Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Longest, Wildest, Raddest Ride

Well that was worth the wait.

Almost six long years after I first learned it was getting made, Mad Max: Fury Road finally rolled into theaters this weekend, and I. Loved. It.

A reboot that comes directly from George Miller, the Australian mastermind behind the original Mel Gibson-starring Mad Max franchise, this vastly dialogueless opus magnus stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron – or, ahem, Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, depending on your POV – and is a genius, bonkers thrill ride. I will admit that after watching the first trailer for it last summer I got to wondering whether the blockbuster was planning on just being a fast and furious set piece about post-apocalyptic folk getting into post-apocalyptic fights while largely on a punishing post-apocalyptic road to some sort of salvation.

Turns out, that is exactly what Mad Max: Fury Road is, at first glance. The film is relentless in its storytelling, and Miller, working off a script he co-wrote, wastes not a second dillydallying with a set-up. Any sort of an explanation for such a bleak future isn’t given. It isn’t needed, either. It just is what it is.

No time for one, anyway, for here they come.

Miller thrusts us onto the midst of Hardy’s Max Rockatansky, a man so weary – of the road he’s on...of life – he is practically made of it. Max is just a conduit, though, a means for us to meet Imperator Furiosa, the character that Theron plays. Furiosa is one of Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) tanker truck drivers. Meaning she is one of the despot’s marauders (he lords over a citadel of dystopian survivors thirsty for the water he controls), and the rare woman with (some) that gets to stand near him. She is hellbent on revenge, though, on hurting Immortan Joe for his many, many sins. Furiosa’s list begins with the life he stole from her after he plucked from her home as a young girl so he could use her as a breeding machine.

When it turned out she was barren, she was discarded.

Some time along the way, she lost an arm. And she became a badass.

On the day we meet Max, who is shortly thereafter captured by our villain’s War Boys and sentenced to a life as a literal blood bag strapped on the hood of Nux’s car (Nux is an approval-craving War Boy portrayed by Nicholas Hoult), Furiosa stages a getaway like, while on a run for gasoline just a few short miles from the Citadel. She is turning on her captor, and she’s taking his impossibly gorgeous and treasured Five Wives (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, and ZoĆ« Kravitz among ’em) with her when she does.

It is a bold move and a huge middle finger that Immortan Joe will not take to kindly. So he gives chase. All of Mad Max: Fury Road is like, this crazy chase, nearly two hours of amazingness that, I understand, harkens to, if not recaptures all of the qualities that made 1979’s Mad Max the cinematic watershed moment that it was, from the atmosphere the film’s main location (the Namibian desert) lends to the production to the engrossing vibe of the Junkie XL-orchestrated soundtrack.

Even better, it is a celebration of women as action stars. Yes, Hardy may be Max, but this is the Furiosa show, and with the character Theron has gone and delivered the fully realized version of the modern-day heroine the movies, nay, the world needs now (sorry, Black Widow).

She doesn’t need no Max, no man, to save the day ’cause she can manage on her own – she has been managing, thankyouverymuch – but she will take his assist because she is that smart.

Can Miller share this terrific recipe with his peers, please? Ambitious action combined with well-developed rebel heart-type characters, with not only a cause but som’in’ to lose who aren’t actually infallible, are just as fun as any Avengers and whatnot...but they are also that much more compelling.

My Rating ****

Photo: Warner Bros.

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