By Darin Skaggs
I sure hope that there is a better action film than Mad Max: Fury Road in the next few years because then there will be two absolutely amazing action films for the decade. That’s right, George Miller has come back to the Mad Max series with his fourth instalment Fury Road with a fantastic movie. It does everything a modern action flick has to do to be great; it mixes practical effects and CGI wonderfully, it throws out weird and creative ideas and takes on some issues of the time in the most subtle of ways.
Like the previous films, Fury Road takes place in the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland where survivors drive around and try not to get killed, captured or worse. In the beginning moments we see Max (Tom Hardy) eat a lizard, drive away and be hunted down by a hoard of vehicles. He ends up in a cult like village where the leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who has control of tons of water and teases his townspeople with it every once and a while. He also sends his goons to go into the dangerous outskirts to retrieve oil. One of these goons Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who goes rouge to help break out some of Joe’s many brides. After news gets out, the chase is on, which includes dozens of more goons. Max is taken for a ride as one of the goon’s hood ornaments and eventually finds his way on to Furiosa’s truck. They all work together to find a way from Joe’s grasp and to the green place which will hopefully be a safe haven.
Again this is the best action film of the decade so far, and will be a hard one to beat. It is basically just several car chases that keep topping themselves over and over. I am not privy to the previous Mad Max movies, but I cannot imagine any of those top this one. It really mixes well practical effects and CGI. First of all, the computer effects look really good, but the fact that any of this complete craziness was done using real vehicles and practical stunts is stunning. And all the ideas that Miller and crew came up with are fantastic. There are spears that explode when they make impact, people perched on top of poles while the car is in motion that swing down to snatch back one of Joe’s brides or just murder any one they are after and a tidal wave sandstorm complete with tornados and lightning .
Then there is the Doof Warrior. This is a character that has his own truck; he stands on top of it wielding his electric guitar and is always jamming out to the madness surrounding him. He has some drummers in the back banging away as back up for his constant solo. We are not sure why he is doing this. He might be doing it as a way to motivate the troops. He might be breaking the fourth wall due to the fact it seems he is also part of the soundtrack or, as hinted as later in the film, might just be doing all this because he has the same brain pattern as the scary grasshopper in A Bug’s Life. He is surely the coolest character in the film due to his sheer weirdness, which is what makes the whole film so brilliant. Oh yeah, and by the way his guitar also works as a flamethrower.
Now this movie can still be brilliant with all its car crashes and intense battles and have nothing else to say, but the movie does have something to say, actually it has quite a bit. The obvious one of course is that we are polluting the Earth in such a way that we will eventually destroy it. It never shoves these themes in your face in a way that could be off putting, it just let’s all of them sit with you after this fun, action packed flick. With the brides, who are only there to make babies for the population the film also takes a stand against human trafficking. All of the themes centered towards women, Miller turns the norm for action movies on its head and makes the women characters, particularly Furiosa, the big heroes of the piece. Max for the first third of the movie is just a pawn. He is caught by the bad guys thirty seconds into his first chase, the only reason he gets to be part of the story is because he is treated like a trophy that the goons attach him in the front of a car. It even pokes fun at what other action films treat women as when Max catches up with the group of women he is in the desert, turns a corner and sees several beautiful women in skimpy clothing that have a working hose. It looks like he is seeing a mirage, but he is not and they get the best of him almost immediately. Eventually they make amends and work together to protect each other. The film is not really an extreme feminist piece but an equality piece.
Miller, 70 years old, has made an action film more fun than most these days. He has made a sequel that could top the originals in so many ways. His feminist statements are more intellectual and thought provoking that others. And most importantly of the best pictures of the year so far.