George Miller has some massive balls… which he’ll need to cushion the weight of all the accolades placed on his shoulders.
When I left the theater in a hazy daze of burnt orange carnage and pale painted bodies cartwheeling through the air at terminal velocity, I heard a lady behind me say disgustedly, “Oh, that was a terrible movie!”
The people around her started to beat her to a bloody pulp, all without a single word. As she slowly fell to the ground like Willem Dafoe in Platoon, I decided to lay off the hyperbole and let you know she didn’t get beat up after all – but there sure were a lot of shaking heads after her harsh film critique.
I can’t blame the people who shook their heads, but I can’t completely blame the lady either. Mad Max: Fury Road was awesome. It really was. And director/Mad Max visionary George Miller deserves all the credit in the world. The only way this movie would have been more impressive is if it was a single take that lasted for two hours, and that would have been more of a technical achievement than a legitimately beneficial move.
But an extended car chase that lasts for 120 minutes – even a post-apocalyptic one featuring crazy War Boys, a typically excellent Tom Hardy and his gravely voice, Charlize Theron with a mechanical arm attachment (and a wicked awesome character name in Imperator Furiosa), and some psycho rocking out on an electric guitar/flamethrower on top of a massive vehicle with rows of drummers on the back – can’t stay fresh forever.
While the cinematography was sneakily beautiful, making a conscious decision to show a colorfully violent world of bright oranges, reds, and browns, there are only so many shades on that side of the color spectrum before everything starts to blend together.
The novelty of the violence also started to wear off and it didn’t help the sandstorm scene came so early in the film. In the trailers, it looks like the climax, showing vehicle parts being stripped and bodies whipping through the sandy air. Instead, it was almost a prelude to the actual car chase – not a disappointment, but not the best placement either.
The real excess of the film wasn’t in the over-the-top ridiculousness of the post-apocalyptic world and all its quirky cronies. No, the problem with Mad Max: Fury Road is how long it is for what we see. Even if you don’t factor in the fact that we all know how the movie will end before we’ve started it (hint: good guys win, bad guys lose), a car chase limits the potential for diversity to a certain extent.
It’s almost counterintuitive if you think about it, because a mobile action sequence would theoretically create more options in a more organic manner. Instead, a lot of the action is your standard business, albeit crazier based on the context of the film (and George Miller’s twisted mind). Honestly, some of the best moments showed up in the trailers, including one part where a War Boy dives onto a car as it explodes. Or the aforementioned sandstorm. But having said all that…
To grade this movie on a curve because it’s a long car chase would be unfair, especially since it brought the challenge upon itself. But I have to reiterate: Mad Max: Fury Road is really good for what it does. I challenge you to make any movie (THAT ISN’T ABOUT SEX OR PORNOGRAPHY) that lasts for two hours and is about one very specific thing and keeps the audience’s interest for 100% of the time.
The fact that I got bored after 75% of the movie shouldn’t be considered a knock against it. It’s the opposite, really. I give kudos to the film for sticking to its guns and especially for choosing to overstay a very enjoyable and exciting welcome rather than introducing heinous plot devices like silly romance or other superficial drama fillers.
That’s right, you heard it here: Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron DO NOT get it on in this movie. Even in Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt kissed at the end (which received a lot of controversy, even though it was unscripted and Blunt just went for it).
If Mad Max: Fury Road was twenty minutes shorter, I think it would have been a legitimately great movie and a contender for many people’s “Best Films of 2015” lists in December. For me, I think it was immensely entertaining and more importantly, yet another sign (John Wick is another example) that action films may enjoy a resurgence towards old-school practical effects and come back down from the CGI mountain next to the destroyed city that was ravaged by superheroes and mutants and natural disasters.