Mad is good5/20/2015
It has been 36 years since director George Miller introduced the world to Max Rockatansky. Now, three decades after the last installment of the franchise, comes “Mad Max: Fury Road.” With this installment, Warner Bros. has handed Miller the keys to the studio and allowed him unfettered opportunity to be as weird as he likes, and the result is glorious. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is gorgeous, exhilarating and completely bat-shit insane.
The “Fury Road” Max, played with single-minded intensity by Tom Hardy, is a different beast from the character that Mel Gibson initially made famous, though the basics remain pretty much the same. Max’s wife and child have been killed, and Max is hounded as much by the guilt from their deaths as he is by the Gas Gangs that roam the countryside. After a brief monologue that tells you literally everything you need to know about Max as a character, Miller steps on the gas and the film is off and running.
After being captured by the War Boys, a gang with a leader named Immortan Joe who is half Godfather/half Messiah figure, Max is turned into a living blood bank, shoved in a cage with a catheter in his jugular, ready to supply blood to any War Boy who ends up wounded or sickly.
It is at this point that we are introduced to Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), driver of the aptly named “War Rig.” Furiosa is sent off by Immortan Joe to collect gasoline from a nearby town but quickly takes the Rig off course for her own plans. Once Immortan Joe realizes what Furiosa has stolen (no spoilers here; it is better when it is revealed naturally), he sends a group of War Boys out to retrieve her, which is how Max finds himself spending most of the first half hour of the film strapped to the grill of a supercharged Chevy coupe, supplying blood to a War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult).
Everything that follows stems from that simple point: Furiosa has something that Immortan Joe wants back. Miller’s story is as lean and mean as it can get, but stunningly effective. Not a word is wasted, and a single, superfluous character does not populate the world of “Fury Road.” Every person who appears on screen has a clear and direct objective, whether it be complete human domination or simply to stand atop a screaming, 50-foot tall wall of speakers, armed with nothing but a flame throwing electric guitar and the desire to spur people on to battle through the power of heavy metal riffs.
Ironically, the character whose motivation is the easiest to misunderstand is Max. But as mentioned before, the opening monologue tells you everything you need to know about him. He has been reduced to a man driven by one purpose: survival. As such, despite his name being in the title, none of the two-hour adrenaline rush that happens after that monologue actually has much to do with Max. The chases and explosions swirl and crash around him, but he is secondary to all of it.
No, this film actually belongs to Furiosa. And in the execution of her portrayal, Theron is nothing short of marvelous. Indeed, the entirety of “Fury Road” has a strong feminist bent to it, starting with Furiosa and continuing down through every female in the film, including the group of aged Vuvalini, led by 80-year old Melissa Jaffer as the Keeper of the Seeds.
There is nothing I could put on this printed page that would do the film sufficient justice. If you love action films, art-house films, strong female performances, chase scenes or unyielding, never-ending excitement, do not miss this film. CV