Director: George Miller
Writer(s): George Miller, Nico Lathouris, Brendan McCarthy
Cinematography: John Seale
Score: Tom “Junkie XL” Holkenborg
Runtime: 120 exhilarating minutes
Starring: Mad Max Rockatansky, The Imperator Furiosa, King Immortan Joe, War Boy Nux, War Boy Slit, The Splendid Angharad, Toast The Knowing, Capable, The Dag, Cheedo The Fragile, Prince Rictus Erectus, The People Eater, Bullet Farmer, Coma Doof Warrior, Organic Mechanic, Valkyrie, The Keeper Of Seeds, Miss Giddy, The Vulvalina’s…and The Wasteland.
The following is my Word Burgar Offering to The History Men. A brief ’round the fire telling from memories of The Third Road War. The one between the King Immortan Joe, his Imperator Furiosa, and the mysterious road warrior.
We begin long after “The Poc-key-clypse”, and far deep into the days where the old world is no more. A time when The Wasteland was the judge, jury, and executioner for what was left of humanity…
No detailed spoils were recorded in this entry.
It doesn’t happen all of the time, but I love it when a movie you’re anticipating reaches (maybe even surpasses) the expectations of the finished piece you’ve created in your mind. Since July of 2014, when that first Mad Max: Fury Road Comi-Con teaser trailer was released, my excitement for this film had to be curbed via a year long self-imposed embargo on all Fury Road related material. No articles, no production stills, no new trailers or TV spots, just cold turkey.
Miller’s much maligned film has finally been unleashed, and thank Valhalla that it was worth the disciplined wait. All the buzzed about pre-production snafus that could have sidelined Fury Road into “Tomorrow-morrow land”, swiftly becomes film history fodder about five minutes into the first reel.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a gleefully bombastic, wonderfully weird, adrenaline filled, rich creation of old school/new school celluloid artistry making babies on screen. Two parts of a blue print on redefining entertaining action cinema, one part heavy metal meets opera concert hybrid, one part societal allegory. All thundering upon the eyes and ears of those in the theater. With frenzied, beautiful, ghastly, subtle & broad (yet fully realized) confident strokes from the series’ creator George Miller.
Fury Road does not care if you are a well versed follower of the three previous “Mad Mel” entries (which I am), or are a nitpicky V-8 Interceptor fan boy. He definitely does not care if you are a Millennial Gen noob to this world. One whose modern movie allegiance begin & end only with the recent Marvel movie machine. Yes, the seventy year old director of Witches of Eastwick, the Babe and Happy Feet series’ simply DOES NOT GIVE A F**K when it comes to this latest version of his “Western on Wheels” franchise. If you do not get Fury Road after the heart pounding thirty minute opening, you never will.
Which for me, is one of many reasons why Fury Road succeeds. Not just on a visceral level, but also as something to look forward to regarding how one movie could possibly shake up the summer blockbuster model. A way of big-budget film making that takes risks, and maniacally looks down and laughs upon all those well-conditioned movie creators, bean counters, marketing moguls, and popcorn munching public.
Folks that need their hand held from “Basil Exposition”, and those that cannot live without a post credits scene, or need everything to have set-ups of possible future installments need not bother. It’s as if Miller said to his creative crew and cast –
“We will make the best possible singular summer movie experience we can. We will leave everything out there. Hopefully we forever inject something into the memory banks of folks that is truly unique to those who take this ride. Should we fail or succeed, that is the goal.”
This entry into the Mad Max mythology is on par with the other entries in that it’s not complex. Some of the MacGuffin pieces have changed, from the “precious juice” and energy, to non diseased ridden people and the essentials of life (fresh food & water). But it’s still a low dialogue, high live-action stunt, production design and costumes extravaganza chronicling a three day chase across the desert.
Full of unlikely heroes and heroine’s, the War Rig and War Parties (three of them woohoo!), differing factions of survivors, from The Buzzards to The Rock Rider’s. Including King Immortan Joe’s cult of machine worshiping kamikaze War Boys. Who yearn for nothing more than a glimpse of appreciation from Joe, or even better, a “Chromed Up” glorious road war death straight to Valhalla.
This story of Max begins as he is captured by Joe’s white powdered army clan as “human cattle”, only to be blood bagged at The Citadel. A mountainous survivor/slave compound that King Immortan Joe lords over. Agriculturally advanced, with all kinds of world building surprises which I’m sure George Miller had fun coming up with designs on in pre-production with his creative crew. Some of the film’s best stuff are shots of the The Citadel and it’s inhabitants.
These amazing details that Miller and Co. fill the screen with give all the backstory (or timeline-filler) you need since we last saw Max wandering the desert after Thunderdome. Mostly without a peep of dialogue, just the Junkie XL’s score with great looking shots from cinematographer John Seale. He grazes the mountain walls, peers within the inner workings of the water rig, or the arboretum dens. All along The Wheel altars & idols of the War Boy caverns. Seale also gets up close to the radioactive ridden faces of The Citadels plebeians.
Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is leading a fuel run at a nearby refinery…but mid way into the run she goes AWOL, and the Boys get word of this defection back to King Joe. A devout and earnest War Boy soldier Nux (Nicholas Hoult) wants to make a name for himself before “Apoc-Rot” claims him. The Rockatansky blood matches his and he needs all the energy he can for the chase, so he takes a Masked Max (all blood transfusion connected to Nux) and he joins the Immortan Joe, People Eater, and Bullet Farmer (I just love typing these character names out) war parties to track down the AWOL Furiosa and her War Rig. Which is also holding some precious cargo. That’s pretty much what kicks things off.
But do not fret about the simple premise, there are some neat surprises that come along the way, and the bottom line is Fury Road is absolutely a Road Warrior/First and Last Parts of Thunderdome film. While also doing it’s own unique thing. Still, to me “Mad Max” was never just a simple story or a character. It’s a vibe, an attitude, a look, and a well known design aesthetic that still lives on to this day. One that has given inspiration to all sorts of media creations…
All the way up until Tupac and Dr. Dre showed California some Love, to Kevin Costner’s Waterworld, and the post-apoc game titles of Fallout and Borderlands. So for any kids spouting off that Fury Road looks like a retread of a few videogames you have played in the past few years, nah…those games are the retreads of Miller’s world that was created over thirty years ago.
…and since Max (and George Miller) have both been away from The Wasteland for awhile, I expected some slight changes to unfold in this effort. First – Max Rockatansky – I totally dug the way Miller reintroduces him. It’s nuts and perfectly sets up the tone of the film. The casting of Hardy works, as I couldn’t help but think of Hardy’s role in the 2014 “all-in-a-car” drama Locke. Then seeing what he does here with Max as some sort of “Alternative-Universe” version of another man who lost his family.
Hardy’s Max has damn near become the The Feral Child from the second film of this series. A “wandering animal” haunted by his past, and probably has not spoken or used his voice in many years (except to himself). His arc was interesting to me considering I was expecting the usual montage exposition, and wink winks to fans of the Mad Mel era, while also catering to modern audiences that need everything explained. George Miller’s choice to go the other way though for this iconic character was a bold one, and it’s one I really dug all throughout while watching Hardy.
Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is near “Ellen Ripley” level of action heroine pretty much from beginning to end. She is the protagonist that sets everything we see into motion. Revenge, redemption, revolution. A woman who has been a part of something she is ashamed of perhaps. Her prosthetic additions, shaved head, steering wheel grease war paint, and respect she receives from the War Boys army tells us this woman has been through the ringer due to the powers that be within The Citadel. While Nick Hoult’s wild and earnestly sympathetic Nux, the Five Wives, and colorful War Party contributors all have defined motivations. Some with no dialogue at all, yet the themes of the film still pop up clearly from one character or another as Fury Road does take some character breaks amidst the unrelenting chase.
As the film rolls along, the patriarchal vs. matriarchal themes flow into the story. Also dictator’s still exist in the year 2060, and young men still give themselves blindly to belief systems (like the warmongering of old men in charge & cult like religions) and are willing to die for them. King Immortan has done well for himself during his reign, perhaps in his eyes he has restored humanity. But you get the sense some really messed up stuff has taken place over the years at The Citadel. Another thing I noticed was that save for the unsullied Five Wives and Max, in this world, nearly everyone is “modified”. Just as much as the larger than life War Party vehicles.
Human to human symbiosis is another theme present. Nux whose life span is ticking away, shares more than just his War Party vehicle “front grill jail rig” with Max. Immortan needs Splendid and her sisterhood of Five Wives, not only as an ego satisfying kingly possessions, but as healthy polygamy prodigy’s for his possible heir. We come to see that Furiosa needs Max too. For as battle hardened as she is, her plan opposes too strong a force to take on alone.
The similar pre & post credit title cards of fun character names (like the previous movies) are present here. With a few little easter eggs in the film calling back to the originals. Music engineer/producer turned recent film composer Tom “Junkie XL” Holkenberg’s score also adds some symphonic beef to the mayhem, as it shifts organically from pulse pounding percussion, to heroic soaring synth. Add some battle cry metal from The Doof Warrior and his Taiko drumming buddies as the Doof Wagon rolls the War Party along. Holkenborg also has some hints of possibly Brian May inspired melodramatic pieces in Fury Road.
Of course you cannot forget the amazing stunt crew and camera/editing departments. From the physical work of the actors, the stunt doubles, as well as the contributions from Cirque Du Soleil and Olympic athletes. With perfectly composited action shots that capture all the illusory hard work in frame towards some truly spectacular results. Not to mention the crazy awesome production designs of the War Rig, The Gigahorse, Valiant Tank, Bigfoot, and The Doof Wagon… and other tribes’ “Max Modded Vehicles” that up the ante to nearly overpowering levels compared to previous Mad Max films.
( All this I didn’t even get into The Metronomes, The Claw Cars, Vagina Dentata Chastity Belts, SuperCharger Spit Boosts Battles, War Boys’ Spear Grenades, The Milking Mothers and The Vulvalina’s )
I was thinking of some other recent “Summer of ’82 Movie” re-visits/re-imagings/pre-sequels that did not fare too well critically or commercially – The Thing, Conan The Barbarian, ST: The Wrath Of Khan – and maybe the upcoming Poltergeist. Those who may have seen The Road Warrior via a double feature with John Milius’ Conan that summer (like myself) need not worry. Miller’s latest slides right next to the first three films with ease in my opinion. Fury Road is not a reboot or a remake, it’s another tale in the “Myth of Max” (albeit a spectacular one). Like the iconic “Man With No Name” archetypes Hollywood has created over the years, this wandering anti-hero continues to be effectively eternal on the big screen.
Since I don’t have any sort of rating system I’ll just finish with this. I loved this movie. I’ve seen it twice, and still think I’ve missed some things to stare at while it plays. I shall see it multiple times before this summer ends methinks. In IMAX, 2-D, 3-D, 4DX, dollar theaters in late August.
Mad Max: Fury Road had better open everywhere on May 15th
P.S. – some Fury Road Junkie XL score in case you are reading this review in the movie snack line now.