May 25, 2015

[Movies] Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

What crazy world is this that we're all talking about the latest installment in the Mad Max franchise, a series of movie that has mostly been a strange cult classic over the years. No one expecting to hear more from Max given 30 years have passed since the last movie, but here we are. And we're in a world where this movie is one of the most talked-about and widely praised movies that we've encountered quite a while.

Mad Max: Fury Road is more than just a movie - it's pretty much an experience. It's a larger than life adventure in storytelling in a manner that is uniquely within the distinct flavor of this series. It's a movie that fits in perfect with the overall story of things but also stands apart as an entirely different creature of its own design.

I think we're all going to continue talking about this movie for some time. It's a wild ride and yet a brilliant expression of art at the same time. It's a story that we'll continue to enjoy and dissect and just ramble and rave about over and over again. It's one of those movies that you want to watch over and over again like taking repeat rides on a rollercoaster. The rush is almost the same every time.

Synopsis: Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth movie in the Mad Max movie franchise as directed, produced and co-written by George Miller, who has been the architect of this story since the beginning. Other screenwriters include Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris. It is the first Mad Max movie in 30 years since the release of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 1985.

Our movie begins in the same post-apocalyptic landscape of the prior movies and the titular Mad Max (Tom Hardy) is captured by the War Boys, the cult followers of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Immortan Joe has complete control over a canyon community due to his control over some sort of deep well water supply and his alliance with the nearby forces of Gas Town and the Bullet Farm. On this same day, he sends out his Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in the heavily armed tanker the War Rig to collect gasoline from Gas Town in order to maintain the resources needed to run the community. But further out Furiosa has the convoy take an unexpected detour into the East.

Immortan Joe then realizes that Furiosa has betrayed him and has taken "something" quite dear to him. Thus he takes his entire host of War Boy forces in pursuit of the War Rig to retrieve what had been taken. Amid all this, Max has been reduced to a "blood bank" for the War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult) given his Type O blood. Nux is eager to join in the battle despite his weakened state (thus the need for a blood transfusion), and he drags his "blood bank" with him as he drives off with Immortan Joe's forces to take back the War Rig.

This movie is unique in so many ways. In a time when so many movies come out tend to be remakes or sequels in established franchises or follow old patterns and established tropes, here you have a sequel that feels worlds away from everything else out there. This helps the movie stand out all the more on top of the fact that it is an amazingly powerful story on its own. It is a sequel, but it stands firmly on its own two feet based on its own merits. It ties to the past movies and yet someone who has never seen any of the prior movies before this will still get what's going on.

Tom Hardy was an interesting choice for the lead character. His performance here was definitely necessarily a copy of Mel Gibson before him, but at the same time felt rather distinct from his other roles. He has a gruff charm in this movie, although the story is hardly about him being the least bit friendly to others. On a personal note, I can't help but remark that he looks darn good here, ruddiness and griminess included. Good job, Tom!

But the real star of this movie is Charlize Theron, who managed to convey so much of her character with that single silent stare. The smear of grime across her forehead only helped provide a sharper accent for her eyes and that really carried across on screen. The strength of her character is just amazing and much of this movie is her journey of redemption with Max quite literally just along for the ride. How a person like her manages to rise to a position of honor among Immortan Joe's devotees only to betray him at such a critical moment speaks a lot about her strength. And it's hard not to love her really - she's quite brilliant in this movie.

From a traditional narrative perspective, the movie is a great experience in storytelling, as I keep stressing. We are introduced to the key characters in a manner that reveals much about them but doesn't feel like the writers need to hold your hand to introduce you to the road. There are just a few key scenes to established certain characters and then things get crazy beyond that. But as wild and exuberant as much of the movie feels like, there's still a distinct story that is developing over time and one that has quite the thoughtful conclusion.

And that brings us to the flip side of things - how the movie managed to throw out so many "conventions" of the modern action movie in terms of visual treatment, pacing and all that stuff. Instead of a movie with gradual build-up and key moments of action leading to a climax, instead we have a roller coaster ride of a film with things amped up to eleven, in a manner of speaking. You have so many crazy ideas all in one place that make for an amazing story and they all end up working together as if they've always been together in the same universe. Thus it's totally sensible to have a massive army of hodgepodge vehicles complete with a massive truck with amplifiers and a guitarist chained to the rig with a flame-throwing instrument accompanying the armada.

The movie gives you little time to breathe and you emerge from the theater feeling like you've gone for a healthy jog the past two hours. But it's a happy, fulfilled feeling that has you basking in the realization that you've just seen a movie experience that is amazing an unforgettable - and one that you'll probably want to repeat. This is the sort of movie that is best seen on the big screen with all the wonders that modern cinema technology has to offer.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie that you HAVE to see no mater what you might think of the Mad Max movies. Best if you get a chance to see it in a larger format like IMAX or something. Or just try to watch it a few more times beyond just once. This movie deserves a full 5 crazy War Pig battle tactics out of a possible 5.

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