Mad Max finally returns along with it’s director George Miller after 30 staggering years. Believe me I really have to wonder why it’s taken 30 years for another entry in the franchise, especially considering I would have thought another director would have wanted to take up the mantle. I guess Miller is protective of his property! Now to make sure I had a firm basis for this review I did make sure to see all three of the previous Mad Max movies, in fact my local cinema was offering a double bill of the first two movies which I took them up on and I will say, my thoughts on them haven’t changed, they do hold up surprisingly well and are well worth a re-watch to the time when we were able to like Mel Gibson, before he kind of went a bit off the rails. Now the third one may have been slightly disappointing and was almost un-recognisable as a Mad Max movie up until the last 15 minutes, but I think it’s been blown up a bit out of proportion on how it’s been declared as being really awful and if you want a good deal I would recommend picking up the original trilogy which has just been re-released on box set. I was really excited on going in to see this one because George Miller returning to this franchise, with all the modern technology at his disposal it was going to be interesting to see what he could do with it, with major Hollywood backing behind him.
The plot of Mad Max Fury Road is that Max, (now played by Tom Hardy) has been captured by a War Lord named Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne) in his facility The Citadel controlling its citizens by restricting the water and milk supply. He is brought out, however, when Joe discovers that one of his top generals Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) breaks out his five top wives with the intention of taking them to the Land of Green. They are pursued by Joe and most of his entire army including Nux (played by Nicholas Holt) who desperately wants to earn the respect of the War Lord. Max eventually hitches a ride with Furiosa and for one reason or another aides the group in completing their goal. Now I have to get one thing straight. I did get a fact in my review last week wrong when I stated that this was a re-boot. I assumed from looking at the trailers and the fact that Max had been re-cast, this was definitely a re-boot, but in actually watching it does appear that the other three films are in continuity on some level, though I do believe that some retrospective continuity changes have been made, but then again this did happen between Mad Max 2 and 3.
The plot does have relatively similar themes to Mad Max 2 and 3, mainly being that the 3rd film’s whole wanting to get to a better place in the middle of the apocalypse is brought up again and the 2nd film’s sort of characters group of survivors trying to break free from the villains and on a lot of levels the things that were wrong with entry 3 have been improved and I would say that these characters do have enough of a personality to stand alongside the brilliant cast of characters that we got in the 1st and 2nd films. The only problem that I really have with the plot is that Max at times feels a bit inconsequential to the plot. Max is often known to be sort of thrown in with a group of people that he usually wants nothing to do with, and he is normally just bought along for the ride but I couldn’t help feel that it’s more blatant here than previous entries. Now this was a problem with the 3rd film because the other characters weren’t interesting enough to get over that fact. In this film, however, the characters are interesting and enjoyable enough and we do want to see them come out okay, despite the fact that the survival rate in a Mad Max Movie is pretty low and we know a few of these are probably going to die. One of the big strong points for the good Mad Max Movie’s was their completely insane and over the top villains and there is no difference here! It’s great seeing Hugh Keays-Byrne return to the franchise having played Toe Cutter in the 1st film, however, his character is not a complete re-hash of Toe Cutter he is actually kind of an amalgam of Tina Turner’s villain from “Beyond The Thunderdome” and the guy with the Jason mask in the 2nd film, seriously I don’t think they ever mentioned what his name is! This is the kind of villain that the 3rd film should have had. This is a villain that commands respect and feels a big enough threat and he has cool badass design. His subordinates are just as absolutely insane as you would have liked them to be. These are guys who jump between moving cars and blow stuff up for no apparent reason other than “they can do it, it’s the apocalypse, screw it”!! The villains looked initially like they were going to have some sort of sub-human formity to them, since they all seemed to have shaved heads and various make up and tattoos. Seriously, what is it about people that after the apocalypse they all want to get tons of tattoos and have make up rather than water!! Nux starts out as an early villain and by the end of the film I actually decided he was my favourite character because he goes through the most development, possibly more than any other character in the Mad Max franchise and he is probably the most interesting one to be around with the possible exception of Chalize Theron’s Furiosa, who also gets a lot of development and is genuinely a character worth following and almost steals the show from Max, it takes a bit for her character to get off the ground, but by the end of the film she makes a worthy addition to the franchise and really aids the films subtle feminist message. Max is as enjoyable as ever, if you were at all worried that the change in the actor would be a change in the character, think again. This Max is very similar to the one in Mad Max 2 which is good, considering that was my favourite of the franchise. Despite the fact, he can feel a bit inconsequential to the plot at times, he is at least not completely inconsequential and it still, on a lot of levels feels like it’s his Movie especially towards the end. He will occasionally blend into being just one character out of a number of other really great ones. The great thing about this plot though is, it remembers the one thing that the 3rd movie forgot, Max is the road warrior, there are tons of car chases and this ultimately feels like one massively long get away movie. I will go into that more when I get to the aesthetics of the film later on down the line. The problem with this though is that almost the first 30 minutes of the film are so action packed it’s exhausting and the plot really doesn’t get going until the 40 minute mark when things finally have to stop and slow down though that’s not to say that the first 30 minutes are bad. This can be a bit exhausting at times trying to keep track of everything that is going on in the sequence especially when we are bombarded with it for almost the first third of the film though when you get the hang of it you will admire the ingenious choreography. This is also the longest Mad Max movie, if you were hoping for this to feature the same brisk pace that the first 2 films had, which both came in at about 97 minutes then I’m afraid you are going to be disappointed, this one came in at 120 minutes, which actually plays to the film’s strength as it allows enough time for the story to play out. None of the car chases or action sequences are compromised in any way. The film brilliantly has several over the top moments, so basically if you liked the plot of the first two films you are going to really like this one. I also think this will tempt in a few newcomers considering that characters get a bit more development and character arcs and also have slightly more depth than ones featured in previous incarnations of the franchises. The only downside to the plot as I mentioned, it can be a bit exhausting and it goes from periods where there is nothing but action sequences to moments where it goes very quiet and very subdued and this can give a bit of a mood whiplash effect , I personally didn’t have any issue with this though this may not be for everyone. There is also a bit of a continuity gaffe if these films are wanting to be in continuity with the other 3 films because there is a reference to satellite television which if we are going by the other films and the apocalypse happened in the early to mid 80’s, I don’t think satellite television was that prevalent back then, which suggests to me there has been a retrospective continuity change and that has been affected.
Now for the acting. The first thing to really talk about is Tom Hardy being re-cast in Mel Gibson’s role. When I first heard it I thought, yes, that’s perfect casting and I think I am right!! Tom Hardy has just stepped off being in the sadly disappointing ‘Child 44’ in which he had to do a Russian accent for the entire film and I am happy to say that his Australian accent, while not as good as Gibson’s, is not too bad, though it does hiccup at times, but that being said he still makes an excellent Max. I had no trouble believing that this was the same character featured in the previous films and Hardy plays this to an expert tee. I also think he works very well with the Director George Miller, judging by the fact that he has very few lines in the film especially in the first half and manages to do pretty good physical and facial acting, he really fits into Max’s leather jacket very well. Credit to Charlize Theron as well, especially for shaving her head for this role, that’s commitment and frankly you hit it right out the park, she gives an excellent performance in this film, especially considering I wasn’t expecting her to stick out, I wasn’t sure that she was well cast, but she is proving that she has a knack for re-inventing herself. I have already said that is was good to see Hugh Keays-Byrne back again and he is fantastic in this role as the villain. When he played Toe Cutter in the original, he was completely over the top but he has actually managed to reign it in for this performance, showing he is a really good versatile actor. Fans of professional wrestling may also recognise Nathan Jones in a small supplementary role which I didn’t actually fully realise until I went home and looked in the imdb page for the film and noticed it was him, though I did have my suspicions watching the film. The stand out performance for me is Nicholas Hoult of ‘Skins’ fame, I don’t know what it is about Skins that produces really great actors like Dev Patel and Jack O’Connell, but Nicholas Hoult has really hit one out of the park and is the standout performer of the film for me. He actually steels the Mad Max film and I would almost like to see his character have a spin off movie just so we could see more of Nux!! He starts out playing an incredibly over the top, insane subordinate villain that we have seen in most of the Mad Max films, but then can play the role to be a lot more sympathetic later on, again showing excellent versatility. The rest of the cast do an excellent job in their various roles, especially the five women playing the Brides and I would be lying if I said I could nit pick and find a bad performer in the line up, but I can’t. Many people may be a bit thrown off by the over the top performances, but that is what a Mad Max film is all about. So really nothing to complain about here, Very Good.
Now aesthetically this film has a lot to do, considering it has a lot larger budget than the previous film had and major Hollywood backing behind it. Whoever did the art style on this film deserves an Oscar because it is absolutely fantastic, especially the person who designed that car that has the for people playing drums and wooden harnesses on the back of it and a guy on the roof playing a twin steel guitar with a flame thrower attached to it, that is the most awesome thing I have ever seen!! Whoever designed that ‘you must work in Hollywood for ever’!! While we are on the subject of the cars, they are all excellently designed. One of the problems with the 3rd film was there wasn’t enough of the stuff to do with the cars and the designs weren’t as good as the 2nd film. This one gives several vehicles and they are all brilliantly designed and incredibly inventive. George Miller took a lot of the designs he had from the 70’s and 80’s and really updated them. The original film had a ton of stuff to do with leather and the reliance on fuel because it was meant to be an exaggerated commentary on Harley Davidson culture and while many elements of that still remain here I think there is also a bit of a commentary of the modifying car culture especially considering that early on it is revealed that the people of the Citadel worship the V8 engine. Almost the entire film is shot in the desert so it does kind of at times feels like an extended live action version of the video game ‘Motorstorm’, but to be fair I think that Motor Storm stole a lot of its ideas from these films, so I am not going to really complain on that front!! While we are on the subject the car chases are fantastic, which is aided by excellent cinematography, there is some excellent stunt work here with several people jumping between vehicles, stuff explodes in the background, there are guns, crossbows going in all sorts of directions. It can be a bit difficult to follow but if you can get a grip on it the sequences are absolutely fantastic and really are reminiscent of the 2nd film, in fact there is actually a subtle reference to the car from the 2nd film early on and later on down the line. Occasionally the camera is a little too close which can hinder your ability to tell what is going on and it can look a bit too reminiscent of the 2nd and 3rd film at times. The only problem I have with the sequences is that the first half of the film is littered a bit too much with them and I think it may be a bit too much for newcomers who aren’t used to the Mad Max franchise. The cinematography though is absolutely fantastic and some of the computer effects are really good, especially the stuff to do with the early sand storm sequence, oh and the film’s music score is absolutely fantastic and is one of the best I have heard this year so far, I would seriously like to see it be nominated for an Oscar. George Miller spent a lot of money on practical effects that really shine and give the film extra weight and realism missing from many CGI filled blockbusters and it’s all the better for it. I saw the film in 3D and my advise is, whether you are buying this on Blu Ray or DVD when it comes out, or if you are going to the cinema, seek out the 2D version. There is very little reason to check out the 3D version as a lot of the set pieces don’t really suit it. They are good when they suit it but it’s not entirely brilliant with the exception of one explosion followed by car destruction at the end, this has clearly, purely been put in place for the 3D and won’t play out well when viewed in 2D. Half the time I was watching it I was actually very unaware I was watching a 3D film and it’s clear this was a rushed post convergence. If your area is only offering 3D tickets, don’t pass it up, however, because I did enjoy seeing this film.
Mad Max Fury Road is a lot of insane, over the top car chases, mad characters and with brilliant action and over the top stunt work. So basically another Mad Max film!! But I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this one’s my new favourite. If you liked the previous entries, this is definitely one you should check out. George Miller is on fantastic form with this film and it’s amazing to think it took him this long to re-capture it. Tom Hardy is well cast in his role, though I do believe Nicholas Hoult is the best actor in the whole film and both of them complement Charlize Theron’s performance very well. There is never a dull moment, the characters are really good and I actually think this would be a pretty good jumping on point for newcomers. I would recommend seeing the first two movies prior to seeing this and some long time fans may be a bit confused by some elements that have been added to the film, mainly Max’s flashbacks. This is absolutely brilliant, though be warned there is a bit of a gore factor at points, though it’s not to the extent that it will be absolutely wince inducing. Many people are calling this the best action movie of the last 5 years and while I personally still think that honour belongs to the Avengers this is still a contender for that title. It’s a shame Top Gear isn’t on tv any more because I really think this film could have used the extra boost of publicity and I don’t believe this will out compete the previously released Avengers Age Of Ultron or the upcoming Jurassic World.
All that’s left to say is what a movie, WHAT A LOVELY MOVIE!!!
So what are your thoughts on Mad Max Fury Road. Was I completely correct or was I absolutely wrong or was I half there and half not. Please leave a comment if you have an opinion on this film or any of the Mad Max films, which feeds into my question for this review
“Which is your favourite Mad Max movie and why?”
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Now I’m afraid there won’t be a film society review next week as I have got to go away for a period, however my reviews will be back online on 6 June when I will be giving a very belated double review of Disney’s latest live action film “Tomorrowland” as well as the remake of “Poltergeist” in 3D. Also please be aware that I am trying to get two reviews done for a certain dead line and I may be late with one of them. I don’t believe I will be, but I am getting this disclaimer out beforehand and apologising in case!
Thanks for reading my review and I hope you have a good weekend.
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