I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people thought Mad Max: Fury Road was cursed to fail. Some didn’t think it should have been made at all, as they were worried it would sully the name of the originally Mel Gibson trilogy. However, George Miller wanted to make it, but it took years to get all the pieces together and Warner to give it the greenlight. Then, when it was finally ready to shoot, a massive storm blew most of the set away.
That cause a year long delay and a move to a different country. After it was eventually filmed, it took more than two years to get it into cinemas, with some wondering whether that due to the whole thing being a giant mess. However, when it finally arrived a lot of people had to admit they’d misjudged the film, as it’s a really good action movie that certainly deserves to have the Mad Max name.
Although it’s sort of a reboot, the idea is really that this is simply another story about the mysterious Max – he just happens to have a different face this time around. The apocalyptic wasteland is still as dangerous as ever though, with humans eking out an existence, and violent, dangerous warlords using that desperation to build their own mini-empires, based on their control of necessities like food and water.
Max finds himself captured by one of these men, the powerful but brutal Immortan Joe, who puts him to ‘work’ as a ‘blood bag’ to help juice up one of his injured soldiers (known as War Boys), Nux (Nicholas Hoult). However, there is trouble brewing, as while Immortan Joe rules with an iron fist, one of his main underlings, Furiosa (Charlize Theron), is planning to escape, along with Joe’s prized ‘breeders’ (healthy, beautiful, fertile women).
Max ends up getting mixed up with this whether he wants to or not, as being a prisoner who is chained to Nux, he has no choice but to go along when Nux heads out to track Furiosa down. However, when Max and Nux get separated from Joe and his men, they are forced to come to an uneasy truce with Furiosa in order to survive. Furiosa is determined to escape to the ‘green place’, but circumstances may change her plans, and with Max’s help she may need to take on an even greater challenge.
Fury Road is one of those films which it’s easy to enjoy just for the spectacle, inventiveness and action. As they’re keen to point out in the special features, most of the stunts and explosions were done on-set, with as little CG assistance as possible, and that certainly shows through in the finished product. This is action on a grand scale, with the film literally on the move from beginning to end.
It’s interesting that in the extras director George Miller (who also directed the original Mad Max movies, in case you were wondering) says that rather than coming up with a traditional script they spent months creating the film through a series of storyboards. Although that may not work in some circumstances, here it was a smart movie, as it ensures the action and the story are inextricably bound together.
There’s relatively little dialogue but a lot of excitement, which is aided by the fact a lot of effort has been put into building the post-apocalyptic world so that it feels real, from the intricacy of the war machines and the imaginative ways Immortan Joe used his men in battle, to the faux religious sentiment used to keep his foot-soldiers in check. Indeed, it’s things like that which hint towards there being a little more depth Fury Road than it might first appear, with Nux throwing himself into battle and almost hoping for death, due to beliefs he’s been brainwashed with. In his case, you can understand why it might seem appealing, as well as how it might have parallels in the real world.
In the featurettes, the makers continually use the word ‘kinetic’ and its absolutely accurate. Few films manage to keep this level of pace, action, entertainment and sheer thrills going for as long as this and without it feeling like it’s getting repetitive – something especially impressive considering about three-quarters of it is a chase across a desert. It may not have the city-levelling CG special effects that most blockbusters seem to feel they need, but that’s because it knows it doesn’t need them. Instead it uses a sense of the real, a respect for physics, and simple but effective means to make you care about what’s going on, to create an extremely entertaining film.
It also looks awesome on Blu-ray, with the HD format really bringing out what a great looking, pin sharp and beautifully coloured movie it is. It’s also worth noting the film’s score, which sounds great and helps the movie enormously – it ought to get an Oscar nomination as it’s that effective, but I doubt it will.
The disc also includes a set of features it’s well worth going through, as it’s fascinating to see how this enormous enterprise was put together, including just how many months of work went into creating some of the more spectacular on-set action. Indeed, I expect you’ll be surprised at how much of it is real as there are things they got on camera you wouldn’t think they’d be able to without killing everyone involved, such as the men on tall poles who swing around and do battle, while travelling at 40 miles per hour across the desert. You can certainly understand why many filmmakers would want to do so much in a computer, as practical action on this scale is one hell of an undertaking, but the results are worth it.
Overall Verdict: It’s great to see Max back with a movie that has heart and also a ridiculous amount of great action, which benefits greatly from not being too reliant on CGI.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac