Somewhat surprisingly, I’m not that much of an action film aficionado. I mean, I have seen a fair few but I’m not a die-hard about the subject (pardon the pun). So when Mad Max: Fury Road came out, I just thought that it was another summer blockbuster attempt. An admittedly cool looking one, but I had no inclination that this was part of a franchise, let alone a genre-defining one at that. Hell, South Park parodied it in Proper Condom Use! Now I finally understand that weird scene…
Anyway, now Mad Max: Fury Road has come along to reintroduce a new generation to the post-apocalyptic world where cars and people alike do not seem to have a good lifespan. But before explosions, fire and lots and lots of sand, the obligatory overview!
The world has gone through a slightly rough past as of recent, i.e.: civilisation has collapsed and the world has become a barren wasteland. In this we are introduce to an Australian police officer, whom we later find out (although it’s pretty damn obvious from the onset) is eponymous Max (Tom Hardy) who is very quickly captured by a gang called the War Boys.
Taken back to their base, Max is hooked up to Nux (Nicholas Hoult), an enthusiastic but ill War Boy. Meanwhile, the Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) sends out a convoy, led by the Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to Gas Town to, guess what, collect gasoline. However Furiosa has other ideas, having freed Joe’s five wives, women who have been specifically selected to breed with Immortan Joe, and takes a “detour” to find “the green place”.
Joe soon discovers this and sends his War Boys to retrieve his wives. Nux, not wanting to left out of a mission, takes Max along with him, strapping him to his car and giving chase to Furiosa. And thus a film about a monumental car chase, and a lot else besides, begins.
To get this out the way quickly since everyone and their mothers have been saying this, yes, Furiosa is a feminist bad-ass. Yes she steals the show. Yes I want to see more of her since she’s the most developed character of the lot and Charlize Theron has been given as much critical praise as her role in Monster. Am I going with anywhere with this? Not really, I just wanted to point out how brilliant Theron was in this role and how, if there isn’t a spin-off of some sort being planned for her, I would actually be put into a state of shock.
Moving onto Tom Hardy and, to be honest, I can find little to say about him. Hardy plays the lone drifter character very well, and when he needs to kill a person or twenty, he will and can with aplomb. The stoic character, while brought to life at times with great flashbacks of his son, brilliantly showing Max’s titular madness seeping through his quiet veneer, remains behind the other, more vibrant, characters in this film. And that is the genius of Max’s character as, instead of having him crowbarred in to be the hero, by remaining at the side lines and saying very little, he maintains the gruff silent exterior while his compatriots become much more unique and carrying the films messages and meanings.
Speaking of affecting the audience in more meaningful ways, we move on to possibly the most surprising character who, at least for me, really stole the show: Nux. The only thing I had seen Hoult in prior to this film was About A Boy and (without realising it) X-Men: First Class, Hoult’s prowess In this film made me seek out more of his works making me watch Warm Bodies after eternally putting it off.
But getting away from his filmography, Hoult’s portrayal of Nux, someone who I thought would be a typical grunt who acts a humorous antagonist; Hoult brings a delightful humanity and almost sweet innocence to a character that we should instinctively dislike. Nux is fantastically used as people’s wish to believe in a form of afterlife and the struggle to come to terms with reality and, while his conversion is a bit forced for my liking, the sweetness of his character, especially with his small romantic sub-plot with Capable (Riley Keogh), one of Joe’s wives.
Credit must also be given to the fact that all the wives The Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), the aforementioned Capable, Toast the Knowing (Zoë Kravitz), The Dag (Abbey Lee) and Cheedo the Fragile (Courtney Eaton) all get a useful bit of scene time between them which is quite an impressive feat. Granted they are not the first names that come to mind when recalling the film, but they are incredibly important in providing a look into women’s rights and their quite literal journey to become free people and not just property to be controlled in every regard by man.
One thing I can almost gripe with is the lack of background development of the films antagonists as, aside from being in power and being complete dicks about it, I found I knew very little about them. While it is perfectly acceptable for the villains to be the corrupt rulers, I do wish I knew more about how they ascended to that power. But then again, the film makes up for this deficiency in so many ways.
Firstly, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to this point, but this film was so much fun and it has been a while since I felt like this. Hell even Guardians of the Galaxy did not give me the same level of unbridled joy as Mad Max: Fury Road. Every scene left you wanting the next to be even more spectacular than the last and George Miller does not dare skim on action packed scenes that leaves you with a feeling of sheer unbridled joy. In an era when films are trying to be realistic, or at least gritty, to have a film being so unapologetically adrenaline boosting with a much needed relief.
Also, much to my relief and utter elation, the use of practical effects were outstanding. After being saturated with CGI for years, I had almost forgotten the sheer primal glee that practical effects cause. While Mad Max: Fury Road not devoid of CGI it is kept at the bare minimum which just makes those explosions, car crashes and flame spurting guitars all the more enjoyable. George Miller has been quoted by Business Insider as saying that he wanted to make “a film which could be understood in Japan without the use of subtitles” and, after seeing it, I can fully believe.
Mad Max: Fury Road both makes you think and shudder with primeval joy in a way that seems to be disappearing from films at late. While not skimping on important messages, it never forgets that this is just one massive car chase and lets you just sit back and enjoy the carnage for all its worth.