Mad Max: Fury Road – A Dystopian Rhapsody

Written by Joey Simpson May 19, 2015

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Mad Max: Fury Road is a fierce undertow, setting strong waves against Hollywood’s torrent of superheroes, adaptations, resettings, remakes, and thinly spread franchises. It becomes obvious as one views the long-awaited return to George Miller’s dystopia, that it could so easily fall into the anonymous milieu of other adrenaline-fuelled Hollywood blockbusters (though whatever Fury Road is fuelled on is much more potent and intoxicating). The added authenticity of a master filmmaker returning to his chef d’oeuvre with greater tools and worldwide fame is tantilizing, albeit a romantic view of artistry. Was this not the same expectation held for a Spielberg-helmed Indiana Jones movie (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 2008)? An Alien progeny in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012)? Mad Max: Fury Road is simply a repetition the franchise’s tropes under newer lenses or dynamic ranges aimed at replicating an early nostalgia. The film’s excellence rests in Miller’s distinctly modern approach, evolving the film’s premises with the technology used to capture it.

“What a lovely day!”

Fury Road begins where Mad Max left off: several years after the collapse of civilization, where water and gasoline are desperately fought over by the remnants of humanity. “Mad” Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has been living in solitude for some time until he is captured an imprisoned by a marauding gang called The Warboys, an maniacal army working at the behest of the cruel despot Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). He is saved from death only by his O- blood type (a universal donor), wherein he becomes a “bloodbag” for Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a diminutive, but savage War Boy driver. When Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a War Boy soldier, drives a heavily-armoured War Rig off-course on a routine supply route, it becomes known that she has taken Immortan Joe’s Five Wives – beautiful women who have been chosen for ideal breeding purposes. Immortan Joe sends his entire arsenal to retrieve his wives, bringing Max and Lux to cross paths with Furiosa as they all attempt to survive in a post-civilization world.

Where Mad Max: Fury Road succeeds is in its completely contemporary sensibility, though still bearing the visual and narrative gall of its predecessors to appear as alien to multiplexes as Mad Max has always done. As a series, Mad Max has always made sure to stay fresh with each installment, from the 1979 original’s gritty revenge-based cop film to The Road Warrior’s misanthropic wasteland epic. Stylistically, Fury Road has more the tone and assemblage of a musical, albeit a Cormac McCarthy version Busby Berkley high on diesel fumes. Every grotesque, rusted detail is executed with precision, with art direction and set design writ on a near Wagnerian scale. In a film where story is performed more through grandiose car chases and shootouts (allegedly due to a thin working script), Miller would have pirouettes done by mangled oil tankers, frenetic zoom-ins and fast motion, with villains resembling rejected H.R. Gieger designs.

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“I am the one who runs from both the living and the dead.”

Fury Road often relies more on gesture and visual design for narrative. While this kind of stoic filmmaking is not new to the series, Miller holds nothing back in showing a distinctly bleaker bleaker version of his dystopia. In this chapter, human bodies are literally milked and used as blood packs, while Immortan Joe’s wives are forced to mate to produce heirs. Whereas the past renditions of the series showed how the human race survives and form new societal clans, Fury Road is more dedicated to showing the forces intrinsic to mankind which caused the disaster. With slogans such as “Who killed the world?” peppered throughout the world, and Immortan Joe’s neo-fascist personality cult, Miller is more occupied with the exploitation of human bodies (particularly women) as it persists after the fall of civilization. Max himself has become more brutal and desperate with age, going so far as to use a pregnant woman as a hostage for a vehicle.

With an admirable cast and painstaking detail, George Miller’s return to the wasteland in Mad Max: Fury Road is by far one of the most creative films to have been released this year. Tom Hardy’s offers a familiar hopelessness that we’ve come to expect from Mel Gibson’s Max, with a more manic and tortured sensibility. Charlize Theron as Furiosa is the breakout star of the film however, as her complicated motives and hardened warrior instinct become one of the focal points of action. With the promise of more Mad Max material in the works, we can only hope that George Miller continues to top and excite us with his grotesque, wasteland epic saga.

My Rating: 9/10

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