Saturday, May 16, 2015

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Just got back from seeing Mad Max: Fury Road with my friend David. Although I'd never seen any of the prior movies (except for a bit of the ending of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and something from probably the original involving a bad guy handcuffed to a car that's set on fire, all on TV), the reviews were really, really good. I figured the Mad Max films were kind of episodic in nature and so I wouldn't need to see the earlier ones, so off I went...

The Plot

In the desolate future, the tyrannical Immortan Joe (who looks like a post-apocalyptic version of Mortal Kombat's Shao Khan with the Dark Knight Rises's Bane vocals) rules over an isolated citadel where he controls the water supply and has a harem of some of the few remaining attractive women. His concubines--two of whom are pregnant--escape with the help of Joe's honored warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and are soon joined by the wanderer Max (Tom Hardy), who had been taken captive and used as a blood donor. Joe and his barbarian horde are soon on their tail and the women--and Max--have to brave a gauntlet of other barbarians to find the mystical "green lands."

The Good

*The movie starts out quickly, with Max getting captured by the forces of Immortan Joe and making an abortive escape attempt before the title appears.

*Max and Furiosa are pretty impressive, skilled characters and I like both them and the actors that played them. They're both very Genre Savvy in terms of how prepared they are for trouble and how they recognize traps. And although I didn't like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's performance in Transformers: Dark of the Moon (although that might've had a lot to do with the fact I didn't like Carly replacing Mikaela as the female lead), she does a good job as Angahard, Immortan Joe's favored wife.

*Speaking of Immortan Joe's concubines, it was realistic that once they've escaped the citadel and learn firsthand how harsh and horrible life outside is some of them would want to go back. Harriet Tubman had to threaten runaway slaves with a rifle on occasion who'd gotten cold feet on the whole "escape from slavery" thing.

*You don't need to have seen the previous movies to see this one.

*The film is visually pretty awesome. There're warriors who attack big rigs and larger vehicles using grenade-tipped spears ("car-poons"?) like whalers on the hunt. Immortan Joe's army including a truck that's got a gigantic array of drums on the back and a guitar player hanging suspended on the front. Said truck also provides some of the more impressive parts of the film's soundtrack.

*Speaking of the soundtrack, the music is generally quite good. A lot of metal and drums, which given the world this is set in, works well.

*I like what they did with the eager but sickly warrior Nux, who worships Immortan Joe. He goes from just another Mook to an interesting character in his own right. Immortan Joe and his son Rictus have a couple softer moments as well.

*One of Immortan Joe's concubines reveals she's pregnant and bitterly remarks her child will probably be ugly. One new character they encounter (not going to go into more detail for reasons of spoilers) gently points out the child could be a girl. Given some of the graffiti they leave behind when they escape (more on that later), the idea their children would be anything other than Warboys-to-be seems to have never occurred to them.

*Although Immortan Joe's wives have shades of the notion that to be feminine is to be pacifist (the graffiti they leave behind implies that the pregnant ones rebelled at the thought of their children growing up to be warlords and they insist on no unnecessary killing during the escape), their kindness does prove useful in redeeming one of the villainous characters. And they're willing to push this aside when killing proves necessary.

The Bad

*Way too many fade-outs. It was like back when I was watching The Return of the King and wondering if the movie was over...until it wasn't. Granted, these were in the middle of the movie and so I knew it wasn't over, but it was a poor decision on the part of the editor, the director, or whomever was in charge. This was the single biggest flaw in the movie.

*It's implied that one group of baddies are trapped and left at the mercy of another group of baddies, but this isn't explained very well. I was able to figure that out, but it would have been better if we at least saw the beginning of what I imagine happened once their pursuit of the heroes was stopped. I shouldn't have to come up with explanations on my own.

*Some of the dialogue isn't very good.

*It's hard to figure out many of the characters' names. I had to read reviews in order to learn most of them. Max, Imperator Furiosa, Immortan Joe, Rictus, and the allied villain People Eater were the ones I was able to pick out, but the names of the wives and various minor characters, nope.

*Max has too many flashbacks to a little girl who's probably his daughter. These become very important during the climactic battle, but they could be reduced in number somewhat.

*A villain is killed off-screen with just some explosions in the fog. I felt slightly cheated.

*If you don't enjoy the grotesque, you might not enjoy some parts of this movie. Between fat women farmed for breast milk, a deformed little man who operates the citadel's telescopes, etc., there's some stuff weaker stomachs might find kind of gross.

*The movie kind of dragged a bit in the middle.

The Verdict

See it once. It's entertaining, but flawed. 8.0 out of 10.0.

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