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Belated Movie Review #6: Mad Max: Fury Road

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Mad-Max-Fury-Road-smallI’ve been reading Black Gate over the last month waiting for a Mad Max Fury: Road review… I guess that, if you’re anything like me, after watching the movie all you can manage is to light up a cigarette and take some time to recover.

So! It looks like I need to fire up my modified combat wagon (a ’78 Gremlin with a 79 Fiat Bertone welded on top) and GO TO VALHALLA VIA THE FURY ROAD!

It has taken me a while to come up with a review of Mad Max: Fury Road (MMFR) that isn’t simply “its f-ing awesome!” or “Hell yeah! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” or even “Oh what a love-eh-lee daay!”

It is a two+ hour fever dream! Modified dragsters and their support motorcycles tearing across a hellscape, bent on destruction! Ah, what the hell, throw in the pack from Gas Town, the Bullet Farmer, the Hedgehogs, and multiple biker gangs while we’re at it!

You know how the original Mad Max was mostly bad things happening and then like a 10-minute chase? Then Road Warrior (Belated Review #4) was bad things happening with like a 30 minute chase? And Beyond Thunderdome (Belated Review #5) threw a curveball by having weird things happen and then a 15 minute chase? Well Fury Road has like 10 minutes of bad things happening, and then IT IS ALL CHASE.

Sometimes they have to find excuses to actually stop chasing for a bit. Mostly so bad things can happen. Sometimes they manage to shout over the screaming engines and groaning metal long enough to engage in the absolute bare minimum of character development. It is so refreshing!

George Miller is still running on all pistons: The commentary on societies is still there, with Immortan Joe’s Citadel being the kind of place that you could imagine the Humungus having made, had he actually gotten his hands on that fat tanker.

Mad Max Fury Road hood ornnament-smallIt doesn’t really fit into the previous trilogy timeline, I guess it is a reboot (grumble) or a re-imagining (grumble grumble), but then again… it seems to have taken place far enough after the initial collapse that there is some actual trade (between the Citadel, Gas Town, and the Bullet Farm), and actual alliances and kinda-defined territories. Plus, the many, many ways they have of taking out cars. No more riding up next to it and hoping you get a lucky shot with your wrist crossbow!

And, as I’ve said, regarding Humungus and Entity, Immortan Joe does kinda have a point. He has pretty much made the desert bloom and he brings the groundwater and his Warboys protect everyone and enable the trade that makes the place go. But he’s kinda got a Henry the VIIIth thing going on… although he isn’t cutting off any of his wives’ heads. So… shades of grey there.

A Spoiler-ific review follows:

The start of Fury Road borrows a bit from MMBTD in that Max is on the run within about three minutes, just like in the trailer, And, just like in the trailer they throw a spear-point IED under the back of the V-8 and flip it (new techniques!) and he’s caught by about the eight minute mark.

He manages an escape attempt, which fails, and he ends up being used as a “blood bag” – an involuntary blood doner — for one of Immortan Joe’s Warboys (Nuz). And the movie would have pretty much ended there if Imperator Furiosa hadn’t stolen the wives, and all the Warboys weren’t called out to give chase.

The Women of Mad Max-smallWhich is why Max is up on the hood of that car for in all the previews — he’s still pumping blood to Nuz! Also, it takes like 20 minutes of screen-time for Max to get that muzzle off his face and, for the entire rest of the movie, he says like 10 words.

Anyway, Max ends up joining forces with Furiosa (after an awesome fight scene that he would have lost but for out-of-date shotgun shells) and they are stuck with each other from then on.

Here’s the thing about the setup. In the previous three movies there was a villain/heavy dynamic (Toecutter/Bubba Ginetti, Humungus/Wez, Aunty/Ironbar), but one of the things that George Miller did in this one was to break that tradition — Furiosa is Immortan Joe’s heavy! But she’s turned on him, so he has to rely on his own much less effectual son, Rictus Erectus — which in a twisted way kinda bolsters his argument that he needs healthy children!

And, during the course of the movie, Max pretty much becomes Furiosa’s heavy.

Actually, that isn’t quite true. Immortan Joe calls in his allies from Gas Town and the Bullet Farm to help in the chase, an interesting spin because had it just been the Citadel in pursuit, the stone-arch biker gang may have held up their end of the deal and it would have been a much shorter movie.

It also occurs to me that one of the other things the Mad Max movies have in common is the “reasonable person.” In Mad Max it was Fifi (who knows the score on cops and gangs and Max), in RW it was Papigalo, in BT things were split between Auntie Entity and Max, and in Fury Road the only reasonable person appears to be the Bullet Farmer. He’s the only one who seems to realize just how much danger and expense they are all going through for Joe. Plus he’s the only one smart enough to bring a light… which doesn’t work out very well for him.

Mad Max citadel-smallAnd speaking of unreasonable, Furiosa is kinda nutty, having not been back to the Green Growing Place in like 20 years (seven thousand something days… if you can trust her count, which you may not be able to because she claims they have 160 days of fuel at one point… which seems both strangely exacting and strangely unlikely). And the Vulvania are also pretty unreasonable people.

A lot has been made of the Old Lady Gang, but honestly they are just about as crazy as anybody else, luring people to their doom and (presumably) murdering them for the gazzaline. It is interesting that their crazy is kind of the inverse of Immortan Joe’s, whereas he’s driven to extremes to propagate his seed, the Vulvarians seem to be content to die out in the wasteland and be the last of their kind, and take all the seeds they’ve hoarded with them.

I like the idea that they go on the offensive, with the Vulvarian’s manning (so to speak) the war-rig and blazing a bloody path through Joe and Gastown’s weakened forces back to the citadel.

Here’s the thing, though, I don’t really think this movie has nearly as happy an ending as the others — in MM Max drives into the wasteland, a monster! In Road Warrior, he realizes he’s been duped and abandoned. In BT he had to drive the car to give the plane enough room. So why does he leave in Fury Road?

Because he knows the shitstorm is really just starting. The new boss(es) are, as I’ve stated, just about as crazy as the old ones, plus the necessary regicide, and the fact that if they could take the Citadel then anybody can — especially now that the warboys are pretty much decimated, as are the forces from Gas Town and the Bullet Farm! Leaving all three vulnerable to any mob of ferals and raggedy-men that might chose to come after them.


Adrian Simmons is an editor for Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. His last Belated Movie Review for us was Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

7 Comments »

  1. Ah, I’m glad someone finally reviewed Fury Road here. Good Lord, what a fuel-injected suicide machine of a movie! It’s the rocker, the roller, the out-of-controller! And George Miller is the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah! Yeah, take the chase at the end of The Road Warrior and stretch it across two hours, and that’s what we have here. And it’s glorious.

    You mention the “crazy” Vuvalini clan. I see them as part of a dialogue (if such a word can be used of a Mad Max movie) between two opposite views: Immortan Joe and his gang see women as objects, chattel, breeders and nothing more; on the other hand, the Vuvalini have completely rejected men and embraced a full-on like-a-fish-needs-a-bicycle lifestyle. It’s no coincidence that their Green Place has turned into a sour, barren swamp. Max and Furiosa, by coming to a mutual understanding and esteem, forge a middle road in which men and women treat one another with respect, as equals. I see the two-headed gecko at the beginning as symbolizing their partnership. (There’s a skink in The Road Warrior that I also consider symbolic. Or maybe I’m just crazy.)

    Perhaps it’s nothing, but I thought it interesting that at the beginning Max seems to move through the male characters of other movies, e.g., the Broken and Defiant Victims (chained to the front of a car), the Gyro Captain (buried in sand), and Johnny the Boy (handcuffed and lacking in boots). I also thought it interesting that, whereas bullets and gas are the scarce items sought by Max in The Road Warrior, here we have the Bullet Farm and Gas Town as two wings of the bad guys, with Max driving a tanker full of…breast milk. Throughout this movie, it’s water, blood, and milk that take the place of gazzaline in The Road Warrior, and Immortan Joe’s culture is blamed for its addiction to guns and gas.

    My only complaint is that my beloved V-8 Interceptor, resurrected from its detonation at the hands of Wez, is so ill-used. It literally brought tears to my eyes to see it in the opening scene, and it broke my heart to see it snatched away and disfigured by the War Boys.

    Comment by Raphael - August 1, 2015 3:46 am

  2. Haven’t watched it yet and don’t plan to.
    Just more “Chew ‘N Spew”.

    Buy up some property to cash in on memories of the public’s childhood. Chew it up so we get lots of big name actors, lots of special effects…but the writing and story is paper thin compared to the original – no way do they want to repeat the mistake of letting anything good enough people would talk about it for years get through. Then regurgitate (or excrete it) on the screen just to jab you in the eye to show how much they the elites owning the media machine hate you.

    Y’know, they are going to make sure there’s no Governator Conan, no Labyrinth, no Dark Crystal, no Gremlins, no Back to the Future – no Matrix no Fight Club – no unique wonderful movies. Just as publishing is full of “I wanna be the next Tolkien – er George Martin” phone book thick ‘triologies’ with plots thinner than the paper on the cover so movie monopolists are going to feed on diminishing results, then likely collapse the industry blaming it on piracy or even the genres they bled to death and run.

    We’ve got to start organizing boycotts against the “Chew ‘n Spew”. Enough pressure even their “Bet on Diminishing results” (1) could collapse – then actors and directors would pool their money to make real things, new stories as a last ‘roll the dice’.

    Come on, citing all the recent “Hero with a thousand faces” discussions surely plenty of people are outraged on Mad Max being savaged this way?

    1- remember buying on margin aka the Dutch Tulip craze? It’s been done again and again – strange how an athlete betting against his team is criminal yet its tolerated how elite bankers can bet on a downward swing. Even when its technically illegal they do that – that’s why they keep spending all this money to make hash and tripe – they can make money even if it loses – just too much paperwork (cough cough tax breaks, subsidies) to explain or trace easily.

    Comment by GreenGestalt - August 1, 2015 4:18 am

  3. I usually take a dim view of digging up pop culture corpses and reanimating them for the sake of a few bucks, GreenGestalt, but I thought Fury Road was different. No one “bought it up” – it came from the original creator, George Miller, and far from “savaging” the originals, it was as good in Mad Max terms as any of them – better than two out of the original three, in fact. Hollywood being locked into sequel/franchise mode is troubling for those who like fresh creations, as you say, but – a good movie is a good movie. (But I will NOT see the new Star Wars – we all have our breaking points…)

    Comment by Thomas Parker - August 1, 2015 12:57 pm

  4. I thought it was a great movie, as good as The Road Warrior (the original Mad Max movie is probably my favorite of the series). I think too much has been made emphasizing Furiosa over Max in other reviews/commentary. Furiosa and the wives would have died if it hadn’t have been for Max. He single handedly takes out the Bullet Farmer! And Max is portrayed as relatively ambivalent towards saving the wives, which is a consistent character portrayal since the first movie after his family is killed. Reviews I’ve read have talked about Max not being a hero in this film, but he never was a hero.

    Comment by NOLAbert - August 1, 2015 1:47 pm

  5. While I remember thinking the first two were great movies, they haven’t held up for me. I think this is a great movie. I wonder what I’ll think of it in 30 years.

    Two elements took this one from fun blockbuster to “loved it.” The first was the silent communication between Furiosa and Max, whether they were enemies or allies.

    The second was Nux. Loved his character arc, loved his dialogue, loved his portrayal. (This and Warm Bodies would make for an entertaining double feature.)_

    Comment by Jeff Stehman - August 1, 2015 7:27 pm

  6. Raphael- you bring up many good points, but one could argue that Immortan Joe views EVERYONE as objects. The warboys, the cars, the water, the people, the fuel, the milk, the blood, his sons, perhaps even himself.

    And the gecko… well, doesn’t it get eaten alive?

    And the guns and gas, the Citadel IS surrounded by gangs trying to murder them, after all. Joe and the Bullet Farmer and the guy from Gas Town, they are not good people, but they are surrounded by not-good-people!

    I like your idea that Max kind of undergoes an evolution through some of the other characters in the trilogy.

    Comment by Adrian Simmons - August 1, 2015 10:25 pm

  7. There is much discussion about the re-making and re-imagining of movies from the 70s and 80s. Eh, you pays your money and takes your chances.

    Sometimes, like TRON, STAR TREK, and FURY ROAD, it works out.

    I also really liked Nux, I liked how he went from true believer (willing to die for Immortan Joe like three times!) to an unbeliever.

    Comment by Adrian Simmons - August 1, 2015 10:34 pm


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