There are a lot of things that you could say go right in a movie, but isn’t it so much more fun to say what went wrong… 😉
Mad Max: Fury Road premièred last week in a blaze of fiery glory at the cinemas. The movie is the fourth instalment of the epic Mad Max franchise, a franchise that is close to my heart because it put the immensely talented and very crazy Mel Gibson on the movie map – he went on to act in and produce several of my favourite movies, including all the Lethal Weapon movies and Apocalypto, which was literally apocalyptic in its effect on me. Also, yes, he is crazy, but then again, most geniuses are. Unfortunately.
I remember watching these movies as a child, or at least one – or was it a trailer? – but I didn’t feel the need to re-watch the old ones. Thankfully, you do not necessarily need to. George Miller, who has been directing Mad Max movies since the 1980s, says the movies are not necessarily chronological, but are more like episodes in Max’s life.
Max, or Mad Max (played by Tom Hardy), is a drifter traversing a post-apocalyptic wasteland world where all essential resources (water, gas – you see how Kenyans get when fuel goes up by 3 bob or there’s a shortage) are basically at nil. He gets attacked by marauders called the War Boys, who are a tribe of pale blood-starved young’uns who sustain themselves using forceful blood donations and are ruled by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a scary badass who sustains himself on milk pumped from mothers confined in a room and rations out water and fuel to a deformed and oppressed community, including his scarred/maimed sons and brothers, using his army commanders/gas retrievers, the Imperators (PHEW!). Max fights, of course, and escapes, on the vehicle of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who he initially holds hostage, but then teams up with to save themselves – and what may be left of humanity.
So, what I didn’t understand from the get is what exactly Max is being plagued by. He has clearly been on this wasteland (which, by the way, is NAMIBIA. How cool? I love it when movies are shot in Africa. Here’s looking at you, Captain America.) for a while, and there are some people he cannot save. But why is this bothering him? He doesn’t exactly come across as the warm, fuzzy conscience-having type. Perhaps he tries not to be that guy but is that guy in the end? (much like the original Max, who is hardened and bitter but can’t help but help. Wikipedia is a beautiful thing. Also, that may be an indication that this movie definitely did come after Mad Max 3 – Beyond Thunderdome, because maybe those are the kids he didn’t save? But I digress.)
Also – the elite society, i.e. Immortan Joe and his cronies, are sustained by mother’s milk, pumped constantly from mothers locked in a room and permanently attached to breast pumps. If it sounds gruesome, it is because it is. I guess this makes sense because mother’s milk has all the nutrients you need but…really? When there’s water? Plant life? Can/should adults even drink breast milk? (to be fair, it is a fantasy universe, and clearly milk alone isn’t working either…)
For me, those are the only things that made me go hmmm about that movie. In spite of the slightly debasing conditions in the pump room, this is actually a pretty feminist movie – half the movie is saved by Charlize Theron’s simply outstanding performance as a guilt-ridden unyielding saviour, as well as the other women who frequently save the day, like the Vuvalini Tribe. Theron proves my theory once again that her badassery – for lack of a better word – is legitimate – in case you didn’t get the memo from Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley pulls a convincing supermodel wife-type role (I’ve never been convinced by her before), as do all the other wives (including Zoe Kravitz, yay! who is pretty much the only black person in this movie). The War Boys and Co. are horrific and psychotic – and the villain is villainous FOR REAL.
The casting, generally, is outstanding. Immortan Joe, aka Hugh Keays-Byrne, was in the original Mad Max movies, which is a great nod to the legacy. Tom Hardy is incomparable and supremely believable as a man of action and few words who is only out for himself but is the epitome of the saying man is not an island. (honestly, Hardy in any movie, I will watch. I just hope he never does another badly scripted romcom).
But the ACTION. It is magnificent! The shooting and cinematography repeatedly blew me away. The fights in the desert – the cars – the stunts – the insane guitarist and drums that accompanied each and every battle scene – the wildness in everyone’s eyes – the explosions – the depiction of a dystopian lost universe – it was A. MAH. ZING. I need to watch it again. I am so pleased that George Miller has reminded folks that he still is, and will continue to be, a beast. This movie gets a strong 9 and a half from me. I must download the other movies. I can’t wait for the next episode. It’s easily the best movie I’ve watched this year – a visceral, intensely fulfilling masterpiece. Yes, over Furious 7. Yes, over Avengers. Go. Watch. This. Movie. Do not pass Go. DO NOT TORRENT.
The author blogs at Akello.co.ke