Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Mad Max: Fury Road

Title: Mad Max: Fury Road

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: "Movies aren't stupid, they fill us with romance and hatred and revenge fantasies."

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Five Night Riders out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: In the roar of an engine, he lost everything, and became a shell of a man

Tagline: “The future belongs to the mad.”

Better Tagline: [staring in slack-jawed stupefaction]

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: In the year 2060 (according to online sources, I don't remember the date being given in the movie), a warlord named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules most of what remains of humanity with an iron fist. One who dares to defy him is Furiosa (Charlize Theron), an "Imperator" in Joe's army, who absconds with his precious Wives. Swept up in all this is Max (Tom Hardy), a renegade driver who's been conveniently captured by Joe's forces.

"Critical" Analysis: Mad Max: Fury Road is an insane movie. The fact that it's a reboot of a 30+ year-old franchise notwithstanding, it's one of the most daringly original and visually arresting big budget movies I've seen in years. A spiritual successor to The Road Warrior, the second movie of the Mad Max franchise, Fury Road is that film after 500 mics of LSD, a few hits of meth, and a huff or two of gasoline. It is to The Road Warrior as Bullitt is to Driving Miss Daisy.

The audaciousness of Fury Road is that much more remarkable when you consider writer/director George Miller's most successful effort since 1985 (Beyond Thunderdome) is a cartoon about dancing penguins. Somehow the guy convinced Warner Bros to give him $150 million, and this after literally 25 years in development hell. And after all that, Miller delivers this, a film so wonderful to behold and so packed with glorious action that by the end there was a grand total of 12 words in my trusty reviewer's notebook.

And two of them were "holy shit."

Miller keeps the CGI to a minimum, meaning those stunts — the War Boys bobbing on steel poles over the fray; Hardy chained to the front of Nux's (Nicholas Hoult) Deuce Coupe, and all the magnificent crashes and collisions — were achieved "practically." I rarely mention production designers, but Colin Gibson outdid himself, creating almost 90 vehicles for the movie, meaning everything from Furiosa's War Rig to the "Doof Wagon" — basically a rolling stack of amplifiers with a guy playing a flamethrower guitar — to the "Peacemaker," a Charger on goddamned tank treads, was functional.

Would all that be enough? For me, maybe. The Road Warrior is one of my favorite movies Of All Time, so I probably would have been happy with 120 minutes of fuel-injected suicide machines going vroom vroom. But what makes Fury Road transcend admittedly classic mayhem is how Miller and writer Brendan McCarthy have given us what might be the first female superhero movie.

It's no secret in the Mad Max movies that Max himself is generally carried along by events not of his doing. That's been the case since TRW on, and it's even more so here. Obviously he's not a quote-unquote passive participant, but he does spend a good deal of the first act as a captive, while Furiosa engineers the escape and holds the group together as they seek their ultimate destination across the wasteland. The Wives themselves are fully realized characters, not generic beauties (though they're all portrayed by models). There's also also a subplot involving Furiosa's home that introduces a third, older generation of women ito the mix. It's rather extraordinary, and I imagine a lot of so-called men are going to be irked by the perceived Jack Burton-ing of Max Rockatansky to Furiosa's Wang Chi.

[EDIT: Man, I'm smart.]

In case I'm not being clear enough, Mad Max: Fury Road is simply a ... I don't know if "masterpiece" is the right word, but it's close enough. Rest assured that George Miller didn't spend those 20 years twiddling his thumbs. I want to see this five more times, in IMAX, simply to catch everything I missed while goggling at the screen during my initial viewing. Maybe my personal favorite part, and the one I liked pointing out to everyone for the last few months like Mr. Smarty Pants, is how Immortan Joe is played by the same guy who played the Toecutter in the original Mad Max.

I just wish they could have gotten Geoff “Bubba Zanetti” Parry in there somewhere.

Mad Max: Fury Road is in theaters today. They've got you wrong. You're not a coward. Stupid, maybe. But not a coward.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar