The Ninjabot

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD- The Summer’s Biggest Disappointment

Posted on May 14, 2015 at 12:25 pm by Dylan Reynolds

mad_max_fury_road_xlgMAD MAX: FURY ROAD is a derivative and brain dead entry in the long gestated franchise that should have been left M.I.A. somewhere back in the 80s. But lucky for us, Hollywood is creatively bankrupt and comprised of soulless money grubbing parasites who will suck the marrow out of any bankable property just so long as they don’t have to come up with anything (gasp) original.

And so here we go with a Mad Max re-boot, re-make, re-whatever that has no real reason to exist other than to pad the coffers of an evil corporate conglomerate. And in the process- ring the “death bell” of cinema as we know it…

Naw- I’m just screwing you. This movie rocks!!!!!

But I’m not going to go so far as tout what other critics have been saying- that FURY ROAD is the “decades greatest action movie”- I’ll maybe give you the summer (yes, it’s better than Age of Ultron and Furious 7). Though it will be interesting to see what the general public will make of it. After all- cultural phenomenons don’t happen that often. And since this series has already pulled it off once before- it’s hard to imagine that it will do it again. But credit where credit is due- you know you’re talking about a good film when these kind of labels get tossed around.

The fact is that FURY ROAD is a visual feast for the senses. An intense “seat grabbing” thrill ride that never lets up from the word “go”. If you thought series creator and director George tom-hardy-mad-max-fury-road-600x372Miller reached creative heights before in terms of wardrobe and set design- he truly outdoes himself here. As seen in the trailers- there are wonderful and awe inspiring practical effect and stunt work- but also some great “blending” of CGI to accentuate some of the sequences. And Miller once again shows his knack for “world building” as he further adds to his unique vision of a very dark, dangerous, and stylized apocalyptic hellscape.

And assuming folks get off their rears and actually go out to the theater to see this thing (and not Pirate Bay that shit) we can hopefully bring about the second wave of “R-rated action films”. After years of sanitized superheroes and wizards fulfilling our “appetites for destruction”- FURY ROAD reminds us that watching some dudes get beat, thrashed, stomped, shot, stabbed, demolished, and/or exploded to bits is what we call one hell of a good time at the movies.

But first- a bit of how we got here… (click here to skip to the review)

1979s MAD MAX ostensibly has its roots in the genre known as the Rape/ Revenge Thriller- a sub-genre that was big in the 70s and included such offerings as DEATH WISH, STRAW DOGS, DELIVERANCE and ROLLING THUNDER. It is debated as to why audiences were five-things-you-might-not-know-about-mad-max-on-the-33rd-anniversary-of-its-releaseseemingly so “blood thirsty” at this time. Some have suggested folks felt anger and betrayal over Vietnam and the overwhelming sense that the “good times were gone” and “we were on the decline” (sound familiar?).

But there were a couple aspects that made the original MAD MAX stand out from these other movies. For one- it had fantastic “world building”- depicting a “not too distant” future that was still intact but clearly breaking apart and the seams. In fact- this “set up” is actually most of the movie- the revenge portion amounts to basically the final fifteen minutes.

MAD MAX also stood out because of some dangerous looking (probably because they were) car chases and “demolition derby” mayhem. Thus effectively turning a dour and kind of depressing flick into a rip-roaring action spectacle that gradually became a hit in the Grindhouse/ Drive In Movie circuit. And perhaps more importantly- it would lay the groundwork for one of the greatest sequels of all time…

That’s right- ROAD WARRIOR sits on a very short list along with movies like Dark Knight, Mad-Max-2-The-Road-WarriorAliens, Godfather 2, Terminator 2, Spider Man 2, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and yes, Empire Strikes Back. Sequels that creatively “one upped” the original in many regards and are argued as being better than their forbearers. This is debatable for some- but to that point- I have never heard of anyone say that ROAD WARRIOR isn’t anything but a perfect action film from beginning to end. In fact- it belongs on any “top ten action film list” with the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Predator, and Die Hard or that list is automatically suspect.

ROAD WARRIOR became a cultural phenomenon. It sparked a whole sub-genre of “Mad Max imitators” that attempted to emulate the aesthetic and unique “look” of the film; barren wastelands with roving gangs of marauders sporting S&M/ Heavy Metal inspired fashion 1118full-the-road-warrior-screenshot(leather, shoulder pads and mohawks) and riding around in bizarre demolition-derby style cars, bikes and dune buggies with impractical “design enhancements” like spikes and flame throwers.

In fact- all this week leading up to FURY ROAD I have been watching these Post Nuke flicks (ranging from Italian Exploitation to the “Godfather of the Mad Max rip off” Cirio Santiago)- and though they are endlessly entertaining- the fact is that they are all trying to achieve a singularly unique vision and perfection that has already been nailed. And beyond that- I think you would be hard pressed not to find any dystopian or post- apocalyptic science fiction film that doesn’t have some amount Road Warrior DNA in its blood.

The second Mad Max sequel was 1986s BEYOND THUNDERDOME, which is perhaps the mad-max-beyond-thunderdomemost derided film of the original trilogy. However- the movie has appeared to receive a bit of revaluation over the years as being “not as bad as they say”. And a recent re-watch for me has confirmed that it is one “hot holy mess”- but at least it’s an interesting mess with the usual great atmosphere and art design brilliance from George Miller’s creative imagination.

I think the biggest issue with the film is that it seems to be influenced by the Spielberg/ Lucas “sheen” of an “accessible and commercial” fantasy/ adventure film. There are times where it feels more like “Mad Max and the Temple of Doom” rather than the edgy rawness on display in the previous two films. Perhaps Mel Gibson’s rising star power at the time forced the anti-hero to be “softened”. In either case- BEYOND THUNDERDOME is not a disaster and it certainly has its moments but it just doesn’t feel quite like a genuine “Mad Max film”.

Which brings us to FURY ROAD… a long rumored/ discussed/ delayed sequel/ reboot that lost its original star after a few meltdowns and an utterance of the phrase “sugar tits”. Into the dpjmmyqi9sylh4cshic0iconic dusty leather duds steps the ever capable Tom Hardy- once again proving to not only be a great dramatic actor but a very credible action star. The movie begins with his capture by a “gang” of warriors who belong to a community that worships a Warlord named Joe (played with fierce intimidation by Hugh Keays- Byrne who also portrayed the original villain Toecutter in the first Mad Max film).

Max has plenty of reason to be mad as they take his iconic ride and gut it for their own purposes. Worse yet- he is hung upside down and used as a “blood bag” for the “war boys” to mad-max-fury-road-charlize-theronreplenish themselves after a hard day of raping and pillaging. Max seems pretty screwed- but opportunity comes when he is whisked away on a harrowing chase through the wasteland after one of Joe’s trusted drivers Furiosa (Charlize Thernon- who is fantastic) betrays the Warlord and takes off with the his “love slave” Brides- including one who is pregnant with his child. It is explained/ suggested that most of the population in the community is comprised of mutated “fallout victims” with tainted genes- and these women are “perfect breeding material” to replenish their race.

Furiosa and the Brides seek a place of hope in the “green place”- a destination from Furiosa’s 5e25da37-61d7-44fd-a9a3-b2f5b8b5a791-620x372childhood that promises a brighter future away from the clutches of the evil Warlord. Max manages to break free and is at first reluctant to help them- but as per any “anti-hero arc” it becomes obvious that despite the gruff exterior and ability to kill a bunch of fools- Max has a heart as big as a house. So he joins them and they run for their lives- with the Joe and his “war boy” minions in hot pursuit.

And that’s about it as far as the plot goes- the rest of the film is quite literally a deadly chase through the desert that aces all the aforementioned stunts and explosions- some the best sequences in recent memory. Trust me- this is one of those flicks that demand to be seen on the big screen.

But like any good action film- having car crashes and shoot-outs will only get you so far. And Screen-Shot-2014-12-10-at-3.13.02-AM-620x400granted- the story doesn’t need to be that complicated or the characters that “deep” (which FURY ROAD isn’t). But a good action film needs heroic characters that we can root for and vicariously get behind as they face insurmountable odds to reach their goals and achieve something that’s “bigger than themselves”. And within the mayhem- FURY ROAD expertly weaves in greater themes of redemption and “trying to do the right thing in a world gone mad”. And through the actions and choices made by Hardy and Thernon (each playing damaged characters who are “running away”)- we as the audience go on their journey as they realize that survival isn’t about running. At some point we must all realize the simple truth that the only way to LIVE is to face our threats and challenges head on.

FURY ROAD is also admirable with its progressive depiction of the female characters in a genre that doesn’t always treat them that well. Even in the Mad Max series itself- a woman is pursuiteither waiting around to be saved, killed and/ or raped. But in this film there isn’t a “hysterical damsel in distress” anywhere to be seen- everyone is fighting for their lives. Thernon is a complete and utter bad ass that is just as much of a hero in this film as Max is- both of them are on the same level and must work together as equals to overcome the bad guys. And even the Brides- who would normally be the “weak female characters” in this type of film- are anything but and each of them have their moment of “rising to the occasion” and becoming heroic in the face of danger.

And perhaps that’s the best thing about FURY ROAD- it both feels like a throwback to the type of “Hard R action flick” of yesteryear but also makes a valiant step forward in pushing the genre both technically and storywise. Time (and repeat viewings) will tell if FURY ROAD has any kinks in its armor. My impression is that there’s probably a couple plot inconsistencies here and there that no one will really pick up on the first time around because they are too busy catching their breaths. And there is one glaring instance of God-awful CGI towards the end in a shot that seems to serve no other purpose than justify the unnecessary “post 3D conversion”.

decoz4jtfhqarmsxamgyBut that’s obviously “picking fly shit out of pepper” because overall this movie is about as solid as they come and is the one “popcorn flick” that will be undoubtedly making everyone’s top ten lists at the end of the year.

    • Abbie Hoffman

      The game sucks even worse!

    • humper-dinkle dinkle-humper

      Fury Road sucked … the plot and characters were shockingly underdeveloped … there were opportunities available in the set-up, but Miller missed them all …

    • Andrew K

      I highly enjoyed the simplistic plot and characters. I wouldn’t say they are underdeveloped at all. George Miller did a fantastic job and deserved Best Director at the Oscars. Mad Max: Fury Road was my #2 of 2015.

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