Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New Release! Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

The opening scene. Things are about to get totally bananas
over that horizon, Max.
No Spoilers!!

Director: George Miller

This movie is ridiculous fun, with a nice dash of stylish social commentary.

Right off, I'll admit that I've never seen all of the original 1979 Mad Max, though I know the gist of the story. I have seen The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome plenty of times. The former is an all-time great movie, while the latter is solid fun, though with some lamer elements that dilute it. Overall, I was rather curious about this reboot of an iconic and original film series.

My curiosity paid off. Big time.

In brief, Fury Road offers the goods on all sorts of levels. Right from the opening scenes, the action gets pumping right along and never really lets up. Yes, there are a few necessarily slower moments, but they give us time to breath with the characters and never drag any longer than necessary. This is something that went far awry in Thunderdome's second act. No such trouble here.

The entire post-apocalyptic world of the series has been updated marvelously. With modern technology and a massive budget, George Miller absolutely went to town. The set pieces are incredible; the countless props and costumes each suggest stories which beg to be told; and the effects and stunts are everything a summer blockbuster could possibly offer. Though fast cars and explosions do little for me, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the fast-paced and cleverly-shot pursuits that were hallmarks of the original trilogy.

Yes, that's Charlize Theron with a robotic left arm. Yes,
her character Furiosa is even more badass than she looks.
There are, in my estimation, two things that elevate Fury Road beyond a simple slam-bang monster truck rally set in the desert. One is that the tale functions as a clear allegory for modern global problems. It takes a little while to be introduced to all of the elements in it, but they are there in their amusing and disturbing glory. While this could have been executed in very clumsy ways, Miller teases them out through the narrative, piece-by-piece. Once you see the full picture, it may seem rather obvious, but I was glad that I was allowed to do the work myself, rather than have some superfluous exposition ruin the magic of it. It all spoke to a respect for the viewer which I found quite welcome.

The second aspect that sets the movie apart is the character Furiosa, played by the ever-capable Charlize Theron. This is the rare moment when a female is given equal footing with a male in an action movie. One could actually argue that Furiosa is more important to the film than Max. What I loved even more is that, while gender plays a certain key element to the plot, it is never any kind of issue in terms of who Furiosa is or what she does. She's not tough "for a woman." She's just plain old tough. It's great to see.

I'm already plotting my second viewing of this dusty monster, envisioning just how much more fun it will be to behold in 3D. I recommend this one to just about anyone who doesn't mind some visceral action and disturbing implications underlying their action movies.