“I am the scales of justice. Conductor of the choir of death. Sing, Brothers! Sing! SING!!” ~The Bullet Farmer
Over the last year, it’s been a slog anticipating movies. Enough movies have come and gone, here today gone tomorrow that I’ve just about given up on hoping for good, enjoyable genre films to come out and make a difference. I’ve been burned way too many times; PACIFIC RIM was amazing, but critics and audiences dismissed it as nothing special, Godzilla meandered around rather than inspiring any adoration, and anything who mentions the name Michael Bay to my face might as well slap themselves before I do it harder, with a folding chair.
But then, here comes George Miller, septuagenarian madman extraordinaire, to show off his kaleidoscopic symphony of insane imagination, relentless adrenaline, and consummate joy: Mad Max: FURY ROAD. It’s as if he’s been sitting off to the sidelines all these years, watching director after director try to make action movies in Hollywood, finally standing up in a huff, exclaiming, “No, no, no; this is how you make an action movie, lads”. On top of all that, the critics are lauding this film, of the 249 critics who have seen the film, only 5 have given the film a negative review, awarding the film a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In regards to action filmmaking, this is unheard of; not since The Dark Knight has a film rode the critical whirlwind like this, and not a non-comic book actioner since the original Matrix film.
FURY ROAD follows Tom Hardy’s Max, a former motor cop broken down by the loss of his family and friends in the fall of law and order post-Apocalypse. He is captured by the War Boys of Immortan Joe, a warlord who looks like the result of The Joker designing a suit of medieval armor, holed up in the towering Citadel somewhere in deserted Australia. Shortly after Max’s capture, one of Joe’s subordinates, Imperator Furiosa, played to hardened perfection by Charlize Theron, steals Joe’s prized breeding wives, in a desperate bid for freedom across the hostile Outback. The following one-hundred odd minutes has been described as a cathartic, two-hour car chase in the desert between madness and unbridled fury. And it is astounding to behold.
Charlize Theron is fantastic as the stoic Furiosa who will do anything to provide a better life for the young ladies in her care, clearly earning her sharing top billing with Tom Hardy’s Max Rockatansky. Tom Hardy takes over from Mel Gibson quite well. He moves with precision, determination; there’s a lot of animalistic behavior in his madness. And his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is as haunting as most anything from The Babadook. Nicholas Hoult is a treat as the nutty War Boy Nux, providing moments and dialogue that is destined for a pantheon of insane bad assery. There’s also the chief villain, Immortan Joe, who is played by the same actor as the villain in the original Mad Max, the Toecutter! Then there’s the Doof Warrior, a man clad in a lava-red jumpsuit who has not a single line in the film, but steals every scene simply because the man wields an electric guitar that breathes fire! Also, Rictus Erectus is to be referred henceforth as Stone Cold Steve Australia.
The funniest thing is that for the last 20 years, Miller has been tempering himself by working in family films. After seemingly concluding the original Mad Max trilogy with the entertaining, yet uneven Beyond Thunderdome, Miller made the 2 Babe films as well as 2 Happy Feet flicks. With ease, Miller remembers that the trick with all filmmaking, but the action genre in particular, is to show, not tell, as film is a visual medium. None of this Nolan-esque obsession with infinite exposition so the audience won’t ever be lost. Miller drives the audience head-first into the insanity, with a short chase scene that leads into yet another chase scene building up to an even BIGGER chase scene that will end up taking more than half of the film’s runtime. It’s quite admirable as well as shockingly to the point. The movie has been streamlined to the point that anyone can enter and enjoy the film as long as they are willing to accept the outlandish craziness of the post-apocalyptic Outback, where masked warlords rule over helpless refuse, stubborn drifters grunt and snarl rather than speak in sentences, and independent women are the most bad ass thing in sight.
On the note of the women’s role in the film. There is a small, but loud audience of deluded man-children on social media claiming that FURY ROAD contains a sickening feminist agenda, poised to forcibly insert feminist ideals into the gung-ho, he-man world of action films. Yeah, because Aliens was totally ruined by the fact that Ellen Ripley was the main character of the film. Oh, and how dare Lara Croft be born female? All action protagonists must be born with male parts and no feminine qualities whatsoever! Ugh! Just of note, this is a film where the main villain is a tyrant and known sex-slaver, yet there is not a single scene of extravagant nudity or even a rape scene, which premium television apparently relishes, cough cough!
This film is joy. A pure, off-kilter, powerhouse of joy. And I have seen this film eight times au cinéma since its release. This has NEVER happened before. Hollywood, please acknowledge my humble request: Fire Michael Bay, Can Zack Snyder, Halt production on all movies, and then give them all to George Miller.