This throws into sharp relief the cultural impact Mad Max has, I saw in it facets of Borderlands, Doomsday, the Orks of Warhammer 40K, basically any game, film or TV series that features cars and a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Already I’m hoping to see a sequel, even the beginnings of a new trilogy, and it looks like I’m not alone.
Our “Hero” Max occupies a very odd role in this film. Rather than playing a central part in the film to which is name is emblazoned, he instead acts as a focal point, an observer for whom the story is something of an inconvenience on his road to everywhere but where people want him dead. In fact if he weren’t the titular character you may not even have known his name until the last quarter hour of the film.
Tom Hardy grunts and threatens his way through the role of the Road Warrior, haunted by the people he wasn’t able to save. In short, he’s Mad Max done to perfection, a survivor, not a hero, the product of a dead world. It doesn’t allow him much opportunity by way of a vocal performance, but his physical and facial delivery is something worthy of remark. While the role of Bane delivered it all, Hardy’s Max was nothing if not memorable. Notably missing is the somewhat iconic leg brace, although this does allow for much more intensive action, oh and action there was.
I admit I’m rather prone to trying to join in with action scenes, lots of leaning forward, dodging, throwing phantom punches. Then to say that I barely touched the back of my chair, you will understand exactly how much is going on in Fury Road at all times. Recall that I said I was hoping for one long car chase? Well that’s exactly what I got, and yet amidst the carnage, the roar of engines, the beating of war drums and the constant thunderous explosions, there is a story.
Let us come to Imperator Furiosa. This is her story, it’s even the title “Fury Road”, Furiosa’s journey. Charlize Theron brings a lot of life and steel to the heroine of the film, who frees the imprisoned harem of Immortan Joe to return them to a mysterious paradise known as the Green-Place. This film embraces what I have been talking about, well written female roles, and I will be looking more closely at Theron’s work. As part of her preparation she shaved her head, partially for the heat of the desert, but mostly for the look of the thing.
There was one moment however at which my ability to suspend belief failed me, and here I warn of minor spoilers, so skip a couple of paragraphs if you feel you need to:
The members of the harem show themselves to be far from weak-willed easily frightened women. Though they’ve lived a sheltered life their determination to be free grants them a kind of ferocity that keeps them going. So when one of them finds a War-Boy – Immortan Joe’s zealot berserkers – tucked away on the rig that is their lifeline I fully expected that to be the end of the War-Boy.
Nope! Instead she asks if he’s ok, and then tells no one he’s there. Ok, so he ends up a good guy, but it seemed such a bad narrative decision. “Perhaps I can change him” is never a good reason to show an enemy mercy.
Spoilers Over, you can come back now!
So far this series has shown an increasing degradation in the world, and Fury Road keeps up the pace. Immortan Joe’s cult is an amazing construct, taking a look from their prophet as a holy sign, a V8 engine as a blessing. Visually he’s dramatic, but his pack are spectacular to behold. Mutated, cancerous, regaled in warpaints, begging for nothing but to be seen so that they may be carried to Valhalla, so that their cries of “Witness Me!” become chilling.
Then their are the other clans, the Bullet Farmer, The People Eater, and everyone’s new favourite bad guy whom you may not know is called the Doof Warrior!
Oh yeah, this film has so much going for it I may have to go for another watch just to take it all in. The corpulence, the decay, the chaos. There’s not a moment goes past without feeling as though you missed one awesome detail while paying attention to another. I feel as though George Miller has finally captured the image he began with, and I sincerely hope he continues to develop it, although where he goes from here I dare not think.
For now though, I shall console myself with Borderlands, and maybe go and get myself a copy of the soundtrack.
I shall see you in Walhalla my friends. All shiny and chrome…