Review: Mad Max Fury Road

11110866_658246694280855_1682386295316885693_oNow that Avengers is behind us, it seems everyone is talking about Max.  Mad Max Fury Road has opened to rave reviews from audiences and critics alike.  While it is technically the fourth film in the franchise it feels like a wholly unique entry in this summer of sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots.

To be honest, I knew I would eventually watch the movie based on the release hype, but I really wasn’t super excited to go see it.  I’d been following the production online for a few years now, seeing the reports mixed in with the reports of other blockbusters and geek friendly productions.  I was worried that this movie would never actually see the light of day or would go down as one of the biggest flops.  Production had hit problems and delays over the years.  It just carried a negative buzz in my mind.  Plus I had never seen any of the original movies, I knew of them, but had never sat down to watch them.

There has been a trend over the last few years of resurrecting older franchises and trying to bring them back for modern audiences.  These have been met with mixed results, from the better than expected Rocky Balboa to the uneven Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  So you can see why I would be hesitant going into Fury Road.

Fury Road is an unexpected turn for an older franchise with a unique approach, but is it any good?  That’s the real question I’m trying to answer even for myself as I type this.

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Enough buzz had spread that I decided this was one I had to see in the theater, I had to see what everyone was talking about.  I don’t really know what I was expecting going in, but this movie was completely different than anything I had expected.  First and foremost, this is Mad Max’s movie in title only.  It is Charlize Theron’s movie, she is the star of this film.  Max is quite literally along for the ride.

The plot is fairly simplistic.  A supply run turns into an escape attempt after Imperator Furiousa (Charlize Theron) decides she has had enough of life in the Citadel under Immortan Joe’s brutal reign.  She escapes with his wives and heads to “the green place” where they will live happily ever after.  Max is only brought along as a blood bag for the wildboy Nox, one of Immortan Joe’s foot soldiers.  The film is one long chase as Immortan Joe and his combined forces go after Furiousa.

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Furiousa carries the brunt of the dramatic arc of the film, and Charlize Theron gives a good performance with only having a minimal amount of dialogue.  Tom Hardy as Max would normally be playing the reluctant hero who becomes the savior of all, but that’s not how this film plays it out.  He is helpful and does come up with the daring plan in the final act, but he remains in her shadow.

The movie deserves praise for avoiding so many cliches and tropes.  Almost everything about this movie is presented in a uniquely original way.  From the characters to the stunts to the story.  It’s clear that this was a movie created outside of the standard blockbuster Hollywood formula.

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The action and stunts are simply incredible.  I get so tired of people bashing on CGI and special effects, but there is something so different when you see there really are 75 crazy hot rods racing across the desert and you realize that it’s not a miniature model, CGI duplication or composite shot.  That’s not to say that there isn’t any visual effects use here, there is but it’s done in small amounts than would be standard for this kind of film.  The movie is a feast for the eyes.  Huge expanses of desert, mountains, canyons, hot rods, explosions, there is never a shortage of something to amaze you.  Why I wasn’t entirely blown away by the film I think is I was spending too much time analyzing how the sausage was made to appreciate the meal that I had been given.

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The story while fairly simplistic is solid.  I really did not see any kind of plot holes or head scratching moments which are becoming more and more common in the blockbusters as the focus shifts so much to the visuals.  Even with this being the fourth film in the franchise you are able to enter it without any real knowledge of the previous films.  From what I have gathered there are easter eggs spread throughout for those who know the originals, but the important parts of the story are given to you up front.

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Fury Road does not look or sound like anything I’ve seen recently.  The soundtrack is heavily tribal and percussion based, it will be very dangerous to listen to in the car.  The wailing guitar and the drums just make you want to go speeding across the desert.  The visuals of the movie are unique, and not just in the limited use of CGI but also in how bright and vivid the colors are.  So many movies now are going to a dark and grainy look, it’s refreshing to see a dystopian future that doesn’t have a blue filter placed over everything.  You feel like you are in the desert wasteland with everyone.

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I enjoyed the movie, and I’m already trying to hunt down the original trilogy.  Sadly at the time of this writing they are not currently streaming on any service.  I think the movie is getting a bit overhyped at the moment though, but that can happen when something is so different and succeeds on so many levels.  I feel like this is a movie that needs to be seen more than once, there is a lot going on visually that I know I was missing things.  I am curious as to how different the movie will play after I familiarize myself with the original films.  It’s cliche to say it, but this is one to see on a big screen with a crowd.

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