'Mad Max

Fury Road' Makes for a Furiously Good Time

by Brad Cook

14 September 2015

 
cover art

Mad Max: Fury Road

Director: George Miller
Cast: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton

US DVD: 1 Sep 2015

It’s not easy to sustain a story world and its characters through multiple sequels, especially given the Hollywood politics that often wrest control of properties away from their creators, but George Miller has managed to do just that with his Mad Max series. Perhaps Max Rockatansky flew under the radar because no one saw much value in a series whose last installment was released 30 years ago, but whatever the reason, the fact that Miller has retained control of his signature character was welcome news when Mad Max: Fury Road was released earlier this year.

Compared to its predescessors, Fury Road offers what is arguably the most interesting and plausible, in an exaggerated way, version of a dystopian future in which water, fuel, and other basic commodities are in short supply, and civilization has devolved into a group of feudal kingdoms. The Mad Max series has been an episodic one, with the title character visiting various places that don’t feel like they inhabit the same story world, but hopefully future installments will stick closer to the places found in this film and start to build a mythology.

The movie opens with Max (Tom Hardy in this installment) traveling on his own through a post-apocalytpic wasteland, haunted by the deaths of his wife and young child, and seemingly interested in no one but himself. He is soon nabbed by the forces led by Imortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who rules a nearby colony with an iron fist and keeps five wives. His fighters are pale, scarred young men known as War Boys, and Max is used as a “blood bag” for an injured fighter called Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

Joe sends one of his lieutenants, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), on a mission to get more fuel for his fleet of vehicles, but he discovers that not only has she veered off course, but has also fled with his wives. A chase ensues, with Nux taking his blood bag with him as Joe’s militia pursues Furiosa’s massive armored truck. Max escapes from Nux and finds himself aligned with Furiosa, feeling obligated to help her spirit the wives to a wonderland known as the “Green Place.”

Fury Road has been dismissed as “one long chase movie” by some, but the pursuit turns around and becomes a battle that’s one of the most visceral ever committed to film. Director George Miller easily tops previous Mad Max installments by pushing the action as far as he can, using effects that employ minimal CGI, as explained in the bonus features on this Blu-ray disc. Vehicles slam into each other at breakneck speeds, and at one point some of Joe’s men use “metronome poles” to drop onto Furiosa’s truck, an ingenious attack that seems straight out of the Middle Ages.

Joe’s role as a feudal lord who enlists help from the nearby lords who run the Bullet Farm and Gas Town helps extend that medieval analogy, as do the War Boys’ cry of “Witness me!” before risking their lives for their leader. When society breaks down, humans often resort to simple, “Only the strong survive” power structures in which people’s only hope for remembrance lies in oral tales of their bravery. Fury Road fully explores that idea as Nux joins forces with Furiosa and Max, who realizes that he can best honor his family by helping those who need him now.

Fury Road also gives us a story world that is deep and well thought out. The War Boys possess unique steering wheels that they can move from vehicle to vehicle, which express their individuality, and at one point the characters pass an eerie landscape inhabited by human-like creatures that stride on long legs and peer at them through the mist. There’s no on-the-nose “Let me explain this to you” dialogue during such moments, which helps immerse the viewer in a world that feels lived-in, with a rich back story and many possibilities for its future.

The bonus features on this Blu-ray help elaborate on this new Mad Max world and how it was created, via a series of featurettes that total about 90 minutes. They cover many aspects of the making of the film, from costumes and props, to sets, to the centerpiece: the unique, cobbled-together vehicles that were driven across an African desert and flipped, jumped, and smashed into each other. It’s amazing how many of the stunts and crashes were executed in the real world rather than generated on a computer, a point driven home by four minutes of raw footage sans CGI.

You’ll also find a trio of deleted scenes that are a curiosity, but wouldn’t have added much to the movie had they been left in. One of the bonus features also digs into Max and Furiosa, ably played by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, but I wish some time had been spent talking about the history of the film series and how Fury Road fits into its overall narrative. I assume this is a sequel, as opposed to a reboot, but there’s no sense of how it carries the previous stories forward, or what Miller plans for the next installment. My hope is that future entries in the series dig into the story world a bit more and give us a cohesive mythology, rather than one-off adventures ostensibly set in the same general place.

This package also includes the film on a DVD, along with a code for a digital copy.

Mad Max: Fury Road

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