Blood Run, by Rudie Obias
Believe it or not, director George Miller is following up the animated children’s film Happy Feet Two with Mad Max: Fury Road, a strange, action-packed rollercoaster of car chases, religious zealots, and human birthing farms. Somehow Miller’s style and visual panache makes the bridge between the two films possible, as Mad Max: Fury Road is as far away from Happy Feet Two, as it is from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, the last movie in the Mad Max film franchise, which was released 30 years ago in 1985. While other movies falter with long periods of time between sequels, such as Dumb and Dumber and Dumb and Dumber To, George Miller and Mad Max seem to get better with age.
While Mad Max: Fury Road features Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) in the lead role, it’s actually shared with a new character named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is the emotional and narrative force. The pair share an on-screen title card that kicks off the movie. The film starts off with a group of albino and bald religious fanatics capturing Max and using him for blood transfusions. They refer to him as the “blood bag,” while their leader and religious figure King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) orders a supply run to Gastown with the fierce Furiosa leading the charge. It’s soon revealed that Furiosa plans to use the roaming convoy as a decoy to try to escape with King Immortan Joe’s imprisoned Five Wives to the distant “Green Place.” During the epic opening chase scene, Max comes along for the ride when Nux (Nicholas Hoult), the zealot receiving the blood transfusion, takes the titular character with him to attempt to gain glory for his people and leader during the chase.
Although the description of the plot above sounds complex and convoluted, it’s surprisingly a simple story, mostly told visually with short bursts of dialogue. One of the most impressive things about Mad Max: Fury Road is how George Miller sets up the world, its characters, their relationships to each other, and the action and driving force with cinematic visuals; you know, the time honored tradition of cutting two moving images together to tell a story. For as loud and bombastic the movie appears to be, you can actually get everything you need to know about it on a visual level. You can simply turn off the sound and know exactly what you’re watching and what’s driving the story. It’s true artistry and it’s something missing in today’s blockbusters and action movies.
Over the years, blockbusters boil down to “bigger is better” and the idea that big action movies should be experienced rather than watched. So movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and Furious 7 are almost exhausting to watch because everything is thrown at the audience, in terms of its action and visuals. Although these movies are bigger, they’re not necessarily better but rather just bloated. Mad Max: Fury Road is bigger than any other movie in the franchise. It’s louder and more visually stimulating but George Miller does something that most blockbusters don’t. He paces the film in such a way that it never feels boring and never feels exhausting. And in turn, we as the audience can appreciate and fall in love with Mad Max’s world and characters.
On its surface, Mad Max: Fury Road is boiled down to just two long chase scenes. Our protagonists have to drive somewhere and drive back. And that’s it. But within those big action set pieces, the character’s actions define their personalities. The movie is surprisingly very character driven and its emotional highs and lows reflect that of the movie’s rollercoaster nature. Its characters are complex and fully formed, while its central villain and his henchmen are completely menacing and terrifying. King Immortan Joe is the type of villain that requires a heavy metal convoy behind him so he’ll always have a diegetic soundtrack that reflects his killer instinct mood while he hunts his prey. There is a heavy metal guitarist in this movie who is just as important to the action as the many stuntmen with guns, grenades, and chainsaws. Yes, there are chainsaws in this movie!
Mad Max: Fury Road is well worth the 30-year wait between movies. It re-defines its mythology and characters, while serving what came before it. The movie is what most franchise reboots should be, a creative and imaginative way to re-introduce its characters, story, and world to a whole new audience. Otherwise, why are we rebooting once-popular movie franchises, if not to see our beloved characters in new and exciting situations and stories? Mad Max: Fury Road is one damn fine action movie, as it completely embarrasses most other summer blockbusters for not trying to reach the same dizzying heights.