Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, Jennifer Hagan, Megan Gale, Melissa Jaffer
R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
Finding new territory to mine in post-apocalyptic civilization has been a struggle for Hollywood in recent years. George Miller finally develops a new angle with his return to the universe of Mad Max after thirty years with Mad Max: Fury Road.
While tween audiences have been busy locating new paths into the various incarnations of futuristic earth, adult audiences have had a difficult time keeping their interests alive. The Hunger Games defied expectations, but everything else that’s hit the landscape from Divergent to The Maze Runner has mined the same territory with varying, but simplistic results. This disconnect has resulted in a loss of interest from audiences that have needed a smart, searing portrait of the future of civilization and we’re now in a position to get exactly what we wanted.
Mad Max: Fury Road follows its titular hero into the vast wasteland of post-scarcity earth. Water, food and other “luxuries” have been replaced by dead, dusty swaths of land controlled by vicious warlords intent on subjugating the people with limited supplies and desperation. Most of those still left alive are cancer-ridden husks subsisting off the scraps given to them by their “generous” benefactors. Max (Tom Hardy) begins the film in a epic pair of chases that ultimately result in his capture and incarceration as nothing more than a blood bag for the decomposing, white-dusted War Boys of the realm’s leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), an aging megalomaniac who cares not for his subjects and wants little more than the power his position affords.
All hopes of escape lost, Max is bound to the grill of War Boy Nux’s (Nicholas Hoult) who has been sent with his war machine in pursuit of a renegade Imperator who’s stolen Immortan Joe’s precious harem of beautiful women. As Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) drives headlong into a massive dust storm, Max and Nux are hot on their heels and the resultant chase leads to Max’s liberation and his unlikely teaming with the fiercely independent Furiosa and the quintet of women who’ve finally been freed from their sexual slavery.
Herein lies George Miller’s compelling plot, an exploration of male-dominated societies treating women as objects to be used and abused at their will. Thought of as baby factories and sexual play toys, it’s Furiosa who leads the headstrong, educated women across the vast wasteland towards a promised land of safety amidst the lush foliage of distant realms.
A polemic of modern civilization, Mad Max: Fury Road doesn’t rest idly while its female characters are paraded as sexual objects. Their gorgeous, near-perfect forms are viewed as objects to be owned and controlled while Furiousa’s cybernetic arm has marked her as inconsequential and allowed her to move among the men of the compound unheeded long enough to concoct the elaborate scheme that will get them all free. There’s nothing subservient about these women except in the way that they are viewed by an audience that doesn’t expect a careful condemnation of their own perceptions.
Miller’s incredibly concise script is perfectly constructed to create maximum exploration of the subject matter with the minimal amount of dialogue possible. Co-written by art director Brendan McCarthy and actor Nico Lathouris, this impressive screenplay provides visual clues to the backgrounds of its character instead of relying on them to exposit their concepts. From the library in which Immortan Joe’s precious concubines reside to the simple act of allowing the better shot to take it, Max, Furiosa and everyone else is fleshed out, developed and competently crafted with so little dialogue that audiences used to getting everything handed to them will have to pay a significant amount of attention to get the most of its details.
In this, production designer Colin Gibson and costume designer Jenny Beavan do a lot of the heavy lifting with the aid of Miller’s astute sense of spatial reasoning and cinematographer John Seale’s impressive visual compositions. Add in solid visual effects work, excellent makeup and hair design, and an array of superb performances and you have a film that might one day be considered a masterpiece once its been carefully sifted through.
Miller hasn’t spent a lot of time in the director’s chair, taking extensive breaks between filming, but apart from his prior two films, the over-hyped Happy Feet and its dubious sequel, his efforts have been largely impressive. Babe is handily one of the best films of the 1990s and The Witches of Eastwick was a successful follow-up to the previously final film of the Mad Max franchise, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. As its creator, there is no director more able to tackle this universe. Thankfully we’re given plenty of his high-octane visual splendor to marvel at.
Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t a film you can sit down to and thoroughly understand simply by watching its pretty pictures and relishing its stupendous action set pieces. It’s a movie that requires intense examination, independent reflection, and peer discussion to find all its myriad intricacies. While it won’t appeal to those who find a film like The Avengers: Age of Ultron to be the pinnacle of action film art, anyone who respects and admires the depths to which film can delve and explore while acting as a powerful mirror of modern life will find immense pleasure in peeling back its many layers.
Guarantees: Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound Editing
Probables: Production Design, Costume Design, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects
Potentials: Picture, Director, Actor (Tom Hardy), Actress (Charlize Theron), Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Cinematography
Unlikelies: Original Score
May 24, 2015