Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Having just watched the original three 'Mad Max' films this week, I was kind-of unsure what to expect going to see 'Mad Max: Fury Road.' I loved the original trilogy, even though 'Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome' was kinda wonky to me. All I did know, is that for the last six months or so, I have been really hyped to see it. Reviews from fans and critics alike, started pouring in over the last week and he overwhelming positivity towards this film was well beyond anything I could have expected. Still, I kept myself in-check, because we all know, critics (like me) are often wrong about a ton of things, so I should always form my own opinions instead of following the leader. I walked in to the theater, found my seat (mid-way down and in the middle of the row) leaned back for the trailers and proceeded not to use the back of my seat for two hours thereafter. 'Mad Max: Fury Road' is now the template of how all pure action films need to be model after. It is truly a non-stop ride from beginning to end, barely giving you time to breath in the middle.

'Mad Max: Fury Road' is set some years after the events of 'Mad Mad: Beyond the Thunderdome' as Australia continues to deteriorate in it's post-apocalyptic wasteland. We join Max (Tom Hardy) as he is captured by the War Boys and is forced to become a "blood bag" for the ill, War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). The War Boys are an army led by a dictator-like king, King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who controls everyone's water and food. While all this is happening, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), one of Immortan Joe's best drivers, begins an excursion to go get gas in her armored War Rig. It soon becomes evident that Furiosa isn't going to collect gas as she is spotted diverging from the the path to the town. An all out chase begins as Immortan Joe, War Boy Nux and by-proxy, Max, alongside the rest of the War Boys begin to chase down Furiosa, as she has smuggled out Joe's prized "possessions," his Five Wives.

Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW! I thought the chase scenes in 'Furious 7' were amazing (they still are). I also thought the overall action in 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' was great as well (and it still is). Meanwhile, 'Mad Max: Fury Road' completely obliterates what you think you know about modern action and forges a new path. A path lined with bodies of War Boys and smoldering metal wreckage on either side of you, as you pray you're not attacked by Max, Imperator Furiosa, Immortan Joe, The Bullet Farmer or The People Eater. Just by the names alone, aside from Max, you know you're in a new level of creativity, or depravity, when your characters are what you envision naming your gamer-tag on X-Box or PS4. Not only are they creative sounding, they are amazingly designed. With George Miller back at the helm -- he's the man behind the first three films -- you know that in this new modern era, you have to up the ante to grab peoples attention, and boy did he. The menacing, crude, revolting nature of some of these characters are disgustingly satisfying, while perfectly balancing it out with an ample amount of ass kicking eye-candy as well. The design doesn't stop with the character, the amount of time put into the film -- which could almost be considered a two hour long chase scene -- must have been enormous. Sure, there are parts of this film where there's some CGI, but after seeing 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' so recently, the joy of knowing that every car, bike, truck, and even mountain that was destroy, was real, makes everything so much more fulfilling. Combine all this with the great score and music from Junkie XL and the (once again for this series) amazing cinematography, this time from John Seale, everything looks and sounds on point.

This cascades into the action portion of the film, which is the whole portion of the film. I can only imagine drinking some form of energy drink before a viewing of this, because you would probably need 9-1-1 on stand-by if you did. There are momentary lulls in the film that give us a surprising amount of narrative. We learn about that state of the world and why Furiosa is doing what she's doing, among other things. This, of course, is never without the threat of something big lurking in the background ready to crash, shoot or explode all over the screen. The fight scenes are done fantastically and this is where Tom Hardy shines. Whether it's the opening scene of him fighting off War Boys or tangling with a suspended man playing a double headed guitar on a mobile rock concert (did I really just write that?), Hardy brings the essence of Max's survival instinct to the screen. This film doesn't have a ton of dialogue, much like 'Mad Max: The Road Warrior,' and it relies on the action and momentary breathers to convey a lot of the stuff going on. When there is talking though, Charlize Theron shines. The Five Wives can be muddled and frankly, annoying, at times but Furiosa takes everything one step at a time, is prepared for everything and knows what needs to be done. This is what makes the pairing, from a character standpoint, so good. Two people, waiting to survive, with the necessary tools to do so. One with hope, one without, showing that even within all the madness, there a moments of sincerity. This doesn't work without the chemistry of Hardy and Theron, and they play it beautifully.

Side note: 36 years later, the bad guy from 'Mad Max,' Toecutter, is now the bad guy from this film, Immortan Joe. Props to George Miller for getting Hugh Keays-Byrne back, because he was splendid once again.

'Mad Max: Fury Road' is hands down my favorite film of the year so far. This two hour long explosion of action, style and carnage is enough to get anyone into this film if they give it a chance. You don't need to see the first three films to watch and enjoy this, as so far, each film has its own story that it set up within each film. The story, while simple, is merely a back-drop to the action as you'll be mesmerized by every spectacle at a given moment on screen. Car chases defined the first three films and 'Mad Max: Fury Road' is no different. The creativity behind each stunt and set-piece comes across like a train jumping through a traffic jam. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron shine while Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne and the Five Wives support tremendously. 'Mad Max: Fury Road' may have set a new bar for the action genre, and doing it with limited CGI, just makes everything all the better.

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