Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Movie Review - Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max:Fury Road: The Best Big Budget Movie of 2015, to This Point, is a Cultural Parable Hidden in a Cinematic Feast for the Senses

As I sat watching Mad Max, all I could think was, “it's not that The Fast and The Furious movies are essentially long car chases, which makes them a bore. No, it's not that at all. It's that beyond the massive explosions and mind bending “auto-batics”, The Fast and The Furious movies are disjointed, without purpose, relegated to high-school-level acting, and most importantly, void of heart.” Mad Max, while also essentially being one long car chase, most definitely is not either of these attributes. And after having had to sit through Furious Seven, I felt a cinematic baptism of the soul when I left the theater of the George Miller church of road glory.

The term “action heavy” gets thrown around a lot to describe a film, but Mad Max barely gets through its first two minutes before cars are hurling, people are chasing, and all bets are off. This is done with so much gusto and splendor that it nearly turns into sensory overload. I was looking for my seat belt, but could only find my popcorn and Coke. I kept waiting for a moment to catch my breath, but there would be none until nearly an hour into the movie. The drum beating and guitar screams, of the incessant Junkie XL score, only drove the action further, deeper, more profoundly into Madness.

Some have complained about the lack of dialogue in the film, but there was no time for these characters to chat, they were on the run from everything, including themselves. The only option Miller afforded us was to hitch on the ride or risk being stranded in the desert dunes. When there was the eventual pause, it wasn't the usual action movie cliched "let's get to know our heroes" dialogue. It was quick and pressing, it was verbalization of what we already knew ... there was no Hope, there was no Redemption, not in real terms, but only as a means to stave off madness and survive. The director makes it clear from the start that this is a lost world, where instinct and raw emotion is king. There are actions and there are reactions, in the purest sense. The lack of dialogue reinforces this, as each character acts in relation to their motives, thus telling us who they are. On a visceral level this works as a mirror to ourselves and the current “quick fix” culture, which spares nobody but the self in order to achieve a final goal.

It is important to note that though Tom Hardy does a fine job filling Mel Gibson´s role of Max, it is Charlize Theron, who plays Furiosa, which makes this movie tick. She is tough, for tough´s sake. At no time does she come off as a “woman doing a man´s job”. She is fully herself and not another Hollywood attempt at creating an ├╝ber-female/male hybrid trying to fit into the boys club, like a Lara Croft of Tomb Raider or Alice from Resident Evil.

There are very few female characters who have managed to cross into this realm seamlessly: characters that we understand as women, who are comfortable in their feminine role of mother and caretaker, who are even fragile at times, yet are adept at blowing people´s heads off with precision. Furiosa is from the lineage of Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor: fully women, and fully in charge of themselves. The doors that were opened by Ripley and Connors, Furiosa walks proudly through, only to blast her way past some more, in the process. My strong positive feelings for the character were only heightened when I thought of how long it had been since I had last seen a female action character portrayed so fully and elegantly on screen; Quentin Terrantino´s The Bride probably being the last notable entry. Joss Whedon could learn a few things from Mr. Miller next time he gets around to writing for The Black Widow.

The movie´s plot is simple, Immortan Joe, played frighteningly by Hugh Keays-Byrne, is lord over a colony of survivors of the great apocalypse. His wives are stolen and now he wants his property back. This is primal, this is just. The world of Mad Max, going all the way back to the very first film, has always been one of Newtonian grace – there must be equal reactions to a person´s actions. The only variable is the level of insanity each lost generation holds, how further away from human, how distant from previous realities.

In an action film universe filled with Zombies and Superheroes, it is refreshing to see a movie that still believes that humans can indeed be the most cruel and creatively sinister foes. Each character is driven by their absolute pursuit of righteousness. Immortan Joe and his gang, unlike most trite movie villains, are not motivated by power, lust, or greed. They act as they do because they are truly children of the world in which they reside; they believe they are acting in accordance to the new laws of the land. Revenge is even too big a word, or madness – for in a world where everyone is mad, who is to say what is sane? Immortan Joe simply wants his property back, and wouldn´t you?

This reactionary behavior is a more profound evil than all other motives combined; it is the evil of the possibility of what we can become if we allow the dystopia of the world to take hold. It is the horror of The Lord of The Flies, and a theme that Robert Kirkman craftily toys with all the time in his epic The Walking Dead graphic novel series. Fury Road, however, takes this theme and gives us the full scope: it is the aftermath of the aftermath of the aftermath. It is a land of hopelessness where survival can only exist if it is both an internal and visible external force, where the physical world of the senses is more pertinent than the metaphysical world of the heart and spirit, where there are no happy endings but only temporary conquests, but where courage and honor can still find a place in the desert-heart of man. That George Miller was able to translate this and so much more, and what is essentially a two hour car chase, only proves the greatness of his art.

Post by Phillihp Ray 5/18/2015

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