Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

George Miller plunges the viewer into an experience of nearly non-stop action in Mad Max: Fury Road.  I am not a big Mad Max series fan.  I watched Mad Max and Road Warrior for the first time last Fall.  I never watched Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  Road Warrior clearly established the frenetic, brutal chase sequences found in Fury Road.

Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe.

Fury Road takes place in a world where not only oil (as in Road Warrior) is in short supply but also water.  Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules a society where he controls the water.  He is a patriarchal nightmare, forcing women to breed, and brainwashing the people.  He wears an intimidating ventilator mask, armor, and long blonde hair.  This character alone is worth checking out the film.  He rules an army of skinheads, who are called Slits.  Some in his army are hulking in their muscularity; most in his army are pasty and slender.  His people are motivated by their belief in the afterlife. 

Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky.
It is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who kicks the film's primary conflict into action.  She deviates from a mission in search of her childhood home as well as finding a better life for some of her fellow women.

Honestly, I was rather underwhelmed by the film.  After all the buzz and ratings, I was expecting something not only visually and sonically impressive but emotionally powerful.  Beyond the primal concerns about the outcomes of the chases themselves, I found myself largely unmoved by the characters and their struggles.  I never really liked Max as a protagonist (Gibson or Hardy), he doesn’t communicate enough.  Yes, I wanted them to succeed.  No, their successes were not as exhilarating as they should have been for me.

A Slit.
My feelings aside, this is a marvel of visual design.  For example, one large vehicle has a flame-throwing guitarist who blazes away in front of a wall of amps.  He provides an actual soundtrack for Immortan Joe’s hunting party.  There is also a vehicle with several tiers of bass drums (three levels of two, I think), which also provide thunderous pursuit music.  These people have removable steering wheels and gear-shifter handles for the purpose of making the vehicles more secure from theft.  Road combat is highly stylized as well: pursuers pole-vault from one vehicle to another (the vehicles have pliable poles fixed to them for this purpose).

Vaulting poles on vehicles.
Here, the desert is awash in magnificent colors that make the grittier early installments look pale.  For some, the visuals, sounds, and action will be enough to make them not care about deeper story elements, not so with me.  However, as I did not see this in 3D, I look forward to getting the full effect in my home theater in the future. 

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