July 21, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

     Mad Max: Fury Road blew my mind. This is the standard that all big-budget films should be striving for: a seemingly inexhaustible supply of creativity, bursting from every single frame from start to finish; a fully-realized world where every element of the film links to the environment that has been created; and characterizations that rely on our knowledge of tropes but know how to move beyond them.
     If you didn’t know that Mad Max: Fury Road is based on an Australian trilogy (starring Mel Gibson at his handsomest) that started in the late 70s, your jaw will drop when you learn that the director George Miller was subsequently responsible for films such as the Babe films (the talking pig movies), and Happy Feet (the dancing penguins series). But there is a common thread: his singular talent for creating original worlds, each with their own internal logic, and his masterful control over them. One of the reasons why I can no longer watch Peter Jackson’s films is because he expects people to be taken with entire scenes made out of CGI. (All I see is strings of dollar signs, like the strings of numbers in The Matrix.) In Mad Max, you don’t know what is live action and what is CGI, but you believe all of it. Not to mention that literally every single action sequence is inventive, down to the set pieces, and all of it is integral to driving the plot forward.
     Those who watched the trailer may be put off by the level of testosterone and cruelty. But I assure you, this is one of the tiny handful of Hollywood action films where the female characters are not a backhanded compliment. I’m talking about the frankly disgusting number of films where they are pointlessly perfect (and can even kick the villain in the balls!) -- or are responsible for initiating the action in the story but are wholly sidelined as the men take over. The majority of female characters in the film may be breeders for an evil ruler’s harem, but when the action starts, they all contribute to the story, and perhaps crucially, their contributions are wholly plausible.
     A film like this is proof that mass entertainment doesn’t have to be limited to stories that write themselves, and have just enough bursts of inventiveness to give a cute little spin on well-worn genres. (I doubt the people who were raving about Bryan Singer twenty years ago could have imagined that his subsequent best would be the amazing-for-a-bar-set-low X-Men: Days of Future Past. Also, literally every single trailer for a superhero film I have seen in the past five years looks like a Hot Shots!-level parody.)
     I haven’t even bothered to write about the plot or the actors, but if the trailer provides even a glimmer of interest, go see it in the theater, no questions asked. I would watch the original trilogy, but I’m afraid after watching this film that the chase scenes will be like watching a golf cart drive over a sand dune.

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