Total Car-nage… I LOVE IT!
Over a decade in the making, Mad Max: Fury Road is a triumphant return to a filmmaker’s roots; a film which proves practical effects and awesome stunts will always win over CGI, design is king, and ‘mastermind’ George Miller lives up to his moniker in every way possible.
Short on plot but heavy on action, Fury Road is basically the last half of Road Warrior… turned up to 11.
And that’s no bad thing!
Diving straight into the map-cap action, mere seconds into the runtime we see Max (Child 44 star Tom Hardy, stepping into the role made famous, and thrice occupied, by Mel Gibson) instantly captured by members of a bizarre cult/community, and swiftly landing in the middle of an internal civil war; where a key general, named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, A Million Ways To Die In The West), is attempting to free the imprisoned wives of cult-leader/complete wackjob Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who actually played the unrelated villain Toecutter in the original Mad Max).
Diving straight into Max’s capture, and swiftly moving on to the kidnapping/escape of the wives, Fury Road has a pace which can only be described as relentless; moving ahead with all the momentum of a runaway truck careening down a steep hill and smashing every CGI-blockbuster out of the way with one abundantly clear message – practical effects and uninhibited action cannot be beaten.
What it lacks in plot it more than makes up for in world-class production design, world-building (the entire cult behind Immortan Joe, the devotion of his followers, and their entire religion is flawlessly executed – as are the differences in leadership from the communities of Gastown and the Bullet Farm, and the religion/customs of the women we meet further on down the fury road), and most importantly action.
Fury Road lives and dies by it’s out of this world action; from insane car chases (complete with jumps, flips, bikes, spikes, lorries, and pole-cats) to the guns, the explosions, the hand-to-hand combat (largely taking place atop moving vehicles), and the chrome-painted warboys who’re just begging for a glorious death to pave their way into Valhallah; it doesn’t stop. It never stops. And it continues to get bigger, and better, and bigger, and better, until the crescendo builds to an explosive and undeniably satisfying climax (even if there the final chase culminates with a shot too cheesy even for Max’s world).
Tom Hardy’s perfectly adequate as the new Max, though a couple of things prevent his turn from being anything more than that: he’s no Mel Gibson (personal troubles aside, Mel was far more charismatic than Tom, and made the role his own – where Tom’s near wordless tough-guy act may match, and even better, the intensity factor, he’s neither likeable nor memorable here); and even more importantly, he’s not the star.
That’s right, Tom Hardy (playing Mad Max) is not the star of the new Mad Max movie. Charlize Theron is. And she’s fantastic. Not only in terms of acting (where she does outshine Hardy), but action; her character, Imperator Furiosa, has more drive, motivation, and more reason to show emotion than Max ever does. In fact, Fury Road is Furiosa’s story (she’s the one attempting to free the wives, it’s her Immortan Joe is attempting to hunt down, and it’s her both the warboys and the wives look up to/fear), Max is just along for the ride and while he proves an invaluable asset (they both do to one another as the film progresses), she’s the real hero; and brilliantly realised by Theron.
Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Days of Future Past) also proves his worth once again, having appeared in a number of increasingly good films lately, and shining here as a warboy named Nux; determined to prove his worth to Immortan Joe (leading to an enjoyable OTT portrayal of a brainwashed nut-bag who’s willing to die at any moment for a ticket into Valhallah), but eventually questioning his faith and the actions of his peers (leading to an emotional rollercoaster, a visually painful questioning of his beliefs, and the best character arc in the entire film).
While there’s little acting from the supporting cast, the few supports with lines (Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, and Nathan Jones) all slot into their roles relatively well, and given the majority of characters int he film are nothing but caricatures of various crazies, it’s a testament to not only the actors, but Miller’s fantastic design and storytelling ability, as to how real and believable each one of these people feel.
Sure it’s heightened nonsense, but it’s brilliant and so was the rest of the Mad Max world; from Toecutter’s gang to a killer boomerang, a leather-clad Tina Turner, and a society running off pig-shit; Mad Max has always been crazy, and Fury Road takes that notion and runs with it. Thankfully you don’t have to have seen any of the previous films to fully enjoy Fury Road (though eagle-eye fans will be able to pick our a few nostalgic nods back down memory lane amongst the carnage), and you don’t even have to engage with it fully to thoroughly enjoy it; it’s been called a feminist movie, and does have a lot to say about control, the way in which women are treated, and equality within society, but as long as you appreciate a great car chase, and some phenomenal stunt work, you’ll love Mad Max: Fury Road.
It truly doesn’t get much better, much more fun, or much more enthralling than Mad Max: Fury Road; an old fashioned action movie which is short on plot, but packed full of adrenaline, dressed up with some truly art-worthy design, framed with stunning cinematography, and directed to perfection by the man behind the entire franchise; George Miller; the man who gave us Max, and has been with him every step of the way. A fantastic fourth instalment in a incredible and enduring franchise we thoroughly hope to see more of. An excellent next-step and evolution for old fans, and an awesome introduction for anyone new.
While there will undoubtedly prove to be more depth and detail with the Blu-ray release, it’s still next to impossible to flaw the Mad Max: Fury Road DVD transfer. Colour (clearly accentuated and heightened with a warm palette and various filters for specific scenes) looks fantastic, and exactly as the director intended. Detail is sublime, textures are strong, and while there’s clearly scope for more with higher resolution formats, this error free transfer is about as good as it gets on DVD.
Likewise the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is both robust, and relentless (just as you’d hope it would be). Aside from the odd spot of difficult to define dialogue, the mix sounds fantastic; the soundstage is constantly filled with both the booming soundtrack, the rumbling of engines, and the cracks of gunfire and explosions; all realised by an immersive mix which makes constant use of the rear channels, employs weighty bass, uses bountiful directional effects and pans, and maintains an all-encompassing aura as aggressive as any warboy war-party.
Sadly, while the Blu-ray, and 3d Blu-ray releases come with a plethora of special features (including a Making Of, interviews, and a number of featurettes), the standard DVD release sadly comes with only a single piece of bonus material; a short selection of deleted scenes which were rightfully cut from the film, will only be watched once, and add nothing to the enjoyment of the movie, or the disc itself.
The Bottom Line:
Oddly as it’s fantastic film; a non-stop thrill ride which is flawlessly designed, both epic and simplistic, superbly directed, well acted, executed, and wonderfully scored; and even comes to DVD with some of the best picture and audio the format can produce, I’m going to recommend you DO NOT buy Mad Max: Fury Road on DVD.
Buy the Blu-ray.
If you have a Blu-ray player it’d be well worth picking up Fury Road in HD – not only to see how much further the added resolution and high-definition sound mix could enhance the film (and believe me, having seen both versions, there is an upgrade), but to gain access to the extra special features included on the Blu-ray releases. Though, if you don’t have a Blu-ray player, by all means buy the DVD – Max: Max Fury Road is aggressively awesome, action-packed, and a movie you’re guaranteed to want to revisit.
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