This might come as a surprise to many, but as of about four days ago, I had never laid eyes on any one of the Mad Max movies in its entirety. That might seem like a strange factoid coming from an equally strange person who straps plastic collectibles to his body and refers to himself as an Outlaw. As odd of an individual as I claim to be – and other unbiased sources have confirmed – I’ve always felt my peculiar character quirks pale in comparison to the small snippets of bizarre footage I’ve actually taken in of the Mad Max films up – until this past Memorial Day weekend.
Call me crazy, but the flashes of insane rock-and-roll inspired biker gangs playing bumper cars with dune buggies through a barren desert landscape while Tina Turner walks around in a metal brassier has never been my idea of movie magic. Throw in a scraggly-haired and wild-eyed Mel Gibson, and I pretty much locked up any desire to see this film in a strait jacket, threw it in a padded room and threw away the key. The fact that Mr. Gibson has since pulled a real life Mad Max further cemented the door shut on the asylum which held my aspirations to visit the franchise. Despite the absence of Mad Mel, seeing the new full trailer for the newest installment of the franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road, had me shedding no tears over the fact that I had avoided the series.
Then something happened upon my path of blissful ignorance. That something was my best friend, who just so happens to be a rather ardent fan of the post-apocalyptic demolition derby series. In combination with the rave critical reviews, he somehow achieved a miracle in convincing me to partake in a showing of Fury Road without having seen any of the film’s predecessors.
It’s at about this stage of my review where I would normally deliver a short spoiler-less synopsis on the movie’s plot. Regrettably, seeing as how I understood the storyline about as well as I understand nuclear astrophysics, I’m going to save you – all three of my readers – the headache and get right into my overall thoughts. I have no doubt everyone reading this knows where this is going.
Let’s start with the positive shall we? (Mostly because it won’t take too long). Fury Road is a blockbuster production. To the sweeping desert vistas to the action packed battle scenes, the flick takes advantage of modern movie technology and presents itself as the best-looking film of the franchise… not that it was a tall feat to begin with. Minus a few scenes here and there, I didn’t notice much use of CGI as most of the action seemed to make use of practical effects. This was most notable during very impressive scenes where the big-rig tanker was assaulted by an onslaught of smaller vehicles. The action was also very intense for most of the film and the stunt work, including all of the high speed driving scenes, were shot exceptionally well.
Another highlight of the film – for me and probably about 98% of the planetary male population – was the bevy of scantily glad young ladies who were along for the truck ride, thanks to Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Obviously you can’t have a male-geared summer blockbuster without parading around at least a little skin, and casting did a fine job delivering in this department.
Keeping on the subject of Theron, her character Furiosa played quite a large role in this addition of the series (hence the name Fury Road?). She played such a large a role, in fact, I almost forgot I was watching a Mad Max film as Max himself (Tom Hardy) seemed to play second fiddle the entire length of the journey. Along those lines, Max seemed not so much mad as he did grumpy, and next to Furiosa, he came across more like a United Nations diplomat than a deranged Outlaw. I had no problem with the roles of the two main protagonists, but this movie could have been easily called Ferocious Fury. I thought my ears were playing tricks on me as Hardy sounded like he just stepped off The Dark Knight Rises set, as his Bane voice was in full effect. It’s also apparent that Hardy’s acting contracts all stipulate a metal mask be awkwardly installed on his face for every role he signs on for.
On the downside – and outside of the fact I had issues following what exactly was going on – the film lacked any real character. Be it the strange back-story, or lack thereof, I honestly felt no vested interest in Max’s or Furiosa’s final outcome. Nor did I really care what happened to the daughters of the dictator-esque baddie known as Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Ok, well I cared a bit about them as it would be very insensitive of me to not feel some concern for their eventual fates. Plus, they were all extremely hot.
Another disturbing facet of the film was the absolute absence of any humor. Not only do I not remember laughing at all, if memory serves me correctly, I never even cracked a smile. I realize the Mad Max series is not part of the comedy genre, but to not inject some sort of levity at least once or twice made for a real downer inside the theater house.
Even despite its flaws and lack of humor, the film did supply some very exciting and entertaining moments. Hell, if it wasn’t for the fact I had little clue as to what all the driving and fighting was about, I probably would have walked away from Fury Road with a much better taste in my mouth.
In fact, Fury Road managed to jolt my interest just enough to undertake a Mad Max Memorial Day Marathon where I viewed the original Mad Max along with Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome. While it was the easily the cheesiest – and understandably oldest – of the bunch, the original film starring Gibson was also the most grounded when compared to the sequels. As many have undoubtedly already deduced, the series becomes progressively more outlandish with each passing episode, with Fury Road being the pinnacle of pure bizarreness. Straight from the “Odd Similarity Department” I couldn’t help but be reminded of Return of the Jedi while watching Thunderdome based solely on the indigenous non-English speaking tribe of children wearing loin clothes that Mel Gibson finds himself teaming up with towards the end of the story. Minus the body hair, the entire thing smelt of Lucas’ family-friendly teddy bear warriors (fun fact: I’m one of the few who people who actually loved the hairy critters.)
If anything, I walked away from the whole experience with a new appreciation for what the Mad Max franchise is and what it represents. When viewed solely for its chicken-based vehicle duels, there are indeed some awe-inspiring and impressive moments to be had throughout the series. I’m just happy knowing the entire Mad Max film franchise is just as oddball as I assumed it was and crazier than I thought. I’m ok with oddball, but I’ll leave crazy to Mad Mel himself.