Tuesday, 2 June 2015

'Mad Max: Fury Road' Review

At the start of this year, I felt as if it would be obligatory to think over what I would term as 'the big 4' for 2015. These would be the 'mega blockbusters' to shake the foundations of the box office over the coming 12 months. 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron', 'Mad Max: Fury Road', 'Jurassic World' and 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' were these 4 films. So far we've experienced half of them. 'Age of Ultron' was a beige, bland, and ultimately boring effort that succeeded in nothing but money grabbing, product placement, and watered down conflict over an excessive run-time. I'm pleased to announce that 'Fury Road' is no such film, in fact, it may be the best action blockbuster EVER made...

Instantly, one can tell that this outing is going to be different from your usual summer blockbuster - indeed, Miller appears to have forgotten the entire concept of the '12A/PG-13' rule . Or perhaps he wishes to spit in its face. If you aren't aware of what this entails, it is the unwritten law that, in order to maximize profit, large scale blockbusters must appeal to teenagers (the largest market for the cinema industry), but also must be bloodless enough for young children to see with their parents (the second largest market for the cinema industry). This will achieve a 12A/PG-13 rating, but usually results in a generic and bland film... e.g. 'Age of Ultron'

So imagine my surprise when I find out that 'Fury Road': a huge movie, would be rated 15/R. This film is 100% NOT suitable for children! Miller throws enough grotesque bodies, warped sexuality, and cathartic bloodletting to overcome the minds of even the most hardened cinemagoers. One could even propose the thesis that this film is a protest against the current state of cinema. It's incendiary.

Before I describe the experience, as this film is an experience (in much the same way that Gravity was ), lets discuss the story. It's not extensive. Don't go into 'Mad Max' expecting 'The Dark Knight' in terms of plot complexity. That's not to say that the plot is bad. In fact, it fits the film perfectly. George Miller had a much larger budget for 'Fury Road' than his previous 3 works (with 'The Road Warrior' being the pinnacle of his endeavors), and it shows.
Immortan Joe - Not so sexy beast....
A problem that I always had with the previous entries in the series was the lack of an appropriate feel to the setting. For me, 'Mad Max' always felt like it was shot in the Australian outback, and not a post apocalyptic wasteland; boy has that changed. In Millers magnum opus, the world has gone truly insane... cancer ridden 'War Boys' ravage the land, before spraying their mouths with metallic paint and killing themselves to achieve a trip to Valhalla..... the populous of the world lives under control of tyrannical bunny rabbit lookalike 'Immortan Joe', who sporadically feeds them minuscule amounts of 'Aqua Cola' (yep, you guessed it)...... in Millars' world,  Joe ties up women as 'breeders' and forces his grotesque, tumerous self upon them in order to yield a healthy heir.

So: the story? Immortan Joe's chief general, 'Imperio Furiosa' (played by a wondrous Charlize Theron), runs away with his 'breeders' on what is known as 'the War Rig'. This behemoth is Joe's pride and joy, an exquisite hunk of metal with the power and force to destroy anything in it's path. As you can probably assume,  Joe wants his breeders back. Cue 2 hrs of chase across the desert .
 It's perfect.
Miller's story is beautiful in its non- complexity (take that Nolan!), and he almost certainly gets brownie points for creating multiple kick - ass female protagonists and thus making a story with a real feminist kick.
Furiosa - a force of nature

As far as the story goes, to reveal anything more would be unfair, this film is all about the experience.

I mentioned Gravity earlier. If that film is Jesus, then 'Fury Road' is the Antichrist: a heart pumping orgy of twisted metal and raging inferno, blood and sacrifice. It is a beautiful, yet brutal ballet of bullets, consequences and retina scorching images. You NEED to see this film in IMAX 3D. In a packed theater, the atmosphere is absolutely insane!

What I really wanted to know was whether this film was going to be another damp squib, a film aimed at the masses, that obeyed traditional law. The rating was subsidiary, this film could score big on a DVD release. The answer: Miller doesn't care about traditional law. From the moment 'Fury Road' opens, we're treated with bright, bright, blinding visuals and grotesquery. One of the first things we are acutely aware of, is the existence of what I would like to call 'hyper-time'. The fact is, 'Max' never operates at a conventional speed (only in dialogue scenes do we approach some normality), in certain moments, Miller slows the action down to glorious, eye popping slow motion, and at others, he kicks the speed into hyper drive, making the characters wriggle and scream, like worms. It's a crazy, hallucinogenic mind trip that you'e not going to forget in a hurry, that's for sure. We begin with what appears to be an actual trip, during a chase scene, as Miller shows us the death of a child multiple times, as well as repeatedly jump-scaring us with horrific imagery and ending on a disturbing shot that is sure to go down in the history books.....

And the whole thing feels so dangerous and real. Partly because it is: Miller blew a LOT of his budget building insane cars and crashing them in the desert. These beautiful machines of death are exquisitely designed by the team on 'Fury Road'. A personal favorite would be a hulk of steel, supporting a huge speaker system and a guitarist with a guitar flamethrower, playing live music!
It's just incredible and breathtaking. Using Miller's own patented 'edge' filming system, we dart effortlessly around his elaborate rigs, as acrobats swoop all around us in glorious 3-D on what appear to be large bamboo poles. The reality of the situation is so potent when in the cinema, that loud gasps and expletives can constantly be just heard above the high octane action on the screen in front.

And what of the violence? In a way, Millar's frantic psych-style is incredibly helpful to him and his funds. If it weren't for his fast cut editing, 'Fury Road' would almost certainly be rated 18.... there are stabbings, explosions, shootings, death by falling, blunt traumas, car accidents, car accidents, more car accidents, more car accidents, chainsawings, shotgunnings, fist fighting, and an incredibly memorable scene that will leave even the most crazy gore hounds flinching in their seats. Yet it never feels unnecessary or forced, due to the nature of the characters (who we genuinely care about) and their pale faced, demon adversaries.

The 3-D aspect of the film is also something that has been much discussed by critics and journalists the world over. It is no secret that the film was press - screened in 2-D, and I was assured that 3-D was unwarranted. I beg to disagree! For a start, the 3-D adds immersive realism in the IMAX theater, creating the perfect experience in which to view the film; Secondly, I spotted at least 4 'made for 3-D moments' that would look out of place in 2-D; thirdly, there are many effects in the film that are greatly enhanced by the use of the extra dimension; and lastly, there is one scene (when you see the film, you'll know it) which consists of such beautiful, slow motion chaos, that begs to be seen in 3-D. It is the one scene that makes my heart ache the most, for I know that upon the DVD release of this movie, it will not be the same.... The soundtrack ain't bad either: thumping rhythm for the chases, digetic inclusion of crazy guitar riffs, and emotional climaxes to really help us care for the protagonists (and heighten the experience of the film as a whole).

Overall, Miller has created a supreme masterpiece: violent, powerful, and invigorating, it teaches us what modern cinema should be like by providing an insane thrill ride that you'd be 'Mad' to miss....
'Mad Max: Fury Road' gets 5 stars !!

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