.” I’d apologize for getting a bit off topic, but I wouldn’t want to give men’s rights groups that or any other kind of satisfaction. I think the phrase, “Sorry, I’m not sorry,” aptly applies here.
Like our underdogs in the film, George Miller finally found his Promised Land with Mad Max: Fury Road, the epitome and inevitable culmination of the previous trilogy. This is the kind of film that the Fast & Furious franchise wishes it could one day become. As it stands, every car-based film will eat Fury Road‘s dust because none can hope to achieve this same level of thoughtful, bombastic frenzy that this film inspires. Every actor and cog in this well-oiled engine propels it further and further, making it an unstoppable, unapologetic juggernaut waiting to steamroll over you and drag you along for the ride. The title should have been “The Fast and The Furiosa.”
RATING: ★★★★★★★★★(9/10 stars)