a kindly review of Mad Max: Fury Road
by David Clemmer
Jason sits to my left at the St. Johns Twin Cinema, near the dead-center of the auditorium. The anticipation is chewier than the Sugar Babies we pass up and down the row. Mad Max: Fury Road begins. Every five minutes for the next two hours, Jason says, ‘Woohoo!’
Jason is objectively correct.
My last viewings of The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome were left behind in a childhood wherein films were joyrides without the pretense of art form; I remember very little other than the memory of enjoyment. Therefore the comparisons to predecessors will be nonexistent. (I really should have done those live tweets with the Guys.) I will say, though, this movie stands on its own—which you probably already know. This brings me to my first point.
This film is far from devoid of dialogue, but it isn’t teeming with it either. And the dialogue is embedded in the action, rather than expository. There was so little exposition that whatever exposition occurred felt natural and yet ornamental; I feel like this movie could have been in a foreign language without subtitles and I would have known exactly what was happening. My point is that with minimal exposition, the movie builds its world before your eyes within minutes. It straight-up tells you about the whole apocalypse bit, but in a few title card sentences. After that, this ruined and wild place opens up, and with every inch of props and sets and vehicles and costumes, you find this lived-in and decorative world of…well, madness.
In everything you see there is rust, sand, oil stains, and the leftovers of industry. In every person you see a sickness, be it starvation or trauma or hedonism or deformity. The War Boys are portraits of terror, their skin covered in white warpaint, their eyes darkened. Their leader, Immortan Joe, wears hard plastic armor and a mask with a snarling mouth on it. Charlize Theron’s character, Furiosa, has a prosthetic arm. For the first half of the movie, Max Rockatansky has a cruel metal mask locked on his face. There’s a guy with a headdress made of bullets. One of the vehicles in the bad-guy armada is a giant amplifier for a red-onesie-wearing guitarist that just shreds the entire time and shoots goddamn flames from his guitar.
Nothing is boring to look at, not even in the slower, darker moments of the chase. Even the landscape: the desert, the sky, that sickass sand storm you see in the trailers… This movie is the Wonka Factory of eye-candy.
The near-entirety of the story is one chase. And it’s simple. Good guys have a place they’re trying to get to (the green place), bad guys don’t want them to get there. Within that simplicity is an expert sculpture of tension and intrigue that will leave you gasping. The tension was so good that there’s this moment early in the film involving a shotgun. I won’t deign to ruin this moment for you, but let me say that the entire audience reacted vocally to it. Another moment—not the end of the movie, mind you—received applause, and not just from a few people. Part of this excitement were the specific events that unfolded, but most of it was because of the pounding, throbbing, gyrating dance of tension this movie throws at you.
The actors are terrific as well. Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy are ruthless without being caricature hardasses, Nicolas Hoult is perfect as a young and untamed beast, and the villains are terrifying, embodying their roles as unbridled figments of a mad age. Even the protagonists have an edge of loss and confusion that pushes them into that middle ground between identifiable and unrelatable. Every human being that appears onscreen is full of life, as remnants in a wasteland would have to be.
If you even remotely like action movies, Mad Max: Fury Road is for you. I feel like it actually may be for you; George Miller has spent a lot of time on this movie, suffering setbacks as far back as the 1990s, and so has had the time and patience to craft something beautiful, rugged, abrasive, and powerful. I would have to watch the previous Mad Max films again before making such a claim, but I think they’d be hard-pressed to match this monster.
With the release of this movie, the world of action flicks has been handed a fucking monolith, and we’re all left screeching and howling and prodding it with sticks. Jason said something I very much agree with, and that is that this may very well mark an era of action movies, and will be something filmmakers will try to replicate in years to come.
(And it’s pissing off Men’s Rights Activists, so you gotta love it for that.)
99,997 / 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel
10/10 woohoos from Jason
19.8/20 crucial riffs on a flamethrower guitar