Okay, so I know that I’m late to the party with this one. I didn’t see this film until a couple of weeks ago due to a combination of student poorness, dissertation time constraints, and a general ambivalence towards what I saw as just another action film. I admit that I was wrong – George Miller’s Fury Road is not just another action film and I wish that I had watched it sooner.
So, plot. Going off of memory, the plot itself isn’t all that memorable. It is one of the weaker parts of the film. What I remember without checking is that Mad Max (played by Tom Hardy) gets captured by a weird, pale group of steampunk-ish barbarians and used as a walking blood bank for one of them, Nux. Meanwhile, Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) decides to run away from the cult with a giant truck and rescues the breeder wives of the leader. Mad Max’s blood brother wants to please the leader so takes great risks when the group goes after her and so Mad Max is dragged along for the ride. He eventually ends up on the side of the women and, after discovering their original plan has gone belly up due to a lack of water, Max helps everything get better by taking them back. And, after checking with wikipedia, my memory wasn’t all that bad.
The thing I liked best about this film was the setting. Even without remembering anything of the previous Mad Max films, I could pick up the jist of what I needed to know pretty easily. It’s your typical post-apocalyptic setting but, instead of the hero/heroine trying to fix anything, they travel through trying to survive and find the best in a bad situation. The world is desolate and fuels the extreme behaviour of every bat-shit person around. And the behaviour is mad! An entire trucking army chasing a group of runaway girls whose only purpose is to have babies? Let’s add a guitar-axe to announce them them! Everything feels odd and extreme but also understandable in the world they are in. The cinematography is beautiful and it’s just… broken and beautiful.
With Charlise Theron and Tom Hardy at the top of the cast list, I knew that I was going to enjoy watching the characters. Theron’s Furiosa was restrained but emotive, strong and full of hope. Hardy’s Max was distant but with an occasional almost fatherly edge to him, which worked well in his interactions with the broken Furiosa. The wives, particularly Angharad, were interesting. Combative, passionate, and fragile all in turn. I would have liked to know more about them as individuals – the lack of separation between them was an unfortunate consequence of the number of them and the action-heavy scenes. However, the breakout character for me was Nux. He was enthusiastic and child-like, with warped ideals and dreams. I was enthralled every time he was on screen.
A couple of things did annoy me. One big issue was that Mad Max is pretty useless. He acts mostly as an observer, right up until he steps in to save them. My brother-in-law, who watched it with me, explained that this lack of action was purposeful. Max’s story was resolved in previous films and now the films are exploring the world through him. I can understand that rational but it still grates on me. He felt useless – an irritant in an otherwise good film. He also then swooped in after Furiosa has a little breakdown over the loss of her dream and makes the life saving suggestion that they should go back to where they came from and take it over. I felt that this complicated the premise of the film. In all the interviews I saw about Fury Road, it was suggested that it was a feminist film and I mostly agree. The women are strong and, for at least three quarters of the story, everything is led by their choices and their thoughts. Then, at the very last second, Max swoops in and tells them how to fix all their problems. It was obvious that the women had to go back and take over – it was the only place that was confirmed to have water – but the writers chose to have Max voice the solution. Any of the girls could have done that. Why Max? It felt forced, constructed.
I also found myself irritated by the accents of the leads. The setting is Australia. Everyone else has Australian accents. Tom Hardy’s Max barely speaks and, given the characters apparent forced silence during captivity, it’s understandable that his accent may be distorted. I could offer some forgiveness to him when English accent slipped in. Charlise Theron’s Furiosa though… She spoke with an American accent throughout. Where would she have picked up that accent in a world without media? It’s a small and stupid annoyance but it did break my suspension of disbelief on several occasions.
Overall, I liked Mad Max: Fury Road and would watch it again. Like other action films, it’s easy to shove on and do other things while watching it but, unlike most other action films, the interesting world enthrals me enough that I wouldn’t mind buying it on DVD.
*Picture sourced from Forbes.com