Saturday, May 16, 2015

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
Now, here's what a summer movie should be. George Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road" is the first in the series in 30 years, but this latest entry brings it back with a roar.

Placing less emphasis on dialogue and in motion nearly nonstop, "Fury Road" is a triumph of camera work, set design, costume and adrenalized action filmmaking. It could best be described as a two-hour chase scene - which, in most cases, sounds like a headache, but here acts as a gorgeous assault on the senses.

In the film, Max (Tom Hardy) has been enslaved by an evil man named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who is visually the stuff of nightmares (skull mask, long white hair). The man keeps the ragged population of the futuristic desert kingdom over which he lords hungry and thirsty. Young boys, painted white, grow up to be cogs in his machine, while young women are his "wives," whose purpose is to give him heirs.

Just moments after Max has been captured, one of Immortan Joe's warriors, Furiosa (Charlize Theron), has snatched his wives and made a run for it. Eventually, Max breaks free himself and joins the band of women who drive across the desert in a gigantic truck rigged with weapons as Joe and his war party follows behind. In the way of plot, that's all "Fury Road" has to offer.

Also, there's very little dialogue between Furiosa, whom we learn was stolen as a child from her village and taken to Joe's kingdom, and Max, who lost his wife and child years before and is tormented by memories of them. And much of the film involves the pair - along with the wives and a stowaway (Nicholas Hoult) - fending off villains, which include dozens of men with skulls adorning their vehicles and even a guy with a gigantic electric guitar that spouts fire.

I've often complained about summer blockbusters trading in characterization or even story for nonstop action and special effects. "Fury Road" is one of the rare cases where this style works - and mostly because it is done so well. There are constantly things flying in the audiences' face, whether it's men, auto parts, explosions or dust. But the film's incredible visual effects do not have the clunky CGI look of most other pictures of this sort.

There are numerous sequences that are breathtaking to behold, including a ride through a massive sandstorm and another into a swampy area being circled by crows. And while Theron and Hardy are given little to say, they make up the difference quite a bit with what's going on on their faces.

Another unique element of "Fury Road" is how Max is often relegated to being a sidekick to Furiosa, a move that is fairly ballsy for a franchise movie. Some fans of comic book movies have said they'd like to see a female superhero picture at some point. If they don't get their wish, "Fury Road" is a great alternative. This is easily the best action movie of the year so far.

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