During the last week I went to see the new Mad Max movie in the cinema. I’m going to try to express my thoughts on the subject.
First of all I have to say I’m not all that familiar with the Mad Max franchise. Oh, I know the general outline of the movies. There’s the Low Budget One, the Tanker Truck Chase in the Desert One and the Tina Turner One. I’ve certainly seen good chunks of each of the Mel Gibson movies and I seem to recall watching all of the Tina Turner One many years ago. But the point is I could not be described as an avid fan.
But the buzz about the new movie, directed by the original Mad Max creator George Miller, certainly got me interested. Could it possibly be as good as the reviews were describing it?
Well, yes it is. If not better. It’s the most fun I’ve had in the cinema in many years. If not decades. If not ever.
A quick word on the plot setup. There are some mild spoilers but this all takes place in the first few minutes of the movie…
The movie depicts that bleak, desperate post-apocalyptic future set some years after a nuclear disaster. The movie begins with Max, now played by Tom Hardy, alone in the desert next to his trusty Interceptor vehicle. He is soon chased by some foes and after crashing is taken back to their lair.
It turns out they are the minions of the grotesque and repulsive Immortan Joe who has set himself up as a god in control of the water and “mother’s milk” in his part of the Wastelands. Poor old Max is soon relegated to donating blood to Joe’s War Boys.
But Joe is on the receiving end of a nasty surprise when he discovers his most trusted Imperator Furiosa has absconded with his five “wives”, the beautiful women he keeps for himself in order to breed an heir. Soon all his War Boys are sent in pursuit with Max along for the ride.
And what a ride it is.
A word on Charlize Theron who plays Furiosa. She is in many ways the actual star of the movie. She certainly appeared to have more dialog than the almost monosyllabic Max. This is Charlize Theron like you have never seen her before with a Alien 3 style Ripley buzz cut, black war paint and mechanical arm. We don’t get much back story about her but have to fill in the blanks for ourselves. She is seeking redemption for something by trying to get the wives away from Joe to the “green place” that she remembers from childhood.
Max and Furiosa are locked together in this movie. Initially mistrustful, then grudgingly dependant and then finally the respect between them builds. And it’s nice to see each character on their arc.
(One could get metaphorical about the journey that the characters are on both literally and mentally, on the journey through the desert to the green place.)
I mentioned Max is almost monosyllabic. Actually as I think about it his character goes from essentially wordless, to monosyllabic to eventually more expressive. I guess he’s been too long alone in the desert and gradually is waking up and rediscovering his humanity as he spends time in the company of the other characters. His initial encounter with Furiosa and the wives is essentially speechless as he gestures for his War Boy chains to be cut.
Ah yes the War Boys. The principle War Boy we meet is Nux played by Nicholas Hoult. He wants nothing more than to serve the Immortan Joe and if necessary go to Valhalla in the process. His make up is quite something with the bald head and the scarred lips. But Hoult plays him almost like a naive puppy dog that eventually has his eyes opened to the world outside Immortan Joe’s control.
So there are a number of character arcs. But the backdrop to the character development is action. Lots and lots and lots of action. I’ve never seen so much action in one movie. The chase after Furiosa starts near the beginning of the movie and it pretty much doesn’t let up.
(I’ve seen the movie described as a two hour chase sequence. This is not exactly right as its is a two hour movie split into two separate chase sequences.)
Max and the others spend most of their time on their war rig constantly accosted by every type of land vehicle you can think of. Spiky cars, motor bikes, monster trucks, you name it. Every now and then an action beat is punctuated by another car flipping or getting crushed like it’s made of cardboard. And all this against the spectacular backdrop of the Namibian desert.
Watching the action sequences I was kind of in awe. It all looked real. Oh, I’m sure there was a lot of green screen work and digital tidying up, but the actual stunts looked like real people were flipping real cars. How would you even begin to think about organising all those stunts to fill a two hour movie… I don’t know, but George Miller sure did.
And all the action takes place with the same musical descending note motif hammering out like the heart beat of the war rig. You don’t so much watch the movie as experience it.
If you are in any way curious about the movie do try to see it in the cinema. I’m not sure how it’s going to compare watching it at home.
2015 is not yet half way over, and Star Wars and James Bond are both due at the end of the year. But I honestly can’t imagine that any other movie this year is going to top Mad Max Fury Road for sheer spectacle and enjoyment.