Mad Max: Fury Road movie full length review - Loud and Weird for the sake of being Loud and Weird
Seriously, what happened? Mad Max and The Road Warrior were gritty, uncompromising, atmospheric and above all character driven. They deserve their status as classic post-apocalyptic films.
Fast-forward 30 odd years where we have Mad Max: Fury Road, minus Mel Gibson but George Miller still in the directors chair, and it is impossible to recognise that this is meant to be linked to the earlier films. Its a film that is about as subtle as a jackhammer to the head.
This is the story: Max and a load of women drive for days in one direction to escape a dictator who pursues them, then they turn around to drive back to where they came from. That is literally it. To say the film is thin on story would be a gross understatement. Not just that but the whole plot is a device in and of itself. They're making the journey to escape Immortal Joe and to reach Paradise, except it turns out that there is no such thing as Paradise anymore. They are in a post-apocalyptic world for heavens sake, I think its obvious that anywhere even remotely pleasant would have been long gone. To add to the insult Max is absolutely redundant in this film, for one I'm amazed he agreed to such an absurd idea to begin with (he's mad not stupid) and two its not his film. You could take him out, replace him with another girl and it would make virtually no difference to anything that happens. The characters are just weak as we learn nothing about any of them beyond a very simple motivation which is all we get, why should we care about any of these one-dimensional cardboard cutouts?
The action can be summed up in one word, Overkill. There is a reason that not many people try to make films that are literally 2 hours of action scenes, because it will eventually get tedious and boring, which is exactly what happens here. On about the third time the truck is attacked I completely lost interest because I knew none of the major players were going to be killed. For action to work you need to feel like the characters really are at threat and will lose something, which I never felt and as a result it simply didn't work. By the halfway mark I was seriously weary, because the action sequences just kept banging on. There are hardly any slow or character building moments, with those that appear literally lasting a minute before quickly moving on to more explosions and cars being flipped over. Most of the sequences being practical effects is impressive, but its nowhere near enough to use it to praise the film to death like so many have.
As stated, you'd be totally wrong if you thought we were going to get strong and interesting characters to make up for the other areas. Everyone said Charlize Theron gave a great performance, but I saw no evidence of that because she resembled an oak tree more often then not. All she did was brood or look angry, wow that's difficult to do. She handled the more emotional moments, if you would even go as far as to call them that, horribly and with an expression of total boredom. Tom Hardy (who is usually solid as a rock) is a horrid choice as Max. His expression never changes from confused neanderthal and he delivers the dialogue as if he'd just been kicked in the head by a mule. Not to mention he suffers badly from 'Russell Crowe in Robin Hood Syndrome' as his accent constantly swings from Good Day Bruce Aussie to vaguely Cockney to just incoherent mumbling. Everyone else is barely worth the mention. The girls who travel with them? Not one stood out or had any character beyond angry. Immortal Joe? Dull as dishwater. Even Nicholas Hoult is wasted as an extremely annoying rebel.
Visually the film is very creative and looks unique which is probably its best feature, the world created is colourful and grimy exactly when it needs to be. That said I don't think the directing is anything out of the box, its simply not as frenzied as other recent action films (looking at you Michael Bay) and some of the CGI is ropey when it pops up. The are also a few surprisingly funny moments (notably the fella with the flare) which are a welcomed release from most of the straight-faced nonsense taking place. I do think the film is too weird basically just to be weird. I mean Immortal Joe's gang have a guitarist whose guitar shoots fire, sure it looks cool but it makes no sense. Yes its a strange world, but does it have to be an impractical one too?
I'm really not sure why Fury Road is getting so much acclaim. Is it because it used practical effects in a time dominated by CGI? I actually think it is. Simply because it has nothing else going for it. The story? My last trip to the toilet had more of a plot. The characters? Calling them planks of wood would be an insult to planks of wood. The action? It's crash, bang, wallop for 2 hours non-stop. The whole thing of 'visual story-telling' is simply an excuse by brainless people to basically admit that when you think about it there is no story. Here's a tip to the creators. The two key things in a film are story and character, when your film severely lacks both then you're already in trouble.