A Cirque du Solei of Death
By Devon Sandhu
For almost three decades moviegoers have wondered what horror and awe George Miller’s twisted mind has been crafting in anticipation for another trip back to his chaotic wonderland. Enough time has passed and our old friend Max Rockatansky, better known as the maddest of the max, has returned through the dust to share some double-headed lizard meat and warn us to watch out for flying psychos from above. Oh Max, how we’ve missed you. Throw in a one-armed alpha female survivor, an irradiated Valhalla raving nut job, five parts on-the-run chastity laden vixens, and an omnipotent fear mongering ring leader with his band of mad merry men to chase them through the desert and Fury Road is a go!!!
The story is simple: get from point A to point B…oh, and try not to die. The years have gotten to our titular hero reducing Max (Tom Hardy) into feral prey haunted by visions of his long gone wife and daughter. Captured by Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) steering wheel devoted “War Boys” and sentenced to be a human IV bag, a masked and chained Max finds his way onto the hood of Nux’s (Nicholas Hoult) car chasing down Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a highly appointed general who has stolen Joes’ most prized of possessions, “The Wives”, the women responsible for birthing the heir to his dilapidated throne. A tyrant willing to stop at nothing to get back what’s rightfully his, we lace up our boots, put our leather studded jacket on, and let the pajamas-wearing conductor know to bring his fire breathing guitar because we have just joined the hunting party.
As much as I can talk about Max and Hardy’s reserved portrayal of the man, he isn’t in fact the main focus of the film by any means. Fury Road is instead an ensemble piece catered to give all these fresh new faces their dues on screen. Moreover, Max takes a back seat this time around as his devolved state plays more effectively as a rabid dog off its chain with one line demands where Hardy’s stoic look and hulking physical presence sells it brilliantly. I must admit that I could be heard claiming, like a jackass, that this was going to be the quintessential “guy movie” of the summer. Boy was I wrong. The significant female presence here is the most ferocious you will have seen in years let alone the average summer popcorn flick. Theron’s pathos riddled Furiosa is the definite stand out in this film; one I could easily see receiving her own spinoff venture starring the wives, trained and armed by their ‘mother’ to be an unsuspecting force of reckoning. Throw in a dash of sawed-off shotgun wielding grandmas riding extended arm motorcycles mentoring our young and naïve leads and you can tell George Miller and company said “Let’s show them something different” and by god does it work. Hoult’s Nux goes through the only real transitive arc in the film starting with his catchy “I Live, I Die, I LIVE AGAIN!!!” death mantra eventually being able to gain the sympathy of the entire audience similar to last year’s “Warm Bodies”. Damn it, you ‘Nick Houlted’ us again. And although there isn’t much to say about Immortan Joe as his drive is simple and satisfies his worth in the film, he makes for a return to the classic big, bad, and most importantly fun video game-esque “End Boss” for our team to take on by the last stretch. Each characters growth and demeanor is refined and never viciously shoved down our throats so lest we forget the hell Miller has taken us back to. We are never force fed exposition or ungraciously subjected to blatant character development sugar coated in lines of dialogue purely for the audience. See? We’re smarter than that.
“My world is fire and blood”…. If you don’t mind Max, I would also like to throw in gorgeous, visually insane, and destructively appetizing. This film is a feast for the eyes and ears as George Miller wraps the desert in an bow of both practical and computer generated effects to trick you into believing what’s on screen actually happened, because for the most part, it did. The sheer scale and abundance of stunt work mixed with onset demolitions is mind boggling. From forty foot tankers exploding, to dune buggies covered in razor sharp spikes being jackknifed, to ‘War Boys’ pole vaulting from vehicle to vehicle all orchestrated by what would seem to be an ‘in-film’ score(see pajama fire breathing guitar), George Miller holds nothing back when creating this cirque du solei of death. A joker induced smile mixed with sporadic cheers from an enthralled audience will be the atmosphere in the theater as many have not seen a spectacle of this caliber since…well, since the original mad max films. When CGI is used, as seen from the trailers electrical sandstorm, it is done in a way to purely enhance the overall experience and keep us strapped in this fictitious world. Miller’s pleasingly cruel vision of this horrid vista has been held mentally captive over the past 30 years aching to be shown as he never could have filmed these scenes as such without this new realm of digital post editing. It merits a second viewing just to take it all in.
The writers also manage to incorporate a few laughs along the way to swiftly break the tension in some very long running, but extraordinarily creative action sequences. Seeing Max helplessly swing through chaos or finding bullets hidden in the most uncommon of crevices evokes a show of ingenuity. The attention to detail here is unparalleled as keeping this script under revision for nearly 15 years has given Miller and his team the opportunity to fully iron out any wrinkles and find ways to keep us compelled even when no dialogue is being spoken. We can credit Fury Road for being aware of the repercussions for living in this unsettling and dangerous world, stopping to fight is not an option anymore; running is the only way to survive.
Although it seems I have nothing but high praise for Mad Max: Fury Road, I would like to point out we do get exposed to a slight case of ‘deus ex machina’ as Max’s haunting glimpses of his daughter throughout the film abruptly turns into a foreshadowed plot device later. Whether this ploy was instinctive of the character or thematically driven, this is by far the only gripe I had with Fury Road but in no way does it weigh down the main story.
Like Dredd (2012) and John Wick (2014) before it, in the thick fog of summer blockbusters, George Miller’s newest entry in the Mad Max franchise (remembering to turn its fog lights on of course) steam rolls through the competition with cries of blood and spit flying into the face of every cliché convention earning its place in the pantheon of action film glory. I guarantee you won’t have this much fun in the cinema all summer and perhaps all year because Mad Max: Fury Road was completely bonkers in every good way imaginable. Make another, hell, make a trilogy I don’t care, I’m in love with this crazy world and I want to see more. I’ve been long done with iron suits and magical hammers. Bring on the mad!!!