When Mad Max: Fury Road begins, you’ll have just enough time for an off-screen monologue layered over the notoriously desolate post-apocalyptic landscape most familiar to fans of the series. The player speaking the monologue will then appear – Tom Hardy as the titular character – and have just enough time to step on and then eat a two-headed lizard. After that, we are thrust into a massive army-on-one, gasoline-infused, high-octane chase that doesn’t let up for the proceeding two hours – perhaps to the film’s detriment.
Yes, the effects are awesome. The expansive desert wasteland has never looked so fashionable, even in the reflections of the multiple chrome surfaces. The lines between CGI and reality were so blurred as to make one indistinguishable from the other – a feat rarely achieved even these days. The explosions are everything anyone could ever hope for in a summer blockbuster such as this. And even the grisly images of blood-bags and face-masks add that single tinge of humanity to the show.
All that spectacle, though, makes it hard for a story-lover like me to hold onto anything for longer than a few frames without getting burned out. Any plot movement is in as much of a high-demand-but-low-supply status as the gasoline that fuels the cavalcade of engines. Any character development is as deliciously scarce – and therefore addicting, but for all the wrong reasons – as the water that Immortan Joe keeps from his starving subjects.
Whatever elements of story that were present were magnificent; if only they could have been as amplified as the flame-throwing guitar player that rode into battle. Mad Max, a fugitive on the run, putting his life on the line to help a rebel named Furiosa set free a harem from a tyrannous leader. Joining their team, even if reluctantly at first (even to the point of wanting to kill the other two when they first meet), is the War Boy called Nux; and his only objective to to earn a place among those who have gone on to Valhalla before him. These three characters, once they unite themselves to each other, drive the film to it highest points with grandeur and vivacity and through its lowest with finesse and tact.
And the acting chops are all top-notch. Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa steals the show with her determination to release her sisters-in-arms from their leader. Nicholas Hoult (the new Beast for all you X-Men fans out there) rocks as Nux the War Boy. And Tom Hardy in the eponymous role is the subtle fuel injection with the occasional burst of energy. These three actors are excellent individually, but magic happens whenever they’re together. Again, the only problem is that there isn’t enough time for them to be together because of all the spectacle.
While several threads kept me interested in this film, one I’d like to bring to light is the faint religiosity that surges from Immortan Joe to his War Boys. The language, tone, and tenor surrounding the former stirs the latter to craft their very lives around him. But if Immortan Joe is supposed to represent any kind of god, it is a very distant god that doesn’t care for those within his Citadel. This makes it all the more heart-breaking when we see such endearing characters as Nux prepare to give their lives for his inadequate blessing. Hopefully this isn’t a comment on Christianity, but it very well could be. (Any insight into George Miller’s own spirituality may help determine this.)
It’s hard to tell whether or not it was a good decision to revive the Mad Max series yet; after all, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, IMDb, and Letterboxd have all been wrong before. But as it stands, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most popular films of the year so far, and people will be buzzing about it for the next few weeks (maybe even months). The only way to really get in on the discussion is to watch it and decide for yourself. It may be the best film you’ve ever seen – after all, I’ve apparently been wrong before, too. But for now, as for me and my house, we’ll stick to cerebral sci-fi dramas (speaking of which, have you seen Ex Machina?).