Thursday, May 28, 2015

Movie Review – Max Max : Fury Road

  I went to see 'Mad Max: Fury Road' at the Marshalltown movie theatre with Kathy and Ben, joining 22 other moviegoers for the Sunday matinee. This movie was the fourth installment in the ‘Mad Max’ series and the first new episode in 30 years with a youthful Thomas Hardy taking the place of Mel Gibson in the title role.

  The movie is a part reboot (because of Hardy) and part continuation of the post-apocalyptic society that has evolved in the Australian desert. This meant that there was no time wasted in how Mad Max got that way since it was explained in Max’s flashbacks of his wife and daughter’s death and the visions and conversations he has with his daughter throughout the movie.

  The first part of the movie has a good pace as Max is captured by a society of chalk white warriors and after a failed escape attempt is pressed into service as a human transfusion device called a ‘blood bag’ for one of the sicker warriors. We are then introduced to the realm of ‘Immortan Joe’, who rules the area by virtue of his control of a massive assemblage of chains, pulleys, and levers that pump water out of an underground aquifer which Joe dispenses to the thousands of scavengers that live nearby. Joe has everything his own way – he and his leaders live on top of a mountain that is accessible by a manually operated elevator lift, Joe has a set of young ‘breeder wives’, and he and his crew drink milk that is expressed from a group of lactating female slaves.

  After Max is established as prisoner ‘blood bag’ to one of Immortan Joe’s soldiers, the story’s main plot is revealed. While on a gas for water run to ‘Gastown’ Joe’s commander Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has kidnapped his five breeder wives (two of whom are pregnant). Joe leads his entire army of soldiers and war machine vehicles in a chase across the desert to reclaim his wives.

  The chase has all kinds of wild machines with all kinds of freakish attachments like pole vaults that allow one of the many freakish soldiers to swing over the top of another vehicle and ‘drop in’ for a visit or knives that pop out of the sides of a war machine to slash the tires of the adjoining vehicle or giant spiked platforms that are dropped to flatten the tires of the trailing vehicle. One of the vehicles is nothing but a wall of rock concert speakers that blare out steel guitar noise from the ever-present steel guitarist who performs solos during all the car chases while flames shoot from the guitar during particularly noisy riffs. When the guitarist is on break the chases through the desert are accompanied by operatic music and breathtaking overhead shots that show the vastness of the desert which provide quite a contrast to the immediate violence of the chase.

  After the initial chase Max gets free from his prisoner status and he joins Furiosa in trying to outrun Immortan Joe and his allies in order to deliver the breeder wives to Furiosa’s original home known as ‘The Green Place’. There is a chase through a sand/lightning storm, a chase through a muddy quagmire, and a few more desert chases. In the middle of all the chases, each character gets a small amount of character development – Furiosa reveals that she was kidnapped as a young girl and that is her motivation to free the breeder wives, Max’s blood bag partner defects from Immortan Joe, even Immortan Joe is moved to tears when he recaptures one of his breeder wives who dies along with her unborn child.

  After the climactic desert chase the good guys win, the bad guys lose, and Max disappears into the desert, leaving Furiosa as the presumed keeper of Immortan Joe’s former kingdom. The only things I understood about this post-apocalyptic world as that the most valuable things were water, gasoline, and bullets. I didn’t understand how all these complex war vehicles, water pumps, and elevators could remain functioning or how the hundreds of soldiers and slaves in Immortan Joe’s kingdom were able to not only survive but look pretty well-fed while doing it.

   I liked the first chase through the desert a lot - it looked like a video game come to life. The rest of the chases all seemed kind of the same with weird looking vehicles, the operatic music mixed in with the guy playing the flame shooting guitar, and high overhead shots during the chases mixed with hand to hand combat as Furiosa’s tanker would get periodically ‘boarded’, frenetic violence intermixed with the anxious looking around at pursuers, etc… There were plenty of soap opera aspects to the chases as our heroes had to deal with a fuel trailer getting off its moorings and slowing the vehicle down, various engine failures, getting stuck in a mud pit, etc.., etc… The action was non-stop but it seemed like a loop of the same action. Hardy and Theron were fine as leads in an action movie which is not exactly the most demanding of roles. The movie's minimal plot reminded me a lot of ‘The Outlaw Josie Wales’ with Max Max in the Clint Eastwood role of a stranger in a strange land banding with a group of misfits (as if there is anything but misfits in this post-apocalyptic world) who gain their freedom despite all odds.

  I had a choice of seeing ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ or ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ this past weekend and I think I made the wrong choice. I chose the Mad Max movie because I heard nothing but great things about it. I didn't realize it was a ‘the car chase is the star’ movie and the special effects all seemed the same after a while. Each leg of the adventure brought a few more freaks but after a while they all just looked the same to me. If you like freaky people and freaky vehicles chasing each other over a freaky landscape this is the movie for you but if you have a good TV at home I'd just wait for Redbox.