Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Heavy Metal Shane - A rambling review of Mad Max: Fury Road


Christ, where do I start?

First, the economy of the story telling is amazing. Miller is one action director who is not tied up with over-complicating a simple chase story. We get no back story, which is great. Too often action movies nowadays seem to be ashamed of just being action movies, and feel like they have to explain everything. Miller sketches every character with just enough detail to make them compelling, and then leaves it to the viewer to fill in the gaps. The plot is kept simple. There are no complex, over-arching schemes here. Just desperate people trying to survive in the middle of a hellish wasteland.

The actors all do a lot with the limited soil they are given. Tom Hardy is a convincing stand-in for Max. Personally I never missed Gibson. There's one badass night scene where Max leaves the tanker to go and deal with a car full of bad 'uns and then comes back covered in blood. It's a confident movie that does not feel the need to show how good Max is at killing.

Charlize Theron is great -- not just as a female action hero, but a disabled one as well. Too often action movies never feature disabled people. There's a tradition of 'one-armed swordsman' flicks in Hong Kong, but nothing similar in Hollywood. In contrast to Kingsman's Gazelle, Furiosa gets to be a hero rather than a freak or a villain's stooge. I liked that.

Back to the feminism! Last year I read an interview with producer Adi Shankar (The GreyKilling Me Softly) in which he discussed the difficulties of getting a studio to finance a female action film. He said the only way to do it was covert, by having a male character as the lead, but giving the emotional arc to a female character. Mad Max: Fury Road is that movie. While the men's rights people have unleashed their criticism about it detracting from Max, this fits with the modus operandi of the series. Having Max arrive in the middle of a community in crisis, providing aid and then leaving is the basis for the last two Mad Max movies. In this way, Max is like a post-apocalyptic descendant of Shane (1953).

If I have one complaint, it's with the look of Immortan Joe's harem. It feels like he just kidnapped them off a catwalk. They feel a bit too good looking for this place. I was waiting for them to open their mouths and reveal black toothless gums or something. Ah well. I'm nitpicking.

End of rant. There's plenty of other reviews out there. Don't wait for it to hit iTunes/DVD/Blu ray. Go watch the movie on the biggest screen  you can find -- it is the only format that does it justice.

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