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The Sound And Fury Of Mad Max: Fury Road

Tom Hardy-Charlize Theron-Mad Max-Fury RoadIf production design and cutting-edge stunt work were enough
to make a great movie, Mad Max: Fury Road
would be the cinematic event of the year. But even this adrenaline-fueled
action yarn has characters in it, and they are so sketchily drawn that it keeps
the film from being a total success, in spite of its many attributes.

Aussie director George Miller has lost none of the big, outlandish
ideas that made the original Mad Max and Max Max 2 (aka Road Warrior) role models for anyone staging car-chase scenes in
the 1980s. They exuded a raw, kinetic urgency that few other filmmakers were
able to duplicate, and most of what we saw was real, as CGI was yet to be
developed.

Miller has returned to this post-apocalyptic world for his
latest epic and made a point of using CGI as sparingly as possible, so we can
see that some of the most hair-raising stunts are actually being performed by
humans, in a wild menagerie of imaginatively outfitted cars and trucks.

Action junkies will get their fill, as the two-hour film
rarely pauses to take a breath. But as I watched the first act, I found myself
wondering why I felt a certain distance from the mayhem onscreen. Then I
realized: I didn’t care about any of the characters.

Tom Hardy’s Mad Max is a cypher. We learn, early on, that he
is driven by the desperate need to survive, and that he harbors terrible guilt
about the people close to him that he was unable to protect. That’s all we know.
Hardy has admitted in interviews that he didn’t understand what Miller wanted
of him during the long, arduous production of Fury Road. It shows.

Charlize Theron, game as ever, bears a magnificent name
(Furiosa) and the responsibility for helping a handful of concubines escape
from the clutches of megalomaniacal ruler Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who
appeared in the first Mad Max movie
back in 1979). Theron gives a robust physical performance as a woman whose
steely determination and road smarts serve her well. It’s only toward the end
of the story that we learn what really motivates her.

The vast landscape against which the action unfolds fills
the giant screen; it would be criminal to see this for the first time on an
iPhone. The people responsible for production and vehicle design, makeup and
costuming, and the seamless interweaving of stunt work and CGI magic can be
proud of what they have accomplished. (I saw the film in 2-D and frankly, I was
glad; I can’t imagine how overpowering it will be in 3-D IMAX.)

By the final section of the film the pulse-pounding action
is almost unbearably exciting. I finally got involved as the story was winding
down and surrendered to the grip of Miller’s amazing achievement. Mad Max: Fury Road is a fanboy’s dream
come true, full of creepy, bizarre characters, even more bizarre road vehicles,
and propulsive energy. But I stop short of calling it a great movie because it
lacks heart and soul to match its abundant energy.

15 comments

  1. Shangri-La says:

    @Loreleilee An important subject matter does not automatically make it good story telling. I liked that part of the story. Especially appreciated the scenes where Furiosa reconnects with her tribe. Reinterpreting a genre based on its gender issues is cool, but be it man or woman, I need to know something about them besides their pretty faces in order to care whether they fall from a truck or not.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Mr. Maltin is on the mark here. There is no reason to care about this story or these characters. I couldn’t get invested in it, and therefore I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

  3. anonymous says:

    A tedious and inane film. The violence and the shootings are embarrasingly stupid on so many levels.

  4. c.w.h. says:

    Hey I just wanna let you know, the reason I buy your movie guide, is because I agree with your rating. One of the movie which is so highly rated is Lord of the ring: fellowship of the ring. You gave it three stars out of four. Because of that, I am your fan. And this movie, again, you show great sense in your review, U didn’t give it a ‘great movie’ review. Keep up the good work. Cheers.

  5. ShawnKnowsMovies says:

    Oh what a day. What a lovely day! This movie is crazy, insane, glorious and straight mad. That’s not an intentional pun or overstatement. Epic is the only word to describe it. Tom hardy was the perfect replacement for Mel Gibson, in a low key but strong performance. He’s not a man of many words, but a man of action bent on surviving in a lawless, dangerous world of madmen, anarchy and chaos. If you have a true ride or die chick that can appreciate the intensity and dark themes of this modern day masterpiece, snatch her up and go see this movie right now. Max is mad but Charlize Theron goes as hard as Ripley does (Alien Trilogy). She’s almost unrecognizable in a very impressive performance as a bad ass woman on a mission refusing to back down at any cost. The women in this movie kick ass just as hard as the men do. Surprisingly, there is a very moving story among all the carnage, brutality, scars and road rash. The real superstar here is George Miller, age 70, who directed this movie with animal ambition and raw intensity. He started this hit Australian franchise and triumphantly returns to show these young bucks how it’s really done and how real action should be shot. There’s insane practical stunt work, beautiful cinematography, and unexpected tender moments amidst this dark, weird, brutal, action packed tale of a haunted, loner anti- hero caught up in the plight of a strong female warrior determined to save her loved ones from the horrors of an evil, overbearing, sex enslaving, apocalyptic warlord. Just sit back and prepare yourself to be blown away. You won’t believe what your eyes are actually witnessing on the screen. This is worth the ticket price.

  6. David says:

    Loreleilee is typical of the misguided feminist/misandrist need to attack some fictional patriarchal conspiracy. The very fact she lauds the attack on masculinity displays a breath-taking misandry.
    She is one of the countless gullible low IQ females duped by the new world order’s attack on men and the family. Such useful idiots push the feminist agenda with an eye for male subjugation in order to weaken society and erode male/female relationships in order to destroy the family and weaken and divide society.
    The bottom line is feminism was created or hijacked as a communist population cotrol and subjugation empowerment tool.
    Action and sci-fi films have a primarily male audience and the top, strongest warriors in society will always be male it’s evolutionary biology and all these attempts to switch gender roles doesn’t ring true to our primal subconscious.
    She may think feminism benefits her demographic but it only hurts women and society in the end.

  7. C.C. 95 says:

    Spot on. Everyone is a cypher. Lorelileooola, you are reading something that isn’t there. It isn’t some arch feminist tale. There is barely a story at all.
    And if you want to read empowerment into it- there is nothing here that wasn’t done (and better) with T2 and the Alien movies.

  8. Bob says:

    Maybe you have to be 70 or thereabouts to understand fully this one. Possibly the best movie ever.

  9. ccdev says:

    for people who say that the plot gave the movie substance, get real. Just because it deals with a serious issue does not give the movie heft. the script is as thin as wafer crisp. And the absense of logic (like out of all the girls, why would the pregnant one be the one that is outside the truck, kinda stupid isn’t it?) Like the avengers:AOU, hollywood knows that if it makes something LOUD + FAST + COLORFUL, the masses will drink it all in. rehash of the old mad max – nutty male sidekick, disposable female warriors, max’s interceptor got runned over etc etc 30 years has passed since MAd Max 2 (a true classic), welcome to the age of mediocrity.

  10. ccdev says:

    Saw this yesterday and i felt it was a most overated piece of action-crap to come out of hollywood. if this makes it to classic status, i am abandoning movies. where was the characterization, the tension, the drama, a talking Max??? oh yeah, it had lots of stunts and explosions BIG DEAL! give me The Road Warrior anyday.

  11. FMARCENA says:

    I agree 100% with LORELEILEE. There’s much more to this movie then the writer was able to see.

  12. Cbowne says:

    Just saw it. Wow. Totally insane. Too grotesque and freaky to be a product of Hollywood (though obviously it was). This is George Miller’s true vision, a $150 million dollar fever dream.

  13. WIAJ says:

    I was hoping "Gravity" would lead to more 90-minute blockbusters but I guess not. "Mad Max" and "Mad Max 2" were exciting at the time, not just because they were fresh, but because they managed to crystalize the action and characterizations into 90 minutes. Unfortunately, we live in the age of quantity over quality. Lol.

  14. LoreleiLee says:

    I think it’s disappointing to see people ignore the major storyline which is women escaping from sexual slavery and call the plot ‘thin’ and a service to fanboys. If you couldn’t feel anything for those characters and the decisions they had to make and their struggle to reclaim their own agency then that says more about you than the film really.
    For me, as a woman, the film openly attacks masculinity and patriarchy in a way very few mainstream films do, gives us complex female characters (yes) and reveals so much detail just through facial expressions and visuals all in a way that was subversive and refreshing.
    It’s fairly insulting to say only fanboys will like this film even though the entire film is spent mocking macho, immature boys like that.
    To be honest, I think this was a fairly shallow reading of the film and I feel that’s because it’s a crowd-pleasing genre film.
    I’m starting to think that for the most part only psuedo-high brow films with a lot of obscure, alienating dialogue and meandering visuals are the kind that critics seem to like.

  15. Jeffrey says:

    This strikes me as an overrated blockbuster. It’s time that Hollywood try its hardest to come up with new material instead of trying to remake the wonders of the past. It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile is.

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