Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #450

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: 15 May 2015
Genre: Ozploitation/Road Movie
Country of Origin: Australia/United States
Budget: $150,000,000
Box Office: $374,200,000
Running Time: 120 minutes
Director: George Miller
Producers: Doug Mitchell, George Miller, P. J. Voeten
Screenplay: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Special Effects: Dan Oliver, Andy Williams
Visual Effects: Andrew Jackson
Cinematography: John Seale
Score: Tom Holkenborg
Editing: Margaret Sixel
Studios: Kennedy Miller Mitchell, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, John Howard, Richard Carter, Angus Sampson, Melissa Jaffer, Megan Gale, iOTA, Quentin Kenihan, Jennifer Hagan, Jon Iles, Gillian Jones, Joy Smithers, Melita Jurisic

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Suggested Audio Jukebox:

[1] Tom Holkenborg Brother in Arms

[2] Tom Holkenborg Storm is Coming

 

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When I first heard that George Miller was planning to resurrect his Mad Max series after a thirty-year hiatus, I was understandably concerned. The original trilogy single-handedly coined the term Ozploitation and went on to amass a huge cult following, with Mel Gibson in the titular role that helped make his name. Popular consensus is that the second film, The Road Warrior, was the standout although all three were more than worthy of bearing the mantle. Miller first had the idea for a fourth film back in 1998 and originally intended to cast Gibson once again as his leading man. However, it never came to fruition and the project remained shelved for a further decade. It’s a brave man who attempts what many regard as an impossible feat but, with Mad Max: Fury Road, Miller comes more than good on his promise and the years roll back accordingly.

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Whereas its predecessors offered a bleak depiction of a postapocalyptic world in rapid decline, the fourth outing is vivid and literally bleeding with color. Miller actually devised storyboards, comprising around 3500 panels, before work began on the screenplay and this speaks volumes of his intention of providing a visual spectacle. Clearly The Road Warrior is the main inspiration with regards to both tone and pace as Fury Road closest resembles the 1981 film, although he has no intention of simply painting by numbers and, moreover, does more than enough to warrant fresh franchising. Every summer it’s the same, and blockbusters ordinarily reek of opportunism and safe practise, but Miller manages to break the mould here and offer a film which stands up best to scrutiny when taken as a film on its own individual merits, while still maintaining the vibe of its forerunners.

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Shot entirely in Namibia, Fury Road wastes precious little time in revving its engines and it’s almost twenty minutes before we are allowed to catch our breath and take a head count. We are introduced to Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) and also to his personal demons as he is haunted by these forsaken souls at every turn. While Hardy’s opening narration reminds us briefly of his origins, Miller chooses against elaborating further and purposely upholds his anonymity, whilst lavishing the screen with all manner of memorable new players.

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The tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) now owns the monopoly and rules from his elevated vantage, using the bargaining tool of vastly diminished water supplies to drip feed his kingdom of worshippers. Max is holed up in the citadel and considered nothing more than a blood bag for the notorious War Boys, Joe’s carbon copy chrome head rearguard. Life sucks for our former road warrior and he spends most of the opening act grunting his derision from behind his alloy muzzle whilst being prodded, poked, and siphoned by his antagonists.

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As inhospitable and memorably foreboding as the Citadel may be, it isn’t long before we hit the dirt tracks, and it is here that Miller’s vision begins to gain clarity. The rebellious Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has her own designs on mapping out her future and none of them include existing in Joe’s oppressive palace a moment longer. From the very first moment we are introduced to his want away commander; she has her foot firmly on the gas pedal and her face tells us all we wish to know about her battle plan. Perched in the driving seat of a massive armored war, she is sent to retrieve gasoline from nearby Gas Town, with numerous escorts in tow. Once her pedal tastes metal, we are treated to a road movie unlike any other in existence, and Fury Road barely stammers to spray its teeth chrome as the euphoria is administered via wave after wave of delectable action set-pieces.

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Then there is persistent tag-along Nux (Nicholas Hoult) and he too becomes a principal character as he sets off to retrieve his bounty, thus earning himself admission to Valhalla, his reward for throwing a wrench in the works and halting the wayward expedition. While Joe is clearly impassioned by Furiosa’s wanderlust, he is even more sullen over the potential displacement of her cargo. Suddenly we pause for breath and Miller ensures that our attention doesn’t wane by hosing down a quintet of scantily clad vixens before our more than grateful eyes.

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Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), Toast the Knowing (Zoë Kravitz), Capable (Riley Keough), Cheedo the Fragile (Courtney Eaton), and the Dag (Abbey Lee), are incalculable to him, particularly Splendid as she carries his unborn progeny and is approaching term. While they attempt to remove their chastity belts with bolt cutters and generally lust at the camera like brazen harpies, the time bomb is still ticking and Miller soon pulls the rug from beneath our feet for a second time.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - 2015 FILM STILL - Photo Credit: Jasin Boland © 2015 WV FILMS IV LLC AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC - U.S., CANADA, BAHAMAS & BERMUDA © 2015 VILLAGE ROADSHOW FILMS (BVI) LIMITED - ALL OTHER TERRITORIES

For as much as the pace is not allowed to slacken, there is a commendable amount of characterization within a middle act which never once threatens to sag. We learn each of the reluctant band’s idiosyncrasies and, whilst little is spoken of Max, his own character arc is pronounced and this obligation represents an opportunity to find his own atonement. Furiosa is pivotal to his change of heart as she too is searching for redemption and remains fiercely loyal to both her objective and those in her care. Miller cunningly avoids meandering exposition by rarely affording his audience downtime and, instead, much of the dialogue takes place within the rig, while the resourceful team fend off incessant attacks from Joe’s approaching forces.

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These include a plethora of colorful characters and there’s nothing desaturated about this lot, let me tell you. To even things up some, we are also introduced to the Vuvalini. Led by Keeper of the Seeds (Melissa Jaffer), this largely prehistoric gaggle of geese prove inestimable allies as Fury Road rattles towards its relentless final act without once threatening to stall.

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With regards to the action, of which is positively philanthropic, Miller is more than deserving of the key to the Citadel. Practical effects are almost entirely prefered to CGI, aside from Furiosa’s prosthetic arm and a little enhancement of his expansive wasteland. The emphasis is firmly on outlandish stunts and our convoy resembles something of a travelling circus as they vault across our screens with freshly chromed teeth and hit that whammy bar for fiery flurries of pleasing pyrotechnics. This highlights Miller’s desire to take us beyond Beyond Thunderdome and keep heading for that homeland. Fury Road is as aerobic as it is aerodynamic and I can’t praise him enough for upping the ante whilst still remaining true to his own folklore.

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As for our road warrior himself, Hardy couldn’t be better cast and this extraordinary talent emotes through facial expressions over protracted monologue. Somewhat astonishingly however, his isn’t the main talking point of Fury Road and Miller’s courageous decision to allow another shared spotlight pays off tenfold as Theron’s Furiosa is worthy of her own spin-off, leading from the front with both interminable swagger and almost overwhelming emotional heft.

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Her aptitude has never been in question and Theron continues to select the creme of the crop roles to sink her teeth into but, in Furiosa, she may well have snagged herself a magnum opus. She is incendiary throughout and provides the backbone for the entire film, which may be the only thing to enrage Mad Max purists. They can eat dust as far as I’m concerned as sisters have been doing it for themselves for some time now and Theron more than proves herself kindred here.

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Mad Max: Fury Road is a spectacle unlike any other in circulation and Miller deserves his place at the top table by knowing his equilibrium and straying from the path only to reveal us another. With around $150m at his disposal, he is afforded the chance to embellish on his prior fiction and does so with ferocious drive and absolutely no apologies. As a continual assault on our senses, it succeeds. As a fresh take on the western, it succeeds. As a captivating narrative, it succeeds. As a framework for greater achievement, it also very much succeeds. Subsequent viewings will no doubt edge this towards the perfect score it may well be deserving of. However, right now, I’m more concerned with catching a solitary breath.

NATHAN JONES as Rictus Erectus in a scene from the motion picture "Mad Max: Fury Road." CREDIT: Jasin Boland, Warner Bros. Pictures [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

The Road Warrior has served us well for over three decades now but can rest easy knowing that Miller’s refueled epic runs on a full tank of gas. Emoting may not be Max’s strongest suite, while Furiosa is undoubtedly the driving force, but rarely have I been offered such a tantalizing glimpse of Valhalla when clocking up the miles.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

 

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The decision to focus on practical FX is beyond justified and Fury Road supplies a smorgasbord of fleeting savagery to keep the blood pumping. However, there is simply no time to dwell on the carnage as acceleration is the key word here and somebody cut those brake cables. With regards to pleasures of the more carnal variety, I could watch Megan Gale slide down naked from her lookout point a thousand times over and still never spare a solitary thought for Valkyrie’s rope burns. Meanwhile, once those bolt cutters come out, and chastity belts hit the dust in unison, it’s no wonder Nux switches allegiances. Now there are five brazen belles deserving of a sound chroming. Spray cans at the ready War Boys.

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