Mad Max: Fury Road

Max Rockatansky and I met back in 1983 or thereabouts. We were introduced by my father, who brought home a VHS copy of The Road Warrior to watch on our fairly new VCR. My Dad had won the gadget at work a couple of months prior, as I recall, and picked up the movie at one of the video rental businesses that had just started cropping up.

Simply put, I was blown away. This was the first post-apocalyptic movie I’d seen and it immediately cemented my love for the genre. The cars were awesome, as was Max’s sawed-off double barrel shotgun. In due course, I tracked down a copy of the first movie, Mad Max. I thought it was okay but not nearly as awesome as the sequel.

Then, a few years later in 1985 came Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. While better than the first Mad Max, at least in my estimation, it still wasn’t as good as Road Warrior. It does, however, have one of the best fight scenes in the history of cinema, when Max takes on Blaster inside Thunderdome. Very original and well done.

While I’m not enough of a Road Warrior fan to have attended one of the various conventions and events that have gone on, I’m enough of a geek to have known about them. Heck, I even had a toy sawed-off double barrel shotgun when I was a kid. Can’t for the life of me find even a pic of it today but I assure you, they existed and were sold at Toys R Us and elsewhere.

Over the last 30 years, we’d been given hints, teasers, that we’d someday see a new Mad Max adventure. Various rumors were floated around so many times, it was almost ridiculous. When we found out it was truly going to happen, that a script was finalized and shooting had begun, the excitement was off the charts.

When Mad Max: Fury Road hit theaters, many of my friends were first in line. They, like me, had been waiting three decades for this. Almost without exception, reviews from them were extremely positive. Great movie! Worth the wait!

Last night, my wife and picked up Fury Road at Redbox. We grabbed some chips and candy, dimmed the lights, and let ‘er rip.

Meh.

Seriously, that’s what I thought about this movie I’d waited much of my life to see. Meh.

The plot, such as it is, is very muddled at the beginning. Granted, none of the Mad Max movies are really known for intricate storytelling. But, I had a difficult time understanding quite a bit of the garbled dialogue in Fury Road, so following the plot was sort of like trying to read braille while wearing gloves. I could get a general sense of what was going on but that’s about it.

Near as I can tell, the gist of the story is that there’s this community of survivors in the middle of the wastelands. The leader, Immortan Joe, controls access to water, so he sort of has everyone under his thumb. Now, this dude is pretty scary, what with hoses and what not connecting him to the life giving apparatus he wears. He also has a harem, filled with about a half dozen scantily clad young women. Apparently the idea is to use these women not only for his own entertainment but for breeding.

Early in the movie, Max is attacked and captured by a patrol of “war boys” who belong to this little community. They bring him in to use as a source of blood for transfusions. The war boys are all extremely pale skinned, almost albino in appearance, and there are references to them being short-lived due to radiation sickness or something. Not too long after Max is hooked up to one of these war boys, the harem is found missing. Joe immediately calls up all of his war boys to go out in search of the women. The one attached to Max, apparently named Nux, figures out a way to keep his “blood bag” with him – strapping Max to the front of his vehicle.

[callout style=”lightblue” centertitle=”true” align=”center” width=”450″]Side note: It seems apparent to me that George Miller did some homework in the genre by reading some of the popular post-apoc books of the last few decades.  In Fury Road, many of the vehicles are referred to as “war wags.”  Wags is short for wagons, I presume.  The same name was used extensively in the Deathlands series, written by a variety of authors all using the James Axler house name.  The same name was used, I think, in the related series Outlanders created by Mark Ellis.

The idea of using radiation diseased people as soldiers was explored quite a bit in the Outrider series by Richard Harding.  There, the Radleps (radiation lepers) were given the best of everything by their leader in exchange for complete loyalty to the end of their lives.  I find this particularly interesting in that the Outrider series, published 1984-1985 or thereabouts, was itself obviously inspired by The Road Warrior.[/callout]

From there, the story gets increasingly outlandish as it progresses. While the car chases and crashes are indeed quite well done, that’s about all the movie had going for it. I mean, at various stages throughout the battles and chases, you see that Immortan Joe has a war wag equipped with a wall of speakers and a guy playing a giant, fire throwing electric guitar as they scream through the desert. Yes, I’m aware of the long history of music being played during battles and such. This, however, was just a bit over the top.

Another befuddlement, and this is true of all of the Mad Max movies, is the subject of fuel. On one hand, fuel is said to be very scarce and is probably the single most valuable commodity in the world of Mad Max. On the other hand, these guys have so many vehicles and go pedal to the metal for hours on end, you have to wonder just where the gas is supposed to be coming from. I mean, in Road Warrior, they at least addressed this a little bit by having an oil refinery be present in the story. Here, not so much.

I know, I know, this sort of movie is supposed to be escapism at its best. Logic and common sense aren’t applicable here.

The other problem I had with Fury Road was the excessive use of flashbacks. Max suffers from rapidly occurring hallucinations of people, specifically a young girl, whom he apparently failed to save at some point prior to this movie. Some have mentioned that this is supposed to be his child, killed in the first Mad Max movie. That’s incorrect. The child killed in that movie was an infant boy, not a toddler or older girl. The reason the flashbacks were bothersome to me is because it was as though we the viewers were supposed to know and understand the backstory alluded to in them. Part of the problem, too, is that we really don’t know where in Max’s life Fury Road takes place. George Miller himself has said the chronology of the movies is a bit fuzzy. While ostensibly this movie takes place after Thunderdome, we have no idea how much time has really passed. This leads to a rather interesting fan-based theory on the whole Mad Max mythology.

Now, all of that said, I do think Tom Hardy did well with the material he’d been given. Max had originally been brought to life by Mel Gibson, of course. Hardy’s version of Max appears a little beefier than Gibson’s but just as much of a “loner who eventually develops a heart” as the original. Personally, as much of a fan of the character as I am, I had no issues with another actor taking the reins. Hardy did a fine job.

I don’t know. Maybe the movie was just too hyped, too anticipated, for it to be anything other than a disappointment to me. Sort of like when you’re a kid and you want this one certain toy so badly and when you finally get it for Christmas or your birthday, it just isn’t nearly as much fun as the commercials said it would. As a movie, Fury Road was okay. Not great, not horrible, just okay. As a follow up to Road Warrior, though, I was greatly disappointed. I wanted to badly to enjoy this movie….

I’m told there are more Mad Max movies in the works, but I have no idea just how far along in the process they are at this time. Fury Road was, by all accounts, a successful movie so I have no doubt the powers that be in Hollywood are interested in adding another car or two to the money train, so to speak. If/when a new Mad Max hits, I’ll see it. I’m too much of a fan to not do so. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.

You can find Mad Max: Fury Road here on Amazon, should you be looking to keep a copy on hand. I might still pick it up on DVD, if only for the bonus material. I’m sort of waiting to see if they are going to come out with a box set of all four movies. Not sure if there are rights issues or anything with regards to that but it would seem to be a slam dunk, especially as we get closer to the holiday shopping season.

Comments

  1. I agree with your review for pretty much the same reasons: hard-to-understand dialog and plot incongruity (a 160-day motorcycle trip? 60 mph x 8 hours a day (no breaks) x 160 days = almost 77K miles, enough to encircle the earth more than three times…even if Max’s salt statement refers to crossing dried ocean beds, c’mon, guys!). Sure, there were excellent action sequences and I WANT one of those guitars, to be sure. However, unlike a men’s rights activist blogger in the news a few months ago (who admitted not having watched the film), I didn’t sense a feminist agenda. Hell, I like a kick-ass female action heroine as much as anyone. But I found myself caring about the characters in the 1979 Road Warrior much more than those in 2015’s Fury Road. Maybe because they RW folk really were fighting for their lives and making a desperate bug-out break, and they didn’t seem to whine as much as the FR harem women. Plus, they would have never wasted the water the harem women did during the shower scene (spoiler alert: they were clothed). All told, not a bad movie, but nowhere near as engaging as the originals.

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