There’s hardly a moment that’s not brimming with action and excitement in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a modern continuation of the “Mad Max” series substituting Mel Gibson for Tom Hardy as the lead. I’ve liked Tom Hardy since his role in the weirdo biopic “Bronson,” and although I haven’t seen this film’s precursors (!), I was intrigued by it’s rave reviews and no small amount of unwarranted controversy from feminist critics.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is not a particularly deep movie; not particularly wise to the intricacies of human nature other than the well-worn assertion that when the apocalypse rolls around, shit will go down. You know what? That’s okay. Because what this latest installment does have is cool car chases, crazy set pieces, and kick-ass female characters (remind me why this was branded misogynist again?)
You know that a movie with a rock n’ roll gimp playing a flame-throwing guitar on the front of a fortified tank as the baddies ride into battle has got to have some redeeming social value, or at least be cool as hell. In the not-so-distant future, oil and water have become precious commodities and society has broken into factions, each more brutal than the last. Mad Max (Tom Hardy) is mad about stuff, namely the state of civilization and the death of his wife and daughter which have festered in his mind and culminated in crazy hallucinations.
He gets kidnapped by an insane cult led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne,) who promises his ‘wild boys’ eternal paradise in Valhalla if the live- and die- by his will. Max then gets made into a ‘blood-bag,’ a commodity whose blood is to be used to renew Immortan Joe’s wild boy’s when the time comes. But Max escapes, and with much trepidation joins Joe’s renegade warrior Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and a group of the maniacal leader’s sexual slaves in route, the the ‘green place,’ a Utopian locale based on Furiosa’s distant memory.
I was pleased and relieved to see that Furiosa and Max’s relationship was not (as I feared it would be) ‘let me get past your hard-as-nails facade and awaken the woman within’ bullcrap. It’s based on mutual respect, certainly more than sex or romance, and I love how he forgoes shooting the gun at a crucial moment to hand it over because she’s just, y’know, a better shot. For someone who was expecting a filmy post-apocalyptic sex scene, maybe with incense and gauze curtains or some such shit, I was pleasantly surprised.
I am not the audience for this movie, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy it. I am the less-than-1% who actually prefers European art films and understated independent films to big-budget multi-million dollar smashes, but the nice thing about “Mad Max: Fury Road” is it doesn’t try to be deep or profound (like Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy) but just has fun being itself, a big fun goofy action movie of larger-than-life proportions, like playing a particularly epic video game. There’s scarcely a dull moment.
It’s interesting to see how classical mythology (namely Norse) has collided with modern sensibilities, selfishness, and consumerism with Immortan Joe’s boys (one of his warriors, a wet-behind-the-ears kid named Nux (Nicholas Hoult,) describes ‘going to Valhalla to eat a Mcfeast’- a little post-McDonald’s product placement there) 😉 The wild-boy’s ideology reminds me of ISIS and any other cult or hate group worth it’s salt- you get to be an asshole, and you’re rewarded for it tenfold in the afterlife.
Watch it for the guitar gimp. And if not for the guitar gimp, watch it for Tom Hardy. And if not for Tom Hardy, watch it for Charlize Theron as an indomitable heroine and her group of newly liberated wards who must find their own deeply-buried strength. Never to we get the feeling that Theron’s identity as a woman makes her softer or weaker than any of the guys. And we don’t get that gag-worthy prerequisite scene where the warrioress takes off her helmet and tosses her hair around, making the stoic hero’s jaw drop.
This might actually be worth watching in 3-D. So pop your popcorn, put on your 3-D glasses, and put your innate need for deep meaning and intellectual stimulation away, because you’re in for a wild ride. I bet considering this movie’s wild success, Mel Gibson’s kicking himself for turning down the amount of money offered to play in this film. If you discard your initial skepticism (I’m talking to you, art film addicts and hipsters) at seeing a film that actually made loads of money- a remake, no less- I’m sure you will find a lot to love about this film.