Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Film #541

THE PLOT

A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in post apocalyptic Australia in search for her homeland with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.

THE REVIEW: Mad Max: Fury Road is another film that I was very hesitant to watch for a long time. The trailer seemed weird and is quite confusing — although it deserves points for giving away no spoilers, a trend with most trailers (The Force Awakens trailers are another notable exception to the spoiler trend) — and did nothing to draw me into watching it. Only after its release in May, and many people spouting praise, did it finally come on my radar of something I should see. Now, nearly six months after its theatrical release have I finally seen this film and boy is it an amazing film.

Part of the weirdness of the trailer stems from characters like Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and the War Boys, all of whom give a very cult-like appearance to the film — just look at Joe’s suit of armor and skull-themed respirator. In trailer-form I found this off-putting because there was no context to those images. As part of the movie as a whole, I understood the significance of everything. It is a post-apocalyptic universe where Joe is the dictatorial leader that owns his female partners and wields an immense amount of control over his subjects, most of whom seem brainwashed and delusional. This description I would still classify as weird, and rightly so, but seeing it in context removes the negative associations I had with it right off the bat from the trailer.

Ok, so I no longer view Fury Road as too weird/not my kind of movie, despite it still being an odd ball. But what makes it so entertaining that I’d recommend seeing it and that vastly outweighs the negative parts of the film? Quite simply: the characters. Yes, Mad Max: Fury Road is an action film, has many ginormous set pieces, and was hailed for its large use of practical (vs. visual) effects and these elements do give the film a blockbuster quality, and one which has me wishing I saw this film when it was in theaters. However, it’s the characters and the universe they inhabit, that draws me to the film. It is hard to call someone like Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) a rich character, because despite numerous flashbacks to dead loved ones (presumably people from past Mad Max films, which I have not seen) he is quite monotonous. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is more deserving of the main character title, in addition to the multitude of other female characters, but even she seems a bit lifeless.

All the characters have a life to them and a purpose, the women especially, and are strong-willed — both someone like Nux (Nicholas Hoult) who wants to ride to the gates of Valhalla and Furiosa trying to lead Joe’s “property” to the freedom of the Green Place. The reason I view them as dull is that most of what makes the characters tick is left unsaid and up for the audience to deduce themselves, rather than through explicit exposition. Perhaps it is my lack of familiarity with the previous Mad Max films, or that there is simply a lot of backstory that is left unexplained — how were the few remaining cities founded/sustained, how did Immortan Joe rise to power, what are the different alliances/factions that inhabit the remains of the Earth? — but much of it is mysterious. Not mysterious enough that you are confused at the end or puzzled as to what happens during the film, but enough that it attracts questions and gives you something to retain your attention until the credits roll.

THE TAKEAWAY: My calling this film weird and lifeless may seem like major negatives and big reasons for avoiding Mad Max: Fury Road like the plague when in fact they aren’t meant to be detractors at all. Fury Road captures your attention and imagination in countless ways in part because it’s not like the typical blockbuster. Sure, there is an excessive (or appropriate) amount of violence and explosions and arguably little character/story development. But the strength of the characters and the story rests on what is left unsaid. In some ways I’m still in disbelief that I enjoyed Fury Road as much as I did and am not sure exactly why that is. The easiest thing for me to say is to watch it yourself and be blown away with what you see. For this is a visual journey that also does well with creating a universe, populating it with characters, and providing a purpose that draws you in until the credits roll.

THE RATING: 4 out of 5