George Miller’s return to the franchise that made him famous way back in 1979 was a long time coming and through numerous delays, changing actors and even locations, we get to see how thirty years experience in the business can change a director’s vision of their past work. Ridley Scott did it with Prometheus, how will Miller fare with Mad Max: Fury Road?
I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe how the movie is presented and the best I can come up with is that it reminds me of a graphic novel whose pages reveal spectacular vistas with shots of lone protagonists and very little dialogue separating any of it. It has been mentioned that the movie was excessively storyboarded before it was shot and that adherence to the source material reminds me of Zack Snyder’s work in 300 which made Frank Miller’s graphic novel come to life on the big screen.
If there is a key protagonist for this film, it quickly becomes apparent it’s Charlize Theron’s Furiosa once Max’s early introduction is done. The only downside is that there are introductions or context as to why she’s there until later in the film as we’re immediately thrust into her story. She’s a great character played by a brilliant actress and in terms of iconic roles I think is right up there with Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Aliens.
Tom Hardy’s Max is more like an agent of change in the film rather than the cause of it. Furiosa’s tale was beginning irrespective of Max’s own circumstances but his eventual involvement helps hers come to a satisfying end. He says very little, is haunted by the death of his family via some neat flashbacks and is quick to act. Hardy has to let his actions speak more than his voice but has what it takes and will be worth seeing again in tis role in the future. Max’s own story bookends the movie which makes me think that might be key to how the character may appear again in future films.
After Max’s kinetic introduction, the story begins with a routine supply run handled by Furiosa and backed up by a group of Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) War Boys. When she decides to take a different route on the way, we learn soon enough that it is in fact a planned escape for her secret “cargo”. Once that shift occurs, pieces of the plot start to fall into place and the urgency of these characters increases significantly.
Things aren’t always perfect with the film though – because of the way it jumps right into the action, the movie does rely on you picking up the story as it barrels along. It’s almost like we’re watching the extended cut of a film’s finale without seeing the lead up to the chase.
But that chase… is just magnificent. The cars in this film and the people responsible for them deserve some serious awards; the sheer variety of designs and constructions are unbelievable to see in action. It’s like when you were a child playing with Lego, building some fanciful object so you could blow it up but these guys have done it with cars. And these cars tend to crash pretty well too; “carnage” is the perfect word to describe what you see.
It amazes me with how close Mad Max: Fury Road gets to succeeding with its film length chase but I feel it stumbles in the roundabout way it tries to present the story as the film progresses. I suppose it’s there to also break up the action but I’m not always sure if it is necessary. Those cars often speak louder than words and I wonder if maintaining that focus would have been better.
Regardless of that, this is a movie that feels entirely fresh in how it presents itself and delivers a rare kind of action spectacle that has lately been replaced by those more reliant on CGI than stunt work. I’ve no doubt others will try to copy it but I hope Miller gets his chance to visit this universe again soon and tries to outdo himself because I don’t know if anyone else can.
And to think that the same guy responsible for this also directed Happy Feet.