CAPSULE: With a staccato of visual images and strange ideas, George Miller co-writes and directs the first new Mad Max film in thirty years. Tom Hardy replaces Mel Gibson in the title role as the drifter who joins an armored gasoline convoy in the Australian desert wasteland. The action comes faster than the pace of a videogame, though the plot advances only slowly. What makes the film work for me are the creative and amusing visual images, mostly of armored fighting vehicles, and the kinky view of what a post-holocaust world might be. This film is a sort of action film concentrate as envisioned by a surrealist. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
When the first STAR WARS film was released, it had a much faster pace than virtually any films made previously. The plots were less complex than most films but the action and the visuals were compelling. This had the unfortunate effect that other filmmakers felt they had to speed up their story telling and imitate the successful formula they saw in STAR WARS. Now George Miller is trying to speed up the pace of a film again upping the ante by making and telling what is really a minimal story with super-charged action sequences. It is as if Miller is trying to make an entire film with the pace of a fast videogame.
Several years after the events of MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, society in the Australian Outback seems to be deteriorating even faster. Gangs and violent cults rule the Australian Outback. Warlords run the more vicious gangs and control access to basic commodities like water and gasoline.
Max (played by Tom Hardy) has been captured and is being held by the War Boys--both a gang and a cult ruled by the masked Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) who has a spectacular lair that would have made Thulsa Doom weep with envy. Knowing that Max's blood type makes him a universal blood donor, a War Boy named Nux holds Max captive to milk him of his blood. Though a complex twist of fate Max escapes only to end up in more trouble traveling with a big rig owned driven by Imperator Furiosa, a woman whose left arm seems to come and go. Furiosa (played nearly unrecognizably by Charlize Theron) is a gasoline transporter. Right now the capable Furiosa is carrying five women with her taking them to the safety of the green places where she grew up. They are Angharad, Capable, Cheedo, the Dag, and Toast and look like they came from a Playboy spread. Somehow they seem to have access to an improbable source of cosmetics. Are you confused? Worry not. All you have to understand is that what a fight looks like rolling down a road. Really a lot of these details and not essential, since the film is mostly just one very long road chase.
The dialog is very, very sparse and is delivered indistinctly. I am told Miller is intending to export the film everywhere un-dubbed and un-subtitled, as a dialog-optional film. The visuals are everything. The action scenes will do almost all the talking. Rather than thinking about dialog and plot, Miller seems to have spent his effort and budget on images like war machines that may be on the screen for just a flash.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is filled with unexpected visual ideas from the mind of George Miller. Where he shows his imagination the most is with the chimerical fighting vehicles he creates, juxtaposing familiar features in unfamiliar ways. One such imaginative jump is a car chassis welded on top of what looks like a WWI tank. There are a lot of off-color and bizarre ideas on the screen like the milk farm and the chastity belts. (If you've seen the film you understand.) But since they are not discussed, the viewer has to watch this film as closely as if it were a silent film. Images go by too fast to take in. And it pays to see the film more than once or to at least discuss the film after seeing it to get clear what Miller has been showing us.
One wonders how this film with its complex and dangerous stunts ever could have been made without killing multiple stunt people. That is impressive and so is the complexity of the images that Miller has assembled. And one can look at any quarter of the screen and see more action and more amusing detail than is in any three other action films this summer, but you have to look quick. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is an exhilarating non-stop ride through a barren land and a fertile imagination. But the film still needs work on its characters and development of its plot I rate MAX MAX: FURY ROAD a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392190/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/mad_max_fury_road/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper