Movie Review: Mad Max – Fury Road
It’s a very, very, Mad World.
If you only see one movie featuring a flame throwing, electric guitar playing, chromed out, War Boy strapped to a big-rig this year make it this one. (You see, it’s funny because it’s so outlandish!)
From the deliciously demented mind of George Miller who brought you such psychedelic classics as the one about the talking pig (Babe) and the other one about dancing penguins (Happy Feet) comes his seemingly, in comparison, most down to Earth movie yet in Mad Max: Fury Road!
In a post apocalyptic world introduced to us in 1979’s Mad Max where people eek out some semblance of a half-life by surviving on mutated lizards and sucking down on mothers milk procured from morbidly obese women who are farmed out like battery hens. (Got milk? No thanks.) We find ourselves in one of the last remaining bastions of inhumanity where a degenerate tyrant rules with mangled fist and his legion of chroming War Boys who practice a perverted Norse mythology and sing praise for Valhalla while paying homage to the God that is V8! From the moment those deliciously retro 80’s titles stamp on the screen you know you’re in for something special.
The star of this show, hand(s) down is Brendan McCarthy – who? That’s right - Brendan McCarthy! Designer and co-writer along with Miller & Nico Lathouris who helped bring this mad boy to life. Whatever Miller was on in the 80’s he’s either never stopped taking it or located his stash and most certainly passed it to the left as we’re rolled out an ensemble of utterly disgustingly unique, warped, twisted, grotesque and assuredly memorable creations you’ll meet this side of the Wasteland, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the first season of The Real Housewives of Melbourne! Snap! (Stick around for the credits to enjoy their unique brandings. Rictus Erectus take a bow.)
Captured in all its HD glory by prolific cinematographer John Seale who’s covered everything from BMX Bandits to Gorillas in the Mist to bloody Harry Potter! The 72 year old (69-70 during filming) pulled a Murtaugh and came out of retirement to show the young whippersnappers exactly how it’s done. Wind swept sand dunes, mesmerising spirals churning from the tyres of speeding motorbikes shot in gorgeous technicolour in striking contrast to the stark backdrop of the Namib Desert and parts of Australia. Throw in the sounds of Junkie XL, the special effects team at Iloura (http://iloura.com.au/showreels/montage) and Stunt-Master Guy Norris (Chuck who?! – only joking, so, so sorry Chuck) and you have a film that is basically Nitro Circus featuring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. And speaking of stunts – my Lord! Real stunts with real vehicles. With Blockbusters these days so often dominated by CGI laden set pieces; it’s like fake abs or calves or breasts – I mean, sure, they look great and everything but there really is no substitute!
Tom Hardy replaces Mad Mel (you’ll always be Mad and a little bit racist to us) as the Road Warrior who struggles to find his voice in the film. It’s a point of contention that Max Rockatansky should be Australian or at least sound Australian. The Brit born Hardy’s accent comes and goes which is a stroke of genius by the actor since at the End Of Days when all the World’s peoples huddle together, society becomes a melting pot of cultures and dialects and – ok, you’re not buying it? What can I say, I’m a fan! *Note to future filmmakers – putting Tom Hardy in a mask or maul is like casting Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman – WHY WOULD YA?! Thankfully the maul doesn’t stay on for long and the good news is that as soon a Hardy dons that jacket and wields that sawn off, that’s it – he’s Max. And what he lacks in vocabulary he makes up with every driving gesture and guttural grunt that are worth their weight in mother’s milk. Okay, gross.
Charlize Theron is only getting better and proves she can kick your ass with one arm behind her back by having only one arm. Hugh Keays-Byrne repulses as Immortan Joe who, FUN FACT! played the main villain, Toecutter, in the very first Mad Max - take that, cinephiles! X-Men’s Beast, Nicholas Hoult has a lovely time of it as War Boy Nux whose character has the most telling arc. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Splendid is one to keep an eye on. Three if you can spare them. Riley Keough is Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, which is pretty cool, right? Zoe Kravitz is Lenny Kravitz’s daughter which is not as cool but at least she brings some fight to her character. Model, Abbey Lee frustrates as the Dag and West Australian Courtney Eaton is encouraging with her limited experience being only 16 at the time of principal photography.
The plot is linear which is fine and sometimes feels like Fury Cul-de-Sac and deserves a better third act. Some of the lines elicit unintentional laughter and cringe worthy moments but was always going to be the case with dialogue like, “he’s a schlem who likes biting slanga” – a mouthful in anyone’s language. The script lacks humour – I mean, it’s the post-apocalypse, I get it, but it doesn’t have to be all doom and babies heads. For example, did you hear that Mel Gibson is in talks to direct the sequel to Fury Road? Yeah, it’s going to be called – Post-Apocalypto! There is no level that joke doesn’t work on. My point is the script just needed something to lighten the mood to give us some relief from the constant oppression. But then again, maybe that’s the point. Whoa. I just blew my own mind.
Fury Road is a triumphant cacophony of light and sounds and a return to form for the action genre. Miller and Co have weaponised adrenaline to be administered directly through your eyeballs and earholes. Truly, I’ve never seen an audience so energised after a screening. Characters need fleshing out to help give us someone to root harder for and it’s this lack of character development that stops Fury Road becoming a masterpiece. With Hardy signed on for multiple sequels and strong initial box office performances, we may still get that chance.