i know, i know. i am, look you see, rather late to this particular party, so please don't read this as some sort of "oh go see this / don't see this" review sort of thing. as i've finally (ahem) gotten around to seeing it, i thought i had best pass some comments and observations on what is, or if you like was, the long awaited Mad Max Fury Road film. as more than 8,500 of you have taken the time to read my Mad Max 2 post, i figured i had better.
a quick, spoiler free account of it? the film is all that it can be, and as good as it could have been, despite the "not so great" parts below if you choose to read on. there's a case to say that the original three Mad Max films pretty much told all of the story there could be to tell without bringing a definitive closure, but if a fourth chapter was to be ours, i'm overall glad that it was this.
right, some scrolling text? sure. the *** SPOILER WARNINGS *** could for all four Mad Max films. you have been warned. so after this point.........
ok, then, let's boogie and start off with what was really rather good
the look of Mad Max (character)
this is pretty straightforward really, and has been mentioned here before when i've had a gander at the trailers and promo posters. the casting of Tom Hardy was inspired, the costume, dressing and styling team got this note perfect.
in appearance he is unmistakably Mad Max. however, it's not done (despite wearing the original jacket) in a way that resorts to simply dressing and styling Mr Hardy to look like Mel Gibson. he is very much in his own in appearance in the film. nice one.
the look of Mad Max (film)
one of the reasons i can watch Mad Max 2 again and again is that it's just so damned beautiful. no, not the violence, the mayhem and the arse of Wez, the colours. that astonishing, crisp (hello, Faye) blue sky, those lavish, luxurious, rich deserts. i watch that film and see why people can stare at oil paintings, or indeed watercolours, for hours at a time.
yeah, sure, in Mad Max 2, and here as we will get to, all of the audacious action and that helps inspire repeat viewing, but still, it's that attractive, compelling beauty that is inherent in the visuals that makes it all so incredibly awesome.
a comment i have noted and indeed heard is that people are baffled as to why the title character seems, for the most part, to be secondary in the movie. that is, more or less, the way of Max in the world of Mad Max stories. his tale is told via the circumstances he finds himself in or stumbles into, rather than he being the one to instigate events.
each Mad Max film has thus required a damned strong actual protagonist, and with Charlize Theron as Furiosa they have created a most splendid, brilliant one.
there's always a lot of song and dance, indeed fuss, about a "lack of" strong female action hero characters. no doubt the song, the dance and the fuss is quite correct, but the problem is usually that it leads to a woman being cast in a role clearly written for a man by a man in the hope that "it will do". the most audacious example of someone actually getting away with this was with The Bride in Kill Bill. other than making her a mother at the last moment, and the obvious reference of the name, not a single element of the character was feminine or female.
not so here. Furiosa is the perfect female action hero, and follows the standard set by, off the top of my head, Ripley in Aliens and Sarah Connor in Terminator - a driven, determined character who just happens to be female rather than being defined by it.
i am not sure i can say more, really. in this day and age, as i am a chap if i say anything about a female character i am being either patronizing, condescending, sexist or some other easy label. hey ho, it's the world we all made that we live in, and for some reason we chose to allow a minority voice to somehow control and direct public opinion. but bravo Charlize Theron on a sterling performance, and for what it's worth the sacrifice of shaving your head for the role was well worth it.
is it a remake? a reboot? is it supposed to happen between Mad Max 2 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? does it happen after Thunderdome? yes. that's the answer to all of them questions - yes. it functions beautifully as whatever you want it to be. the film works wonderfully as either 'just' another chapter in the story of the Wasteland, or starting it all over again, admittedly but not reliant upon after the events of Mad Max. a wise approach.
the best stories are, often, the most simple - clear good vs clear bad, a journey, etc. keeping it simple is what has worked for Mad Max this far, and continues to work here.
the plot of Mad Max Fury Road? Furiosa wishes to rescue five girls, effectively held prisoner for pure breeding purposes by the leader of a well organized tribe, and take them to a paradise she remembers from her youth. Max ends up entangled in this great plan. so yeah, basically the same plot premise as the previous two outings. it worked then, and it works here.
cheeky references to the original films
eyes popping out, the jacket, the music box, the misfiring gun - all unnoticed irrelevances to those who have not seen the original films, all very much loved by this fan of the original films. thanks.
the cars and the stunts were, believe it or not, the least interesting part of Mad Max 2 for me. there's no doubting they were impressive, but they were of interest to me only as far as they moved the story.
with films today apparently believing that all action sequences should be created on a computer by some 16 year old who has a really ragged notion of how gravity and kinetics work, it is refreshing to see a return to the values of mostly going out into a massive desert and just doing it for real.
the numerous actions sequences are so damned impressive that even i took notice of them and was impressed beyond just what the conclusion would happen to be. it would be, i imagine, very easy to enjoy Mad Max Fury Road purely as two hours of mindless action and sensational violence, if that's what you want out of watching a movie.
ok, so that's the really good parts that came to mind. let's go on, then, to the not so good parts of the film.
a few people, knowing my love of the originals, kind of diplomatically suggested that i rather skip watching Mad Max Fury Road all together, as it was likely to just upset me. i can see why, as you will read below, they would say such a thing, and i am grateful for their efforts to protect and shield me.
the sound of Mad Max (character)
oh dear. whereas they get the look right, they get the voice wrong. very wrong. for some inexplicable reason Tom Hardy's accent changes in the film. it goes from Bronx to Scots to posh English to bad Australian. it's really very distracting and annoying.
it is at its worst when we first hear his voice, for the worst reason - he is the narrator of the film. oh dear. the joy of the other films was always someone else telling a story which involved Max, not Max telling his own story.
there's a rather compelling fan theory, however, that makes the above all make sense. it's not Max Rockatansky we are following and watching, but rather The Feral Kid off of Mad Max 2, all grown up and adopting the ways and traits of his father figure. this fan theory, which is backed up by many by the fact that Max has a music box in this film, also explains a few flaws to come.
redefining the mad part of Mad Max
Mad Max was mad in the angry, violent, vengeful and reckless sense in the original films. here it seems to have been used in the derogatory, referring to mental illness way. for some reason they've decided to make Max quasi-schizophrenic, a touch bi-polar and a trifle mentally unhinged in a non-vengeful or driven way.
they didn't stay true to the Mad Max character, unless it really is meant to be that we are watching a grown up Feral Kid. i don't understand why they made such a character change and i didn't like it. and, on that note
making Max crap at everything
the character of Max Rockatansky was not perfect at everything, and it was his over-confidence and ego which usually got him into scrapes.
the Max we know is the only one who could stop both the Knightrider and the Toecutter. he was the only one that could face down Wez and live. he was the only one who could beat the snake. he was the first and only one to survive the audition for the Thunderdome. he is the greatest driver left alive.
in Mad Max Fury Road, Max is not particularly good at driving, is slow and not too quick witted, has a terrible aim and basically flukes survival. less the ultimate anti-hero, more the personification of "jammy bstard". i didn't like this much, at all.
too many resources, too many people
this is all apocalyptic wasteland, yeah? gone are the sparse tribes of the previous films clutching at survival, here instead are quasi-colonies, populated with thousands and pretty well organized with lots of resources.
there's a city that produces food and water, a city that produces fuel, and a city that produces bullets. they all barter and trade with each other - quite peacefully, it would seem - and are, in essence, recreating the world they all once knew.
that the people have everything they could want to survive and have very good trade relations with neighbouring cities, to me, somewhat took the edge off of the "apocalyptic nightmare world" in which Mad Max exists. but, still, there was enough ill in this new utopia to make someone rebel against it, making the plot premise, at the very least, plausible.
that stupid crappy camera effect at the start
for the first five minutes of Mad Max Fury Road i hated the film. having Max as the narrator was bad enough, but that "stop motion then sped up" footage effect in Max's second attempt to escape his captors had me worried that we were in for a really bad cinematic experience.
here is some of it, filmed off of the trailer on that you tube thing with my blueberry camera.
fortunately, and happily, this camera trickery dickery pretty much vanishes after this sequence. but it should not have been in the film at all.
lack of icons
as impressive as Furiosa is, and as mental as the big bad, Immortan Joe, looks, neither of them, nor anyone else, shall linger in the memory quite like the characters of the first three films.
no character on display here will conjure a mental image based on the name alone. examples? sure. Feral Kid. Gyro Captain. Wez. The Humungus. Tina Turner in chainmail. The children abandoned by Captain Walker. all of them, 30+ years ago, create a vivid image. i don't see that happening here.
you saw all of the spoiler warnings and you have read this far; don't blame me.
the end of the film sees Max walk away. oh dear. the other three have seen Max abandoned (more or less, in a sense, in the first film) as the events of the story he is mixed up in have now passed him by. there's a case to say that, at the end of Fury Road, Max has found what he wanted - people, peace, a place to live, to forget and to rebuild. that was what he wanted for the children of Beyond Thunderdome. why exactly, unless he is The Feral Kid, would he walk away?
2015 looks like a year of disappointments. Avengers Age Of Ultron screams "wait for the DVD". Terminator Genysis or whatever says "the first film should be the only Terminator film ever". Star Wars Episode VII : Mission To Moscow, as we get closer to it, looks like being an amazing trainwreck, for the merchandising issued thus far all screams that Disney thinks we all believe the Stormtroopers to be the be all and end all of the films. against this, and despite my grumbles or raised eyebrow at some elements, i believe that Mad Max Fury Road is going to end up as the best film i see this year, unless a wildcard takes me by surprise at some point.
i have heard that the next Mad Max film shall be called Mad Max : The Wasteland. other than the potential for this to feature a certain Frankie Goes To Hollywood song on the credits, i would agree with a commentator of the internet that said "that's pretty much the same as making a film called Star Wars in SPACE". whatever they end up calling it, on the basis of this, i very much look forward to it, and somewhat hope there's not a 30 year wait this time.
if you, like me, loved the original three Mad Max films and you've been holding off on this one, for what it is worth i would say hold off no more, go see, have grumbles but mostly enjoy.
yes. i am aware that i have ignored the elephant in the room, the Mel Gibson factor, or lack thereof. i would imagine that a Mel Gibson version of Mad Max Fury Road would be virtually the same as this one, only it would have lost loads of money as no one wants to see Mel Gibson films any more.
thanks as ever for reading, and so long as there are four Mad Max films in the world then i know that there shall always be four films well worth watching.
indeed, what a lovely day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!