I’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.
It 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.
Which 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.
And 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.