Imagine David Lynch gets locked in a room for a whole week. He’s given dangerous amounts of LSD and made to watch 80’s action movies. Then he’s asked to direct Paradise Lost. You wouldn’t even be close to Mad Max: Fury Road. Instead the man who brought us Happy Feet, at the height of his powers, decides to bring us his opus. Two hours of beautifully orchestrated chaos with the kind of detail only found in the corners of your worst dreams.
When you watch Fury Road, you’d be forgiven for wondering if this is a remake or continuation. Sense-assaulting and lightening-quick flashbacks, to the demise of Max’s family, quickly get you up to speed on his origins, but it doesn’t feel like the same Max. Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter. Once Max’s opening line is delivered in a Sub-woofer growl, we’re pretty much off to the races!
Everyone that goes to see Fury Road will talk about the action. It’s fair to say that it’s so giddily concocted and wonderfully executed that you’ll have a hard time remembering the film as whole. Never before has the disregard for stuntman health and safety been so jaw-dropping. If this was the singular vision for the latest Max outing, its second to none. However, even the most die hard fans of this post apocalyptic Australia have to admit that emotional investment is left at the door.
Max has become a cypher in Fury Road. Not quite a tool to get from A to B, but certainly the action guy of VHS rental. Max doesn’t quite do enough to have you engage or root for him and he doesn’t do so little that he’s apathetic. It’s a strange place for a “hero” to find himself in. Amongst all the operatic bombast you may find yourself wondering where the heart of the movie is. It certainly isn’t with Max. Tough-as-old-boots he may be, but devoid of character and only mildly alluded to integrity, he doesn’t have the kind charisma as the 80’s heroes of yore. It’s quite disappointing to not have the catharsis of “you did well, kid” when the hero walks away from the decimation.
Charlize Theron’s Furiosa has more to do and certainly delivers more in the investment stakes, but gets a little undercooked. Her motivations are clear, even if her altruism isn’t, but Theron completely commits to the part,making you wonder what shade of insipid the role would be in less capable hands.
Strangely, it’s Nichols Hoult’s Nux who gets the best arc. Twitchy zealot turned rogue of the hour, is probably the most understandable character. No back story or emotional string-pulling is required, because you watch the events transform him. Sadly, this is not a courtesy extended to Max.
Whatever the emotional issues, the sheer horrible giddiness of each and every frame can not be denied. Fury Road is an accomplishment just getting into production, let alone making it to general release. It’s equal parts exciting and hellish. It just lacks real emotional torque.
3* – Rev-Head Gladiator