“So I exist in this wasteland. I am the only one that runs both from the living, and the dead. Hunted by scavengers, haunted by those I could not protect.” – Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky
Bottom line: At first glance, “Mad Max” is your average explosive, male-driven summer blockbuster, but the furious Furiosa easily takes over a film, and more importantly, changed the way filmmakers approach the genre in the future.
Director George Miller took a while, but after several decades, his return to the world of Mad Max carries an amazing amount of symbolism in the midst of expensive explosions.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” doesn’t play by the big-budget rules. Instead, Miller presents a social experiment, but leaves out any direct notion that it is an experiment. He just let’s us waft in an inviting cloud of feminism and post-apocalyptic mayhem without addressing the fact that Max takes a backseat to a much more riveting story.
In a vast desert landscape, humanity is crippled. Society has collapsed to the point where water and other basic necessities are a delicacy. Within this broken world are two rebellious characters creating their own path.
Max is man of few words, but the loss of his wife and child drives him to survive. Not only does he roam the sparse desert wasteland enduring like the rest of the world, but his struggle to find peace of mind lingers. Then there’s Furiosa, a woman of action who sees her path to survival can only become a reality if she returns to her childhood homeland. Their paths collide, and they find a similar interest when a warlord is after his “wives” that Furiosa freed before betraying him. Once the narrative stage is set, vehicular warfare takes over as our heroes race to safety.
The film is a lengthy, adrenaline-fueled battle, and Miller methodically staged each sequence to match a comfortable pace for such a thrilling concept. His minimal use of CGI is the talk of the town — and for good reason. We often go to the movies and see a computer-generated spectacle that’s blatantly impossible, but the majority of what happens on screen in “Fury Road” actually happened.
Practical effects in a big-budget action flick such as this take much more thought and consideration to pull off than diluting the story with CGI, but when successful, it provides an inspiring viewing experience. Miller vibrantly delivers everything we need to know about the characters and the world surrounding them without dialogue controlling the narrative.
The first trailer I saw for “Fury Road” looked wonderful. I was excited for a big-budget, art house action film, but it wasn’t until Entertainment Weekly wrote a piece about Furiosa’s role in the movie in an early May edition that I realized we were in for a special summer treat. Her boiling rage is what drives the film, where Max is much more level-headed and basically takes a supporting role in his own film.
Miller hired Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues,” to coach many of the women in the film, which is something every male director should take note of — especially in a Hollywood environment where sexism runs rampant (less than two percent of the 100 highest-grossing films from 2013 and 2014 were directed by women.)
“Fury Road” is the fourth film of Miller’s exciting franchise, but it doesn’t seem like a sequel. It stands as its own artistic vision. The societal implications, masterful special effects and shocking imagery doesn’t just add on to a superb anthology, but shakes up the action genre as a whole.
Fun fact: The film was originally supposed to star Mel Gibson in the title role back in 2003, but George Miller ran into problems with shooting locations, and with Gibson’s interest in The Passion of the Christ (2004), it never happened.
Run time: 120 min.
MPAA rating: R
Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent