It has been thirty years since we last stepped into the world of Mad Max. Since the Tina Turner starring Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Max’s creator, George Miller, has directed very little – six films in total, three of which couldn’t be further from the violent dystopian future that Miller created with his original Max trilogy.
It’s hard to believe that the same director of Mad Max, could also be responsible for more child friendly fare such as Babe: Pig In The City and the Happy Feet films, yet if you were to really think about, Miller has always maintained his appreciation for the weird and unusual. I mean, a musical with tap dancing penguins? Really?
With Mad Max: Fury Road, the long gestating and much troubled reboot of the franchise – complete with a new Max Rockatansky, in the shape of an appropriately mumbling Tom Hardy – Miller has conceived a certifiably insane masterpiece, that simultaneously takes the action genre back to basics, whilst using modern day technology to make it feel current.
At a time where the summer blockbuster is often Bay-ified; where big and loud action films are constructed with CGI that either looks video-gamey, or made impossible to admire because of the frantic nature of fight scenes; it’s as if Miller, aged 70, has had enough, and has returned to school the new generation of film directors on how it should be done.
Organised chaos are the words that spring to mind when trying to describe this kinetic experience – and it is an experience that deserves to be seen on the biggest, most loudest screen possible. Running at two hours long, with a straightforward premise, there isn’t a single wasted second, as the film plays like an extended car chase of crunching metal and flaming frenzy.
There’s a lot going on visually – people slice through the air on poles, vehicles of all shapes and sizes collide, and there’s even a large truck that has a guitar player scoring all of the action. Like a great composer though, Miller orchestrates the mayhem into something controlled, something almost beautiful. There’s a lot of moving parts, but each fits perfectly into place and the result is a well choreographed ballet of bullets and explosions.
Perhaps what’s most impressive is the fact that 80% of the visual effects seen on screen, are all practical – proof that CGI isn’t always necessary when crafting an action film. You can feel all the hard work that has gone into the film’s production and for that alone, Fury Road is a truly admirable piece of film-making: a bold statement that raises the bar high for future summer blockbusters.
There’s no denying the spectacle of Fury Road, but it works on multiple levels. It’s light on plot – Max goes on the run from Immortan Joe and his army of crazed War Boys, who want to re-capture Joe’s five wives – but I loved the simplicity of it all. Some have complained that it lacks character development, but I disagree. The changes to character’s motivations and intentions don’t happen in grand, sweeping gestures, but in subtle glances, or the simple movement of a hand – which seems appropriate for a film whose lead character predominantly grunts.
That said, Max isn’t really the lead character in his own film, with Charlize Theron’s Furiosa sharing equal screen time with the titular hero. Thankfully Furiosa is a a fantastic creation, and welcome addition to the franchise; a strong female co-lead, who has the same DNA as Ripley from the Alien series. It’s her prescence – as well as a group of other kick ass females – that makes Fury Road just as much as feminist statement, as it is an enjoyable thrill ride.
Theron steals the spotlight – surprisingly Skins star, Nicholas Hoult, is a close second, as a War Boy eager to impress his master – with a performance that speaks volumes through the eyes and slight facial gestures. Tom Hardy is great as Rockatansky and he does what he has to do well, but his role is limited to the action hero this time around.
The monumental success of Fury Road really does come back to franchise mastermind, George Miller, and the fully realised post-apocalyptic world he has brought to life on screen. It’s a twisted creation, filled with grotesque characters: it’s weird, but sort of wonderful.
Away from the action, the imagery in display throughout the film is so bonkers, that I’d be surprised if you see something as visually arresting for quite some time. The cinematography by the great John Seale is stunning, utilising an orange and yellow colour scheme which enhances the whole experience, as if the dust from the film is being kicked up all around you. It’s all very aesthetically pleasing, and the playfulness surrounding the film’s soundtrack – equally diegetic and non-diegetic – is a great addition.
Mad Max: Fury Road is simply a modern day classic: a relentless action film on the grandest scale, that plays like an adrenaline laced, drug fuelled trip. As refreshing as the sparse water found in the film’s desert, it plays to an older audience and relies on the collaborative process of film-making, as opposed to the technical capabilities of a computer. The performances are all great, but it’s the brain popping action and the amazing visuals that really elevate the film into the highest realms of filmic heaven.
With Tom Hardy apparently signed on for three more films, I hope it doesn’t take another thirty years before we see Mad Max take to the screen again – especially if he’s joined by Theron’s Furiosa. The question is how do you top something as brilliant as this? But I get the impression that Miller is really just getting started.
What a lovely day indeed.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com