dir: Dr George Miller
Well, that was completely and utterly BONKERS!
This flick was pretty much completely and utterly insane. Sorry, I’m just repeating myself, but, honestly, in terms of wall to wall action and oddness, and powerful one-armed women, this flick takes the cake.
It doesn’t just take the cake: it takes fistfuls of that cake and jams them into your eye and cakeholes until you almost can’t take it any more.
It’s usually an exaggeration to say that a film costing millions of dollars is crazy, because there are usually several million reasons why those crazy edges and moments of bizarreness are smoothed out long before the flick gets to the cinemas. So when I describe, as an example, elements of the thoroughly nutty Fast & the Furious films as being insane, I mean something completely different. In those flicks lazy hacks think of action scenes that would look cool and shape the films around them without bothering about where such things could or should happen. But, damn, wouldn’t they look pretty fucking cool if someone just says yes and lets them do it?
Stuff is completely insane here, and much of it isn’t necessarily any more plausible or even possible in the realms of physics that we are privy to, but there’s a very different sensibility at play. I’m sure Dr Miller surrounded himself with plenty of people whose contributions are all very much appreciated blah blah blah, but there is a lot here which you can attribute comfortably to the vision / nuttiness of one man.
Like anyone old enough to remember the first films, you’d be experiencing an emotion known as ‘trepidation’ about seeing another flick in this series. I mean, not as trepidatious as you’d rightly be if you’d heard that Mad Mel Gibson would be reprising the role of Mad Max (oh what a lovely day that would have been had that happened), but worried all the same. Now that would have taken some balls.
This film has a lot of balls. I mean it in the balls-to-the-wall, balls-as-metaphor-for-arrogance/aggression, balls as in a lot of people who look like whole or partial testicles. But most of all it takes these tonnes of balls and gives a vast proportion of them to the female characters. Not only that, but it gives most of that already vast quantity of balls to Charlize Theron, who takes them, breaks them down, distils them, casually mixes them with nitro and converts them to a far more potent type of fuel known as Premium Super High Octane Estrogen Fuck You For Doubting My Resolve ©.
She uses this not only to power her ceaseless fury against the warlord she loathes with every fibre of her being, but also the massive war rig that she drives; a cumbersome but powerful truck specially adapted to the wastelands in which they live.
All of this, even if it wasn’t conveyed adequately in the abundant and sometimes ceaseless action that transpires or that she is directly responsible for, is conveyed with her eyes that burn, burn like nitrous being spat into an engine.
Oh yeah, and there’s some insane guy called Max (Tom Hardy). I know it’s called Mad Max, and you’d think it’s his film. Truth is he’s not really essential to the story. You need someone as a counterweight to Furiousa, who otherwise presumably could unbalance the film with the full force of her awesomeness, but really, the film would survive without him in it.
That way they could have just called it Furious Furiousa: Fury Road, a name which I’m sure would have gone down just as well.
The first half-hour of this flick is a solid 30 minutes of seemingly constant action (after the relatively quiet beginning) of such intensity that I was already pretty exhausted even though there was another 90 minutes or so to go. That first part of the flick establishes the location where these crazy events are going on, and the bizarre oasis kingdom ruled by this even more bizarre warlord called Immortan Joe (Hugh Keys-Bearne). He is a despicably monstrous and diseased looking being, looking like something out of, well, out of science fiction, almost like the Baron Harkkonen from the Dune books.
For that first half hour, it really did feel like I was watching a horror flick, more than anything else.
As horrible and weak as he may look, Immortan Joe rules his subjects with a watery fist, in that he controls the water, and no-one can say boo against him. He also has a legion of pale, bald servants who desperately do his bidding, who we gather, eventually, are his sons.
Sons! Warped by his perverse genetics, or the nuclear wasteland, or plot convenience, he has legions of offspring called War Boys, I believe. Unfortunately, and quite horribly, to have a legion of haemophiliac sons, you need a harem of women to impregnate. Those poor women…
They’re treated like brood mares, or puppy factories. And they’re milked. For their milk!
What fresh hell is this? This is an awful post-apocalyptic future that looks suspiciously like the ‘future’ imagined 40 years ago. Men, or at least one man, controls women as breeding slaves, and people do nothing but wait around for drops of water to rain from the sky. And yet they are told, by the helpful Immortan Joe, not to become addicted to the water, for that will only bring them further misery.
That’s a strange attitude to take. It’s not as strange as our intro to Max (Tom Hardy), though.
Those pale milky boys mentioned before, they’re not healthy types. Some of them even need blood transfusions. Some of them need live blood transfusions from living people in order to battle away in their warlord pappy’s wars. So, despite looking like he was going to get away from them, in that first blessed half hour, our hero Max spends most of it strapped to the front of a war chariot driven by lunatics, one of whom needs the blood to function.
In battle these boys are fearless and demented, in that they also have been encouraged to believe in Valhalla, and that dying in Immortan Joe’s service is the finest death possible, for which they will be eternally rewarded. Does that sound absurd?
Well, not to go all Richard Dawkins or nothin’, but is it any more absurd than any of the other religious bullshit peddled by the Big Three churches or the lesser, minor league ones?
To that I say a hearty ‘Nuh-uh’. What triggers the action is that the driver of one of Immortan Joe’s rigs, being Furiousa, decides to take a detour early in the piece. We don’t know why, just that she has a powerful “don’t fuck with me” look in her eyes as she does it. Joe’s boys are sent out to take her back, and there are a lot of them.
Death comes at Furiousa and the people in her care from every angle, and with great frequency. During this phase, Max, no matter how mad, is merely a passenger. It’s a while before he even becomes, at best, a co-pilot or fellow traveller.
He finds out, when we do, that Furiousa’s precious cargo is model-types that Immortan Joe was probably practicing on. She’s had enough of this slavery, and can take it no more. So wisely she decides to save some of the harem (the youngest and modeliest) and leaves behind the older mothers.
Yet her plan isn’t much of a plan. ‘Get away from Immortan Joe and his lackeys’ works as a plan if they don’t all have hotted up supercars adapted to the wastelands to come after them with. Which they do. So many vehicles constructed as if by a kid taking his or her toys and smushing them all together in insane designs that somehow still work. Cars on top of other cars, or, in the case of the other gangs of the wasteland, cars that look like angry echidnas / porcupines, cars with guys on long poles who can lean in, on, over, into anything, or the bikers jumping anything and throwing Molotov cocktails as they do it.
None of it is meant to make you think “geez, this is what it would be like when the shit hits the civilisational fan”. It’s as heavily stylised as Japanese anime and as realistic. And it’s odd, is it ever odd. I can’t say I understood much of what was going on, or said (having difficulty with all these Australian accents), but I know how it felt to watch it.
At first I was somewhat miffed, feeling like this wasn’t really a Mad Max film, or Mad Max’s film at least. Eventually, I was shaking my head thinking, ‘nuh, this is the exact embodiment of a Mad Max film, no question'. So many odd, personalised touches, so many elements that may seem slightly familiar yet are forced through a Dr George Miller filter. And the action, though relentless, is well filmed and well edited; none of this overediting bullshit.
And the characters (except Max) matter. Apart from Furiousa, the redeemed character of one of the pathetic warboys, being Nux (Nicholas Hoult) takes a doomed role and embues it with humour, pathos and utter nuttiness.
As much as I loved it, the way the story resolves made no sense to me. At no stage could I buy that anyone would buy that Max’s Mad Plan ™ could possibly have worked, least of all Furiousa. Hellbent as she was to get away from Joe and his horde, determined as she was to kill countless people to achieve her goal, I can’t see her accepting that Mad Max’s Mad Plan™ was tolerable.
I’m not sure I really liked Max’s characterisation in this, but I’m not sure it matters. The film is propulsive enough and strange enough that it doesn’t really matter. If they make another one, I dare say it’ll be even nuttier.
But let’s just insist that they bring Furiousa back as well, hey? Only that way can they guarantee that it’ll be Oh What a Lovely Day.
8 times it must have been exhausting for that guy with the flamethrowing guitar on the giant Marshall stack to be playing guitar for days at a time out of 10
“Return my treasures to me, and I myself will carry you through the gates of Valhalla. You shall ride eternal, shiny, and chrome!” – L. Ron Hubbard himself couldn’t promise you more – Mad Max: Fury Road