Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller is a curious creature in the halls of cinema, and finding the relationship between the Mad Max franchise and Happy Feet is a task only complicated by adding Lorenzo’s Oil and Babe: Pig in the City.
Mad Max: Fury Road has nothing and everything in common with Miller’s entire body of work, and the only thing that might have improved it is if Tom Hardy‘s character’s name had never been referenced within the film. More on that later.
Though the film kicks off with what is almost a commercial for itself, and rather lamely has Max eating a mutated lizard, it shoots out of the gates once Max starts moving, and it never slows down. Even during the few moments that Max is not driving, or running, the sense of urgency is so overwhelming that it somehow seems as though he’s still moving somewhere, even if only in the sense that his mind is racing.
Max (Hardy) is immediately captured by the forces of Immortant Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who is the kind of post-apocalyptic, warrior despot we have come to know and love within the franchise… except, he’s old, and hooked up to a lot of tubes. In a start that is wonderfully appreciative of the anti-hero effort we’re in, Max never really escapes. Instead, he’s as captured as one can be, transformed into a “blood bag,” the living transfusion vessels that help strengthen our world’s warriors, and only ever gets away by the fickle movements of fate.
It seems that Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is the tanker driver in charge of a trip to Gas Town, which is akin to a holiday if the pomp and circumstance, such as this world can manage, is any judge of things. Furiosa has her own plans, and she soon veers off course, and is on the run, having taken Immortant Joe’s most prized possessions, his wives. We only ever see Max again because the war boy he’s attached to, Nux (Nicholas Hoult), attaches him to the front of a car as Immortant Joe’s horde heads off in pursuit. Then it’s off to the races, with Max and Furiosa eventually coming together in a nervous truce.
The plot trails off there, largely because there isn’t time for more, but don’t let that fool you into thinking there is nothing more going on than crazy cars roaring through the desert. Miller has had 30-some years to figure out exactly where he wanted things to go, and every step is worked just so. The precision itself is where Miller clearly grew over the last few decades, and I wonder the Miller from all those years ago even imagined that the nuance and detail of Mad Max: Fury Road was possible.
It’s a film that has worlds within worlds of metal fury, explosions, and adrenaline in spray bottles of chrome nirvana, but the fireworks and engine-roaring, while spectacular, serve a very specific function, focusing the thematic power of the story-by-character into increasingly minute gestures. Immortant Joe screams, and his war boys whoop and chant their death calls like an old western film fort is under attack. The “regular” populace gnashes its teeth in a world gone mad, and everyone with a way to kill someone tears against their leash like a wild dog. Every second of the film is dizzying in pace, to the extent that you feel that if anyone stopped moving the movie itself would tear them in half. Furiosa, on the other hand, never so much as raises her voice, but despite “saving” a few women, she is a product of her world as much as anyone else, and nothing in the film matches the rage of her inanimate glare.
In the end, Miller has rebuilt the genre he helped invent, only now it doesn’t just have something to say, it has the vocabulary it needs to actually say it. Better, it’s matured beyond explaining things to you.
SynopsisIn a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.