Thursday, 28 May 2015
Review: Mad Max: Fury Road (UK Cert 15)
Thirty years after Mel Gibson left the Thunderdome, Mad Max is back on screen, once again directed and written by franchise creator George Miller.
The apocalypse has hit. Max (Tom Hardy) is left in the wilderness and is captured by the War Boys, servants of the warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and is used as a 'blood-bag' for the weaker War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Joe rules the wastelands, even controlling the water supply for his embattled subjects. Everything is based on trade and Joe sends a convoy of fuel out to another township. However, the convoy leader Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has other ideas... with the War Boys in hot pursuit of Furiosa and her contraband cargo, Max is dragged into the chase.
What is essentially a two-hour car chase becomes something so much more thanks to some sumptuous visuals, some brilliant performances and a good dose of downright insanity.
Furiosa is a brilliant character and played brilliantly by the ever-dependable Theron. She's not a damsel in distress (this is the kind of film where even the damsels in distress are not exactly your typical swooning female ciphers), she is the catalyst for the entire story and she certainly doesn't need Max to help her or save her. If anything, at the start, he's more of a hindrance. It's also refreshing that it doesn't lapse into a romantic relationship either. Furiosa is her own woman, from start to finish. The film has been accused of trying to sneak feminism in by the back door but, frankly, after the paper-thin insults that are the usual popcorn fodder idea of female characters (Michael Bay, I'm looking directly at you) I'm all for it.
Hardy's performance as Max is decent enough, although his accent wanders something dreadful. Max is a solid, laconic figure, acted upon rather than acting. Hoult gives a great turn as War Boy Nux, desperate for Immortan Joe to notice him and praise him. He also forms a bond with one of Furiosa's associates that is oddly sweet. Keays-Byrne makes for a formidable enemy and it's not his first time at the rodeo- he played the villainouse Toecutter in the original Mad Max.
The Namibian desert doubles for the apocalyptic wastelands of Australia and the visuals are just stunning. It's definitely worth seeing on the big screen (although not necessarily in 3D) as the desert vistas really have some scale from bleached white sunburnt sands to the cooler bluer shades of night. The convoy heading after Furiosa and her is immense and there's a really inspired (and crazy) decision to have a rig covered in drums with a guitarist- known as the Doof Warrior- to act as a kind of pace-keeper. Not only does it give rise to some of the best visuals in the entire film, it also adds a nice amount of diegetic music as the rig gets closer.
Whilst I enjoyed it a damn sight more than I expected to, I just wonder whether it needed to be a 'Mad Max' film. Max is such a peripheral character, almost a supporting character in his own film. It could have been any dystopic post-apocalyptic setting, put in a generic action hero in place of Max, retained the War Boys and the kick-ass Furiosa and had the same effect. Hell, it could have just been called 'George Miller's Fury Road'.
Despite this, it's a decent slice of entertainment with enough to satisfy the petrolheads as well as those in search of something a bit more substantial.
Rating: 4 out of 5