THIS is a tough one for me. I cannot really hold with the massive mob of current critical acclaim, and yet, I felt the movie succeeded on a number of minor levels. I looooved the darker tone of the film. Been a while. And the action was well planned and executed. However, I sadly cannot confirm, as many critics have stated, that this film is, ‘an immediate action classic,’ or ‘one of the greatest action films ever made.’ Pardon my French, but THAT is utter bullshit.
However, the movie has some bragging rights, here and there. Charlize Theron’s character was a wonderful slow-burn of a surprise. And the fact that the story just kept moving — almost literally — was fun. Especially in lieu of my ever-fresh memory of having sat through the languid Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 1985, waiting patiently for the action to begin, only to be cheapened in the third act by a single 7 minute sequence, that really added zilch to the already well-established action pallet of Mad Max films. That … yea, that was aggravating.
But this film makes up for that. There was plenty of action here. Closer in spirit to The Road Warrior (1982); still the most popular film in the serial. And across the expanse of what is actually a very thin storyline, there were some acceptable, rich touches of absurdity to behold. Such as the rock guitarist who played during the racing battles. The strange characters that inhabit the Citadel. Bad guys flying around on poles. Even Max’s minor role in the film, turned out to be a nice touch. One that should have been accompanied by additional narration. After all, the story’s construction is begging for creatively descriptive information in places, and Max would have been the perfect person to deliver it. In this case, Max the Explainer would have been an asset, rather than a hindrance.
This, for example, would have been a welcome bit of narration:
We drove across the terminator.
I told her what I knew. She told me what she knew.
I told her I was a cop. After the first wars. Before everything turned to dust.
I told her I went deep underground when I saw the mushrooms, again.
I told her I went mad.
She said when she was young there was a place of hope.
She didn’t have to say more.
Then she told me about their leader. Immortan Joe.
That he had been in charge of building big things, before the world ended.
Things for mining. Like the Citadel.
She said that thousands of days ago, he was sometimes a rational man.
But now he was just a dumb animal.
The wastelands play games with every living thing.
And these people and things were lost among thousands of miles of it.
They were trapped here.
They would live or die here.
Just like the rest of us.
Hope was their enemy.
None of them understood that.
And it would have passed in the wink of 30-odd seconds. But alas, this was not the case. And I got more where that came from, but I will spare you the all-around torture, dependent on your chosen point-of-view.
I liked the cinematography, the music, the direction. I liked the small surprises in the way some of the images were presented. There was even a neat little connection to The Road Warrior that I really liked a lot. One of the characters in the film is playing with a small wind-up music box, which ‘Max’ fans will recognize is later seen in the hands of Max, in The Road Warrior.
Now we come to the films faults. The picture opens with imagery similar to that The Road Warrior. Trees being blown down in an atomic blast, etc. Seen it. And although there is no pavement in this film (presumably because it has been scavenged for other uses by survivors,) the initial chase is indeed similar in style and theme to that of The Road Warrior, as well. If you were hoping for something earth-shatteringly original, based upon those glowing reviews by the critical mob, forget it. And all such chases, merely repeat that motif. It’s like an a single action sequence from that second 1982 ‘Max’ film, plays out over and over again, in digital photography, complete with heavy helpings on CGI compositing.
The only mistake I caught in the film, is a single bad guy who is revealed to be hiding under the ‘War Truck,’ after our heroes have gotten away. He’s never seen again, and he never falls off the bottom of the truck. WTF !? And then there’s Tom Hardy’s voice, which sounds suspiciously exactly like ‘Bane’ in The Dark Knight Rises. And every word of it, looped. You can tell.
As stated, at the heart of the film, is a simple, fast storyline. And for all of it’s attributes and possibilities, Mad Max: Fury Road really is a solid entry among the franchise of ‘Max’ films. However, the story seemed to be headed toward somewhere profound, and on a complex level that would pair the visceral with the poignant in a wonderful ‘hindsight is 20/20’ kind’a way. But the film never quite reached said destination. Albeit a good solid action film, there is something missing here. Opinions will vary. Many will proclaim it perfect. And to each his or her own. But as a writer, myself, I can easily tell when a storyteller is holding back. Instead of planning the road ahead, director Miller should have been more focused on the road beneath our feet. Although those vehicles are tearing across a desert landscape at 90 miles per hour, we, the audience, are seated solemnly, awaiting the story to be told, in complete; right now. And much of that information is missing. Apparently planned for inclusion in another movie.
I ‘liked’ this movie. And I hope that it will grow on me. I truly do. Sadly, though, without those wonderful little nuggets of necessary STORY, an action film is always sub-par. Wish I could give it a better letter grade, but instead …