By Eric Plaag
Matt is off somewhere waxing poetic about this film, so while he’s still riding that high, I’ll bring us back down to earth with this brief, capsule shot at Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m sure he will follow with his own review, or perhaps we’ll engage in another kerfuffle for our TheSplitScreen readers. Bring your popcorn. In the meantime:
*From a technical achievement perspective, Mad Max: Fury Road is utterly mind-blowing, especially in 3-D.
*From a stunt coordination perspective, Mad Max: Fury Road is utterly mind-blowing, especially in 3-D.
*From a set and production design perspective, Mad Max: Fury Road is utterly mind-blowing, completely jam-packed with interesting–no, fascinating–gestures, nods, and bows to George Miller’s decades-long fever dream on dystopia and post-apocalyptic cultural re-emergence. The shapes on stilts in the remnants of the Green Place, in particular, were mesmerizing and deserved far more time and explanation.
*From a character development perspective, this film is a complete mess.
We get almost no information about who Max is or what the source of his (frequent) hallucinations might be, nor can we rely on the past Mad Max films, given that this one seems to function in an alternative universe where Max’s dead son was actually a daughter. As a result, never in the history of highly regarded action films has there been a more cardboard-composite leading character. Furiosa suffers in similar ways, even if she has a bit more to work with, and her fall into the sand on learning the news of the Green Place was preposterously purple screenwriting that caused me to guffaw out loud. Indeed, perhaps the best developed character (and the only one with an actual arc) in the whole film is Nux, whose religious views, social motivations, and associated doubts about all of it are palpable and curiously complex for a secondary character.
*From a plot and story development perspective, this film is empty and simplistic, and at times the sense of physics and its consequences embodied by this film strains credulity even beyond any of the mind-numbing Fast and Furious films. Further, I’d have found the Leche League characters to be much more believable if they weren’t ACTUAL SUPERMODELS, because, news flash: brainless, undernourished stick women are going to be a dime a dozen in this type of post-apocalyptic future and not at all desirable for producing the kind of behemoths that Immortan Joe hopes to be his heirs.
While I marginally recommend the film, I’ve seen all of this before–technical and stunt achievements notwithstanding–and was largely unmoved by either story or character elements, which to me are crucial for a film to be considered truly outstanding. Put simply, if you want to explore post-apocalyptic dystopia with armored vehicles, worthy villains, and leads you can actually care about, then put your money on The Book of Eli. It did all of this, on a much smaller but far more meaningful scale, and it didn’t feel, as my wife Teresa called Mad Max: Fury Road, like a two-hour-long music video.
3 out of 5 stars