Film Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

So it’s time for the 5th film of 2015 I was desperate to see – Mad Max: Fury Road. Director George Miller returning to his post apocalyptic roots with the fourth instalment in what has become something of a cult series, the mind bending nuttiness of a world gone feral is released again, 30 years since we last walked it’s dunes and 14 years since the film was developed.

When musing about why I wanted to see this film so badly I said that I didn’t actually buy into the original trilogy. That I found it confusing, far-fetched and hard to pin down in the timeline of human evolution. And I was worried that Mad Max: Fury Road would simply ignite all those problems again, and that however grand and visceral the trailer may appear I would be left wondering why there was all this fuss about Max Rockatansky. A man I just found a little bit too mad for me.

Tom Hardy - Mad Max: Fury Road

However, I really shouldn’t have worried. This time around none of those original problems really come to the surface, mainly because unlike the original trilogy, Mad Max: Fury Road simply keeps it’s mouth shut. Like Max throughout this film, it’s voice muted by a gag. This is a visual film. You need to watch it on the biggest screen possible. Gone are any idea of character development, or narrative discussions about how or why the earth is like it is or why characters behave like they do. This is an onslaught for your eyes not your ears.

And this lack of speech is best highlighted by Mad Max himself. He doesn’t say anything, well virtually anything. If he has 20 lines in the whole film I’d be impressed and he spends more time grunting and moaning than Timothy Spall in Mr Turner. It’s been 30 years since the end of the original films, and so Max mk1Mel Gibson – has been replaced by Tom Hardy, and sadly, I just don’t think he works. He isn’t Max. Because there are so few lines of dialogue this time around, because things are so visual, you are instantly forced to compare the imagery of old Max versus new and Hardy just looks wrong. He somehow looks too big and too aggressive. He looks like a fighter, uncomfortable at times in the role rather than a loner just trying to survive. Thankfully though you can for large parts gloss over this because even though his name is on the title he actually has nothing more than a minor role in the film.

Nicholas Hoult & Charlize Theron - Mad Max: Fury Road

The mantle of the leading light shines directly onto Charlize Theron, who not only looks virtually unrecognisable from any role I’ve seen her in before (Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman, Hancock) but also manages to bring a strength and clarity to the film that reminded me more of the characteristics and basic survival instinct that I remember in Mel Gibson’s Max. She is the character that feels most real and the character you emotionally side with. Hardy’s Max just grates to the point you almost don’t care what happens to him, Theron’s Imperator Furiosa gets under your skin and asks for your compassion. Which I was glad to give. I must also say that Nicholas Hoult as Nux created more empathy and a bigger impression on me than Max. Like I said, Hardy just doesn’t work for me; call him Rockatansky, call him Bob, just don’t call him Max.

Once you’ve realised though this film isn’t going to start a debate about anything, or even bother to back fill a story. Once you’ve met the characters, learnt their names and realised that’s as far as they are going to open up, you just have to sit back and marvel at the sheer size and madness of the explosive sand pit in which the film is set. It is an absolute work of art that feels so immersive and engulfing. The size and scale of everything, the outlandishness of it’s ideas every increasing, but it’s so bonkersly out there you instantly accept it. But more so, everything feels real and caressing. You almost feel the grit of the sand against your skin, the thirst at the back of your throat and the heat from the dark and temperate fire. Sadly though, however much the world spreads around you and potentially hurts you as it hurts the characters, because the plot is none existent and the characters so under developed there is actually a point, bang on half way, where I momentarily withdrew from the film because it’s plot suddenly became infantile in idea. It dropped down to a level that was just a bit too simplistic and I actually felt I didn’t want to see it take the path it chose. It felt like the film was copping out because it just wanted to return back to a visual, high octane and explosive car chase. It paused for breath for just a little bit too long, that it’s route to get back going again just felt potentially boring.

Vehicles - Mad Max: Fury Road

It’s only a fleeting complaint though, because when the engines spring back into life, the films encompassing strengths come flooding instantly back to the front. All the recycling of parts and over the top inventions that I remember from the trilogy, the needs must construction and  weaponry of war are brought back and in fact, I’d go as far as to say that the second car chase is more emotional than the first, moments of anxiety and tension; the” will they won’t they” potential outcome flooding through me, so much so, that there was even one moment my heart even skipped a beat with panicked anticipation and fear.

I really enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road. I was worried that the best bets would be in the trailer but they’re not. By a long, long way. It’s certainly the best of the “Mad Max” films, but it needs to be also mentioned that it’s not really a Mad Max film. For me, Max isn’t there and it shouldn’t take his name. Watch it though, because what it is is a masterful piece of film making, edited brilliantly, that knows when to run like a madman and when to stop for breath, it brings every piece of insane lunacy and deranged hysteria that made the first trilogy so fresh and original back and slams them into your face, without anything feeling heavy or preachy or diluting and dragging it down.

9 out of 10 stars (9 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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