“The world is fire and blood”
Yet again, we have another remake/belated sequel from the 1980s. Initially, I read the news of a new Mad Max film with the greatest of cynicism. Mad Max was, in my mind, join the ranks of remakes/belated sequels like Robocop, Total Recall, Prometheus (prequel, yes, but you get my drift) and a host of unimaginative cash-ins on 70s/80s nostalgia. After seeing the trailer, my interest perked up. After watching the film itself, I could slap myself for how wrong I was about Mad Max: Fury Road. Much like The Matrix and Die Hard, Mad Max redefines the action genre. Not only that, but it leaves every action movie from the past decade or so looking like they were filmed during amateur hour. Mad Max is perhaps the purest action movie I’ve seen for a long time.
The plot is simple and straight to the point. In a post-apocalyptic future, Max (played by Tom Hardy) is captured by the army of King Immortan Joe. The King rules the Citadel by controlling the water supply. He also sends out convoys to procure petrol. Furiosa (played by Charlize Theoron) is heading one convoy, but unbeknownst to the King, she also has several of his brides…and is taking them to the ‘Green Place.’ Max ends up joining her, after breaking free, and they fight (and drive) for survival.
The plot, like the desert, is merely the backdrop to the chase scene that extends across the movie’s length. In Mad Max’s case, it isn’t the catch that matters, but the chase. And what a chase it is. Our modern brains have been polluted by CGI and bland city-destroying cinema. Just look at the trailer for San Andreas, for example. Yes, it has The Rock in it. But what separates it visually from something like 2012? In the two Avengers films, both end with hundreds of generic CGI enemies attacking a city. We rarely see anything ‘real’ in terms of action on the silver screen.
“Out here, everything hurts”
But in Mad Max, the purity of action is matched by the purity of the visuals. The world the cars aren’t computer generated. The cars are real and worn and rusted. When they hit each other, they hit each other with sparks and dents. The first chase scene, involving hedgehog-like spiked cars and Furiosa’s oil tanker, is only a taster of what’s to come. When The King’s army join the action, my jaw dropped. Spear bombs, big-ass cranes, saws, people leaping from car to car as if crossing the road, a rock band blasting out heavy metal on a car…Every inch of the screen is filled with action. That’s just for starters. Later, motorbikes are involved, masses of vehicles, massive trucks. Just thinking about the action scenes make me want to go back and watch it again!
It’s not just the chase scenes (which heighten in quality until the catastrophic yet beautiful and awesome final chase scene) that delight the eyes. From start to finish, the film is a visual treat. Our first visit to the Citadel showers us with treats; from a breast milk factory of sorts to a shrine to wheels (are cars the new religion?) to a host of radiation-ridden bleached white people. The desert vistas, from day to night, are characters of their own.
It could be said that the characters don’t really matter in a film like Mad Max. To a degree, that’s true. They are vehicles to propel the action along. Neither Max or Furiosa are given much of a backstory. However, it’s how they fill the time on the screen that matters. Max develops from a lonely, quiet survivor to a mumbling (Hardy sometimes segues into his Bane voice for some reason) hero, looking for redemption. And that’s what the film is about: redemption and hope. Furiosa explains that redemption is her reason for saving the bride. We don’t know why she needs redemption. But in the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max, rationality doesn’t exist. All that exists are primal emotions and the quest for survival. We learn almost nothing about Max, for example, apart from his wife and child died. They taunt his nightmares, and his waking life, but we are never told how they died. Max doesn’t believe in hope, but begins to believe during the film. He thus aids Furiosa and the brides not out of a selfish desire for survival, but a desire for redemption.
“They’re looking for hope”
However, Max is not the star of the show. It’s Furiosa’s ride he first steals, then hitches a ride on. She is the prime moving force for most of the film. Theoron ferocity smashes the screen as much as the vehicular destruction. It’s easy to extract notions of feminism from the film. Most of the men are hateful, spiteful people. It’s only when they come into contact with women that they are ‘tamed’ (well, as tamed as someone can be in a fight for survival). Max’s heart is turned by Furiosa and the brides. Nux (played by Nicholas Hault) starts out as an acolyte of the King’s, using Max as a blood donor. After humiliating himself in front of the King, Nux is comforted by one of the brides. He then begins to help Furiosa and co to find ‘hope.’
A action film with feminism at the centre of it? Surely not? Of course, with a loose plot like Mad Max, plenty of things can be stripped out of context and used to prove a particular theory. So much is presented on the screen with little explanation. That’s my only minor problem with Mad Max: Fury Road. So many ideas and visuals are shown for a few seconds, only to be ignored. Fury Road presents us with plenty of ideas that could be used in sequels or spin-offs. Let’s hope we do get a sequel to it. What I witnessed left my mind exhausted. From the design to the visuals to the stripped-down dialogue, Mad Max doesn’t beat about the bush. Straight to the action. Pure, unadulterated, REAL action. And, even in a world of man-made hell, there is hope at the end.
VERDICT: 9/10. Has to be seen to be believed. Blows every other action movie from the past decade or so out of the water. Under-developed in plot, but over-developed in action. Here’s to the death of CGI!!!!