I haven’t seen any of the older Mad Max films and had no interest in the new one, until all the gushing reviews started to pop up. After watching the movie yesterday, I needed about an hour or so to decompress, because man that was one intense, exhilarating, bonkers insane experience that left me completely steamrolled, in the best way possible.
What I loved about it is that it had no problems plaguing most of the modern blockbusters. No dull exposition, no pointless scenes or characters thrown in for the sake of setting up sequels or franchise building. While of course they used CGI, everything in the film feels real and organic; I really forgot what it’s like to watch action scenes with stakes and dangers that actually feel real. Just compare this movie with its grime and dirt to that wretched sterile new Terminator trailer. It really felt like an idiosyncratic work of a filmmaker with a singular artistic vision who just did whatever the hell he wanted. A dude dressed in red playing a giant flamethrower guitar while hanging on cords in front of a speeding car? Sure why the hell not, put him in!
While I’m not obsessed with cars by any means, cars in this movie felt almost like characters in their own right. I’d watch it again just to get a better look at all the detailing and designs. The film was in fact full of weird little details, like the two-headed lizard in the opening scene, a bunch of lactating women hooked up to machinery or the War Boys spraying their mouths with silver paint when they’re about to go berserk. The desert imagery was absolutely stunning, the dunes and canyons of Namibia made for a magnificent film setting and now it’s firmly on my list of places to visit before I die. You’d think that after seeing so much computer-generated spectacle in movies I’d become totally jaded, but those desert storm scenes made my jaw drop, they were so glorious. It becomes obvious how important it is to fill your onscreen world with real things – they in turn make you accept the CGI elements as real too, rather than leave you thinking, wow neat effects I wonder how long they took.
The plot is dead simple: Max is kidnapped and brought to the citadel run by a tyrannical bad guy in a freaky mask, then gets involved into an epic chase after the bad guy’s top driver who decides to rescue her boss’ harem. The action is almost non-stop, but the film still follows the classic three-act structure and manages to develop its characters and their relationships amid the mayhem and the few quieter scenes. Even though Max is the titular hero, Charlize Theron’s tough-as-nails Furiosa easily stole the film for me. Which is not a slight to Tom Hardy, who is fine in the role, but I simply found Furiosa’s clear mission and drive more appealing than Hardy’s opaque hero who just kinda falls into her story. I don’t think I loved Charlize Theron so much in any previous movie; she was ferocious and vulnerable and just amazing. Their dynamic and the growing emotional connection made both characters more compelling though, and the fact that it remained purely platonic until the end was refreshing. It’s such a cliche that a man and a woman drawn together by circumstances just have to fall for each other, cause it’s just the law of the universe y’know. Nicholas Hoult was memorable in a supporting role as a War Boy who is somehow both feral and adorable. I did find Megan Gale’s appearance a tad distracting though, and the women rescued by Furiosa get bits to do here and there but remain largely faceless. Those are very minor quibbles though. Movie is awesome.