Friday, August 14, 2015

Mad Max - Fury Road

NetFlix NA
IMDB 8.2/10
My Rating: 6/10

The internets have been going crazy with gaga reviews of this for some time now, and I finally got to see it last night.  Sadly, I'm going to have to go with the counter opinion.  I thought it was entertaining but overdone, and like way too many modern movies, instead of presenting an absorbing story it just tried to pummel you into submission with constant action, which to me is actually boring when I don't really care much about any of the characters.  Which I didn't, really, because I thought Hardy's Max was a poor substitute for Gibson's, and I also wasn't particularly engaged by the fact that he was the sidekick in his own movie. 

Before I get into specifics, I want to point out that it seems like every review I've read has either been glowing praise about it for its theoretical "feminist narrative", or hostile MRA guys complaining that a chick was the star.  I don't give a shit about either of these political hoophole positions, I just wanted it to be good, but for me it was lacking.   Like, I don't care that Max took a backseat to a woman, but I was annoyed that Max had no arc, no skills, and basically contributed virtually nothing to the movie other than to be a victim and tag-along passenger, all to a secondary character who was not the character I sat down with popcorn to see.  It was like going to a Batman movie and having the whole movie be about Commissioner Gordon instead. 

My #1 complaint was the constant barrage of action.  Stuff happening constantly, all over the screen, and I just tuned out after a while.  Good action films have rhythm like music, with lulls and plot and just normal stuff that makes the action stand out when it happens.  This was all action, and the result was much like the hour long battle in Man of Steel - I just stopped caring much about what was happening because it was constantly "EVERYTHING IS EXPLODING AND EVERYONE IS ALMOST DYING IN ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME!!!"

It's entirely possible my opinion may be influenced because I just recently rewatched the original Mad Max and then Road Warrior, in anticipation of seeing Fury Road. 

Lots of spoilers to follow...

OK, I've often said the original Mad Max was kind of bleh, in that it's a generic revenge story and really only has two great action scenes, at the start and at the end.  On rewatch, though, it's disturbing in a way the sequels aren't.  It's apocalypse-in-progress rather than post-apocalypse, and there's something quite unsettling about the weird combination of society clearly falling apart at the edges, and normal people still trying to carry on normal lives.  Roadside diners are open, garages work normally, families go on vacation, etc, yet at the same time, the bikers are free to maraud and there are No-Go zones within easy reach.  Anyway, it was better than I remembered.  Also, it's all clearly about Max, whose arc IS the narrative.  He's the best driver in the MFP and a happy family man with friends untill things go bad and he becomes a cold-hearted killer.

Road Warrior still has Max as the central guide, and this time his arc goes from being an empty, soulless husk to actually wanting to help out other human beings again. 

The fundamental difference between Gibson's Max and Hardy's Max is that Gibson's has the skills to make him a heroic protagonist.  He suffers a lot of shit but ultimately he's still the best driver on the road, summed up handily in RW when, even mangled and battered and barely standing, he tells Papagello, "I'm the best chance you've got" for driving the rig.


Fury Road opens with a traumatized Max being immediately chased down, easily wrecked and captured and victimized.  He spend the first half hour of the movie tied to a bumper, and has no personality at all.

Road Warrior opens with Max being pursued by superior numbers, and using his excellent driving skills ("RE-flexes, that's what you've got!"), he dispatches every car that's after him.  Then, in the same running time, we see that he has a heart (buried) via the wind-up music box, that he's cunning (His encounter with the Gyro Captain), ruthless, very intelligent, and basically an all-around cool character. 

This is better Max:


By the point in the running time when Fury Road is still showing us big CG landscapes and vistas and constant action, Road Warrior has given us a relatable hero with a plan, a sense of conscience, and a lot of skill to back it up.  Fury Road's Max was a steering wheel holder, a guy who just got stuck in the middle of someone else's story and clung on for dear life, and didn't bring any particular skills to the story.  RW's Max was a guy with a plan who was the only dude who could help the refinery people, and his determination and stupid-fast driving skill ended up making him an accidental hero.  Like Eastwood's Man with No Name, he's in it for himself, but still gets the good guy job done.


Finally, I missed the humor.  RW is actually a fairly funny movie, often unexpectedly so, and yeah it's black humor but it still has laughs.  Particularly the Gyro Captain and the running gag with Max's shotgun:

Bottom line - I did enjoy Fury Road.  I didn't think it was as good as Road Warrior, though, nor was it "the ultimate action movie ever made" as many of the reviews have claimed.  

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