It’s about time for a Mad Max reboot, this being the fourth in the series since the original Mad Max (a la Mel Gibson) hit big screens in 1979. First there was Mad Max, then the cleverly named Max Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981),
then Max Max: Blame the Jews (1983), then the second most famous one, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome(1985) and now here we are at Fury Road.
Quick technical run down:
Rating: R – Lots of violence, blood, some gore, intense sequences and people just not being nice. No sex. Probably okay for 15+ year olds.
Runtime: 120 min.
Directed by: George Miller, who also directed Mad Max 2, but also Babe (!?!), The Witches of Eastwick, Flirting and Happy Feet.
Starring: Tom Hardy and Charleze Theron.
Produced by: Warner Brothers
The new movie is a mixed affair, but ultimately enjoyable. No real nods to prequels that I could find, other than being set in the same post nuclear disaster, apocalyptic Earth with the requisite imaginative vehicles and odd ways of attacking each other.
In some ways, lately it’s tough for movies like this because a lot of the villains have already been done. You’ve seen the crazy, psychopathic villain (Joker) and you’ve seen the bad guy with the mouthpiece who is hard to understand (Bane!). Now you have Immortan Joe, sort of a hybrid of the two.
You’ve also seen heroes like Max Rockatansky (yes, that’s his name). Underspoken, brave, reckless, subjugated unfairly, starts out only caring about himself, but then has a change of heart.
What is very appealing about this movie is a strong lead female character in Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). In fact, pretty much all of the good guys are actually good girls. And I didn’t see any bad girls. And that’s both interesting and entertaining. What is missing is any race diversity, although one of the waifs looks perhaps hispanic.
** WARNING ** SOME SPOILERS ** NOT A LOT ** BUT SOME **
The basic plot is this: The world is a post nuclear-disaster barren dessert. Gas, water and vehicles are hard to come by, as with all the Mad Max movies. An oasis, lead by a rather-mutated, face-masked psychopath named Immortan Joe and his odd, mutated group of thugs (generally hairless and all a very pale shade of white) dolls out water to starving, thirsty people. At the start of the movie, Max is captured, and since he is not genetically damaged and a universal blood donor, he is used to provide live blood transfusions to the others (Max and his donating brothers are called blood bags). Imperator Furiosa (Theron) is sent out to gather gasoline, but she smuggles with her a group of women that are being held by Joe as concubines and then goes AWOL. Joe sends his bad-guys to get her back. One of the baddies is skinny, young man named Nux, who straps Max to the front of his attack vehicle and connects tubes from Max to himself to receive blood during the excursion. When the initial group fails, Immortan Joe leads his own larger group to exact revenge on Furiosa. They meet, they battle, Max joins Furiosa, more battling, you learn of a “green land” that they are all seeking. A few girls die, a lot of bad guys die. And the end is pretty predictable but satisfying, with a huge open door for a sequel.
What makes the movie entertaining is the following:
- Well executed and exciting stunts done nearly all without the aid of CGI (thank you).
- Great makeup and costume work.
- Theron’s character, Furiosa, is strong and just a little bit vulnerable. She sports a cyborg arm, feels pain, commands a mean set of driving skills, but is not immune to caring for Max.
- This “caring for Max” is not overdone, thankfully. Furiosa does not suddenly swoon madly in love with Max nor are there any of the requisite “music suddenly swells as she kisses him just before battle”. Thank God, no.
- The imagination that made the first Mad Max fun is all here. The clever vehicles, attack methods (long pole attacks!), the rock guitarist strapped to the front of a lead vehicle, musically leading the attack with high-gain power chords, and the various types of mutant people they encounter.
- A change of heart of one character that is handled very well, going from crazy to self-sacrificing hero.
- A solid Max Max performance by Tom Hardy that is interestingly subtle, with a tiny bit surprising end for his character.
- A great supporting cast of both young and older women.
What I thought fell short included:
- Another villain with weird body appliances and a mask.
- Another villain wanting his own “spawn” — didn’t Emperor Ming from Flash Gordon want the same?
- The ultimately easy way Immortan is dispatched – ah Immortan Joe, we hardly knew ye. One quick move and boom, he’s dead.
- Important characters are identified early on and you know they are never in real danger (with perhaps the exception of one).
- The quick wrap up at the end of the movie. Why are the previous villainous staff members now so quick to hail the newcomers?
- A sort of manic start to the movie that made me wonder if I would like it. To me, it started with a confusing and quick explanation of Earth and Mad Max and the environment.
- Confusing (to me) backstory and flashbacks for Max to a little girl who was his daughter? Sister? Is he hallucinating? But she helps him not get shot in the head with an arrow (or not get pierced too deeply). So…?
The movie starts uneven terms of story telling, and then settles down into a classic chase movie with a predictable ending, but all sorts of fun and games along the way.
New: How The Monkey would have improved the movie:
- Although seemingly like other movies, I would have made it more difficult to kill Imperator Joe. Drag it out a bit. Not Michael Meyers you-think-he’s-dead-but-he’s not, but that he would get angrier as he was more injured.
- Have Imperator Joe partially responsible for his own demise.
- Rather than voice over a quick explanation at the start, reveal the condition and environment via story telling.
- Spend a little time on the various mutant peoples.
- Spend a little more time on Max’s recent backstory.
- Explain why Furiosa leaves Immortan Joe’s city.
All in all, the Monkey enjoyed the movie and on a scale of one Tina Turner to Two Men Enter, Five Movie-goers Leave (sic), Monkey gives this movie a solid 4 out of 5 bananas. Monkey says, check it out!