Thursday, 21 May 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by George Miller

I've never seen a previous Mad Max film. In fact, when the trailers were coming out, I figured this could be a pretty good movie, but didn't really care to see it. I didn't think much of it until the weeks leading up. The buzz was really strong, but I've also become such a Tom Hardy fan girl, so I started keeping an eye on early reviews. And once it landed it's 98% on RottenTomatoes, I knew I very, very much wanted to see this new fantastic Tom Hardy movie.

Mad Max: Fury Road is pretty much one long car chase film. The main plot being about Immortan Joe's five wives, and that they've escaped his clutches. The wives begged Imperator Furiosa, a one-armed woman who has worked her way up to become a war rig driver, to smuggle them out. So when Furiosa gets sent on a trip to collect gasoline and bullets (which are scarce), she goes off path, hoping to deliver these wives (and herself) to freedom. This doesn't go unnoticed, so Immortan Joe sends his war boys out to recapture his wives and stop Furiosa. Enter Max, who has been captured by the war boys and is being used as a blood bag to Nux, a war boy determined to die with a purpose so he can be delivered to the gates of Valhalla. He straps Max to the front of his vehicle so that the blood donation can continue, but Max ultimately finds himself in the company of Furiosa and the wives. While untrusting of each other at first, they come to help each other out so that both can seek freedom from their individual captivities.

Thankfully, you don't have to have seen the previous 3 Mad Max movie (which came out over 30 years ago) in order to truly enjoy this newest installment. I'm sure there are definitely benefits to seeing the previous ones, and I'm sure there were tons of Easter eggs for fans. But Mad Max is hardly about Max, really. Max almost serves as the eyes for the audience, though he does still get to do some awesome fighting sequences. This story is more about Furiosa and the wives she's helping to escape. And you get completely swept up in the simplistic, but expertly executed, story.

The thing I enjoyed most about this movie (and trust me, there is a lot to love here), but I loved that Mad Max never tried to be anything more than it was. George Miller is aware he's making an action movie, and doesn't try to make it anything it isn't. It embraces it's genre and executes it at the absolute best. The story is simple, which is what makes the film so good. The story is enough to satisfy as a film, but it also leaves room for incredible action sequences and plenty of world-building and character development. Rare within the action genre, Miller trusts his audience. Much of the world-building isn't given to us in voice-over explanation (though some is), but a lot of it is simply shown as it's currently operating in Max's world, and doesn't feel the need to explain further. Miller trusts that, if no explanation is given, the audience is smart enough to either figure it out themselves, or leaves it to the imagination. This is the kind of filmmaking that I always appreciate. And because of the trust, the world-building, character development and the incredible action sequences, the film is really amazing. The little things that aided the world building (like the Warboys spray painting their mouths when they're about to become martyrs) is really cool. Attention to detail and just general aesthetic is something that only seems to be half-done in most action movies, but I love how much of it was here. As well, the fact that something like 90% of the effects in the film are live-action, and very little green screen is impressive. I loved finding that out and knowing that so much of what I saw was actually "real" was really cool.

One thing that seemed to be a cause for mild "controversy", is how feminist the film is. Apparently there were even some Men's Rights Activists who called for a boycott. But the thing is, this film isn't so much "feminist" or having some sort of "agenda" as it is a movie that actually has multiple female characters, with actual character development, and is treated with complexity and respect. The camera never sexualizes Furiosa or the 5 wives. Even though they are essentially sex slaves, and are dressed in scant clothing, the wives are never treated as less than a human being. In fact, during much of the action, they are helping fight, determined for survival, and for the survival or Furiosa and Max. They are not fragile damsels in distress. They are damsels in distress who are willing to help fight for their own freedom, and for each others lives. Furiosa, as well, is treated with respect, and as a human being. Miller doesn't try to give  her a reason for being as tough and determined as she is. The closest we get is the branding on her neck, the same one Max is given at the beginning of the film, after being captured by the Warboys. We know she has a past or some sort, but Miller doesn't need to give her a reason to be determined for freedom and redemption. Charlize Theron is just so cool in this movie. She rocks the buzz cut and she even looks so killer with that grease smeared all over her face. Charlize Theron was perfect casting, cause that woman is so awesome! Her performance was great.

And I know this film is really about the women, but I couldn't not talk about the men! Tom Hardy is literally the man. Seriously, he's so awesome. I will watch pretty much anything he does, nowadays and it's pretty much always rewarding. Hardy doesn't have too much to do here, but even when he doesn't have much to do, he always gives it his all. As well, I was really impressed with Nicholas Hoult. Playing the Warboy named Nux, who spends a chunk of the movie attached via chains and blood line to Max, Nux was also given an appropriate and lovely amount of character building when his character could've easily just been a smaller background character. His transformation and story is really solid and I love where Miller went with it.

The production design, costumes, make-up and just the general aesthetic is just so much fun in this film. It's so over the top, but it really adds to the world building and makes it stand out. It's ridiculous and awesome. Also, how could I not mention the huge float-like-vehicle that had several men playing drums on the back, and at the front was some huge stage with enormous amps and a guy on bungy cords playing a flame-throwing guitar, playing the metal riffs for the battle music. So cool! Like, seriously, so much fun. And the score by Junkie XL is also really, really awesome. It reminded me a bit of some of the work Zimmer did for The Dark Knight Rises, but it was like more electronic and cool and fit the movie to a tee. It gave the movie even more intensity and made the stakes feel higher. It really complimented the film and Junkie XL seems to have been a perfect choice.

Anyway, this review has gotten way too long. But there's just so much awesome stuff to say about this movie! While I found the beginning a little tricky to understand where exactly Max had come from and what was happening with him, in the end it didn't matter because the story in front of me just swept me away. The performances, the stunts, the visual effects, the visuals in general were just all so fantastic. Mad Max knew exactly what kind of movie it was, and didn't pretend to be anything else. It didn't try to distract with witty dialogue or have romance story lines. It's an escape film and a car chase action film, and it knew exactly that. And knowing what kind of movie it is and not pretending it was anything else was refreshing and the movie was that much better because of it.


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