Sunday 24 May 2015

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Director: George Miller
Screenplay: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoƫ Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton

Synopsis is here

I refrained from writing anything about Mad Max: Fury Road for a few days after watching as I wanted to get a decent grasp of what I saw. My reaction afterwards was one of confounding awe. An odd term, yet the best I feel I can come up with. I was dumbfounded. How did George Miller manage to slip a $150 Million Ozpolitation chase movie past corporate studio heads? I guess the Oscar and massive box office for Happy Feet (2006) helped. Though that only seemed posed more queries. That said. It helps display the type of maverick Miller is. Fury Road feels like an exclamation mark on a varied and dynamic sentence.

At age 70, Miller hasn’t appeared to have lost any of his ability to draw kinetic energy. Nor has it taken away any of his attentiveness. In an interview with Vanity Fair; Miller is quoted about his wife Margaret Sixel editing the movie, “You have to edit this movie, because it won’t look like every other action movie.” It’s wonderful to see the value and foresight within that action. There’s been much talk of the Mad Max’s feminist leanings. Including Men’s Rights websites losing their collective shit over the positioning of females within the movie. The beauty of Miller’s directional choices, both in the narrative and crew is that it’s once again highlighted the issues that restrains creativity and showed up an audience who still responds strongly to patriarchal hegemony. People who’d rather see creative stagnancy by an upright, uptight status quo.

George Miller has never been one to go through the paces and follow the regular state of affairs. It’s hard not to laugh at activists considering Fury Road as “feminist propaganda” when they should know that Miller directed The Witches of Eastwick (1987), not only a favourite film of mine, but the type of movie which displays that the balls have always been in that court. One of interesting women and curious narratives. Then again, when such angry men mistook an Australian series as a piece of Americana, you can gage the debate level.

In addition to this. Fury Road is a sequelboot that isn’t even on the same thread as the films that came before it. Each visit to the wasteland has always had a differing slant. The original Mad Max was a grubby revenge thriller. The second film an oil fuelled Rio Bravo. The third? A frustrating near Amblin-style adventure. Fury Road comes across like a 70’s B-movie chase movie remixed for modern audiences. Unlike the previous movies, Fury Road cares very little about breathing space. The film drives and spurs on relentlessly, with each new sequence delivering an inventive obstacle for its anti-heroes to navigate.

This does cause issues with some of the development of the character and narrative. Despite being quite long for an action movie, the film doesn’t explore its characters with the depth that it perhaps could. Max Max 2 (1981) still shows itself to be the most complete entry, while Fury Road is far more interested in its vaulting goons and suicidal foot soldiers to provide any real clarity to the film’s background events. Yet what I love about Fury Road is how it sweats, crunches and bleeds. It might not feel like it’s telling the whole story, but the film still shows that its scripted and constructed to display character through action and visuals over bland dialogue. Hardy once again is less a man of words and more a creature of physical input. Max is one of his more tactile performances. Charlize Theron not only gains the ire of so called male activists, but reminds us of just how varied she’s willing to be as an actress. Her role of the wildly named Imperator Furiosa brings out a fiercely terse performance. The type of display we can often forget Theron holds in her locker.

Both lead performances as well as the kinetic cinematography and editing illustrate that the world of Mad Max is one of physical expression over anything else. It’s grand outlandish set pieces detail the fall of man little by little. What makes Miller’s film so astonishing at times is not only just how beautifully balletic the film’s action is, but just how textured Fury Road can be. The sparks of twisted metal is glorious to watch. However, Fury Road shows us a crumbling decent into madness in which idols are false, slavery is rife and your body is a commodity. Post-apocalyptic it may be, but a quick yank of the thread of the fantastic and we’re suddenly a little closer to home.

I consider the men’s activist sites again. What they supposedly stand for. The belief that no one can bark orders at Mad Max. If they were to watch the film, I wonder what their answer would be to the question sprawled on the walls of The Wasteland: Who killed the world? It’s interesting to see people wishing to boycott a hellish future that in the world of fiction they would not only help to create so quickly but already seem to be a part of. That, to me, is the method in Millers madness.