Mad Max: Fury Road, by Rob Williams (FILM REVIEW)
As our 21st century world moves into a global “Age of Limits” era defined by “Peak Everything,” dystopian visions play across our digital screens with reckless abandon. Hunger Games, Divergent, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, Homeland – the list grows ever longer. And now? Tie down your popcorn, movie fans. Summer 2015 is shaping up to be the most mind-bendingly epic Hollywood dystopian action season in years. Furious 7 and the new Avengers sagas have already blown through and blown up box offices from coast to coast, and it’s barely June, with three months of pulse pounding pyrotechnics ahead. The latest arrival in the dystopian action genre? “Mad Max: Fury Road” dropped in theaters this past month – and what a wild ride it is.
Director George Miller, who helmed the original 1979 Mad Max film which launched Aussie actor Mel Gibson’s career, returns to choreograph the aptly-named “Fury Road” like an insane $150 million dollar operatic ballet, drums pounding, desert pulsating, vehicles vibrating, bodies pirouetting in death-defying action sequences that roll between slo mo and hyper lapse. The film’s first thirty minutes establish the parameters of our post-apocalyptic future. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) finds himself captured by a crazed desert warlord and his nutty family. From their Citadel cliff compound, they rule over a water-starved civilization of desperate denizens, policed by a savage army of pasty-white buff baldies with a thirst for slick savagery and big drum numbers. (The unnamed dude mounted at the front of the rolling warlord caravan who gets to play savage electric guitar, resplendent in red power chords, carries the film visually, bouncing around like a musical marionette driven by some booming back beat).
Complications begin when one rogue subject – driver Imperator Furiosa (a tightly wound one-armed Charlize Theron) – liberates five beautiful “breeders” from warlord HQ, attempting to spirit them away to the emysteriously-named “Green Place.” Baddie warlord sends out his army of minions to intercept and capture, leading to an epic high speed three-way cat-and-mouse desert chase sequence between HQ, rebels, and a rival local tribe, who drive heavily-armed hedgehog’like armored cars and dirt bikes to match.
Miller’s action sequences are remarkable, teetering in the edge of insanity, with Max strapped like a ill-fated hood ornament on the front of one kamikaze’like rig. Where the story goes I leave for you to discover – but believe me when I say the spectacle, all chrome, speed, noise and thunder – must be experienced to be believed. Watching Max and his battle hardened harem take on the forces of Valhalla – inventorying weapons, changing massive tires, leaping from one frenetic action sequence to the next – is visually arresting, thanks to stunning cinematography by Miller, John Seale, and the whole team.
One last word. Much has been made by film critics of the “feminist” wrinkle in the story, and the film’s interplay between masculine savagery and feminine life giving is certainly provocative. Without giving too much away, it is the women in this Mad Max story who carry the day. And, back in our real world, it the same may be true, as thousands of years of aggressive patriarchy have led us to the Brink. Don’t miss Mad Max on the big screen – and be prepare to be exhilarated and exhausted.