"Mad Max - Fury Road"
I can’t claim to be a “Max Max” person.
I’ve seen all the films in the Mel Gibson phase of the series, quite possibly in reverse order – I definitely saw “Mad Max 3 - Beyond Thunderdome” first, in the cinema, and was not especially impressed. I was, nevertheless, attracted to “Mad Max – Fury Road” by excellent reviews, promising action cinema at its most visceral.
It certainly delivers in terms of visuals – there’s a lot of fast driving, and inaccurate shooting, and things getting blown up, with a minimum of ridiculously obvious CGI. George Miller’s story-telling, however, is a little confusing, possibly intentionally.
We are introduced, in a kind of hallucinogenic montage, to nominal hero Max, riven by grief, in an apocalyptic Australia where everyone looks like characters in Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys” video. This is a world where, following the nuclear holocaust, natural resources – gasoline, water, healthy babies – are scarce and constantly fought over.
Max is captured by a warlord, and used as a mobile blood-bank as his captors go to war. Meanwhile, female warrior Imperator has kidnapped some of the chief’s wives and makes for a place of supposed sanctuary, pursued by… ooh, all sorts of grotesque people.
“Fury Road” will only work for those who buy into the aesthetic; I‘m afraid I didn’t – I took the flame-throwing double-necked guitar as a warning-sign. Much of the acting is cartoonish – again, perhaps calculatedly, since we aren’t meant to care about most of the minor characters.
For me, the film only comes alive in the middle section, as Tom Hardy’s Max develops an alliance with Charlize Theron’s Furiosa. She is, indeed, the best thing about this film, a fearless, resourceful and emotionally vulnerable one-armed war-machine. Despite his tragic back-story, Hardy’s Max has less emotional weight to carry, so is hard to identify with. An unrecognisable Nicholas Hoult is rather more effective as their accidental ally who seeks an Al-Qaeda-esque glorious death in order to come back to life in a better world.
Some critics have perceived fetishization in the way that the wives (amongst them Zoe Kravitz and Rosie Huntington-Whitely) are depicted as sex-objects. But then, their characters are commodities, valuable as potential mothers; sexiness comes with the territory. And it’s sunny – why would they wear overcoats?
“Fury Road” is very well done, on a technical level, and its “look after your planet” message is more profound than one might expect from a comic-book movie. Theron aside, though, I found it hard to enjoy.