Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, George Miller)
One need only be a cursory viewer of televised professional sport to be aware that words such as “astonishing”, “amazing” and “incredible” are bandied around these days with farcical abandon. Apparently, just about every Premiership football match justifies these descriptions. It’s rarely the case. But the new Mad Max movie unquestionably astonishes, amazes and…er…incredibles. It explodes off the fucking screen.
The director, George Miller, recently turned 70. Bloody hell, I hope I’m still alive and vaguely lucid at that age, let alone able to marshal the troops and resources required in bringing this maelstrom to the big screen. The last Max installment, Beyond Thunderdome was released thirty years ago, so it had long been assumed that Miller had taken this idea as far as he could. Also, Beyond Thunderdome was a bit shit. The peak of the series until now was the final truck chase from Mad Max 2, also known as The Road Warrior (if you’re American or a wanker). In Fury Road Miller manages to top this sequence. Twice.
Many viewers and critics are snobbish about action films; they’d prefer an earnest drama in which “complex characters” discuss “serious” stuff. But what they’re missing is that action moviemaking at its best can be a form of pure cinema. Miller has said that he wants the film to work even if you don’t understand English, like a silent movie. After watching Mad Max: Fury Road, imagine for a second someone trying to tell the same story using a different medium. Would it work as a novel? A play? Even a TV programme? It’s big, it’s loud, it barely requires any dialogue; it belongs on an enormous cinema screen.
A quick caveat…
Is this film really feminist? Many people seem to think so. Like Terminator 2 and the Alien movies, Fury Road has been praised for having a “strong” female character; in this case Charlize Theron as Imperiosa Furiosa (great name). Furiosa is virtually the protagonist of the film – she has the clearest arc and goals – and Theron gives a great performance. But is depicting a female character driving fast, shooting guns and hitting people really enough to praise a film for being feminist? Or, is it just having a female character behave in ways we normally expect of male characters in action movies? It’s not just action films that are over-populated with male characters and their concerns; it’s ALL mainstream cinema.
Still, it is nice to imagine there might be a follow-up in which Charlize Theron is officially the lead, and the film takes her character’s name: Furious Furiosa maybe?