Mad Max: Fury Road Review

So Mad, So Furious

Engines rev before a frame of actual film cuts across the screen. Mad Max: Fury Road can’t wait so it begins with the studio splash logos.

The film has an instinctive sense for energy. It’s raucous, loud, and adrenaline-injected to extreme levels but never tiring. Narrative through action; it’s a skill. Fury Road is the elder bearded sensei of the genre, a master. Correction: the master.

Cars explode. A lot. The actual number is incalculable outside of budget sheets. Bodies fly, guns fly, cars fly. They should have introduced a pig and made it fly too, because why not? Fury Road is as freakish and distorted as mainstream filmmaking comes, fitted with filthy imagery and sand-staining violence in metaphorical buckets. It is amongst the first – if not the first – to fully realize live action cinema as a video game and then proceed to trump the interactive form with a swell of expressive, in-action storytelling techniques.

Fury Road satisfies the pieces needed for the adult fairy tale. It’s gruesome, cold, vicious, and outlandish. There are princesses and damsels (with shotguns, but still) intermixed with a story of nuclear annihilation told with the pace of a music video flickering under a strobe light.

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The world has changed. People starve. They thirst. They live under an always exposed sun. Still, Fury Road treats them as a sociological experiment. Mad Max progenitor George Miller’s finished work is a boisterous statement. Between the categorically prime explosions and exuberant plot shifts in a movie linearly trying to reach Point B from A, Fury Road speaks, always visually. There are few words. The script needed only to be half the length of traditional films. “Cut to extreme car chase.” And so it does for 30 riveting minutes as if it’s normal. A new normal, maybe although for a wasteland low on fuel reserves, they sure do use a lot of gas.

Theron’s Imperator Furiosa cuts a wide patch of feminism through the brutish heart of this traditional guy flick…

While pasty, cult-ish people are being flipped through windshields and their midsections are stomped by monster trucks, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa cuts a wide patch of feminism through the brutish heart of this traditional guy flick made of oil, smoke, engines, and heavy metal. This is an unorthodox blockbuster, a generation’s Aliens or Terminator flexing feminine muscles, and as good, nay great, as those too. Mad Max (gruff spoken Tom Hardy) – quite literally – hangs on as the ride begins and continues to do so throughout.

Importantly, this is not a “female Mad Max.” Separation is necessary to distinguish Fury Road from tiresome, pandering Barbie doll cinema. A female Hangover, a female Ghostbusters; movies are being made like toy aisles. It’s insulting. Hollywood clothes women in pink. They must wear dresses and kiss in the rain.

Furiosa soaks in Castrol and drives a big rig named War Machine. She can play with any toy from any aisle, so where is her action figure?

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With a sarcastic wink, Fury Road has the gusto to insinuate it’s milking a gendered audience – again, literally. But instead, this is a logical extension of the franchise. Instructions on world building are provided for those interested, 120-minutes worth. Max lives among an intellectually perverse stand-in for relevant issues of domestic abuse, objectivity, and rape culture while simultaneously showing the inherent cruelty of these surroundings. Women break their bonds – literally, times three – and those same shackles in due time may come to represent more about this industry’s progressivism than can be realized now. Mere glancing blows toward the world’s unhealthy reliance on energy and religious idealism stack Fury Road’s allegorical deck. Another social maturation of the medium is inbound regardless. Men and women this equal makes evolution inevitable, if this film has not singularly made the jump already.

… such a film should not be doing this much with so little purpose.

Retrospective will brand Fury Road as a classic or masterpiece. It’s close now, anyway. Thinking broadly, such a film should not be doing this much with so little purpose, mercifully re-aligning the rules and editing systems for action films. Vehicles flip gracefully because the camera, the physical camera rather than a digital one, appreciates choreographed motion.

And that’s Fury Road, a consistent piece of kineticism without a pause or break. “E” Buzzwords swirl. Exhilarating; exciting; extreme; extravagant; enthralling. All of them are fair, because Fury Road reverses the blockbuster. It rewrites them, switches their priorities to something meaningful, and erupts with visual obscenities of the best kind. A lovely day indeed.

Movie ★★★★★ 

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