Friday, May 22, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

I live, I die, I live again!

I'm just going to cut right to the chase; Mad Max: Fury Road is a visceral and amazing action movie. It's easily one of the highlights of the summer movie season so far, not only as an impeccable action extravaganza, but just in sheer intensity. I can guarantee that no other movie this year will be quite like Fury Road, and I'm perfectly alright with that. Mad Max: Fury Road is an absolute blast that deserve every bit of praise it gets. However, don't let anyone tell you that this movie is perfect. To be frank, there are some elements in this movie that are a complete and utter mess. However, it's flaws are mostly nitpicks, though they eventually became more noticeable as the movie went on.

I don't usually ever mean to write a wishy-washy review, but there's no getting around the fact that while I think this movie is amazing, there are elements to it that I could VERY easily see someone hating, getting confused at, or at worst not liking. Just by the trailer alone, you can tell whether or not you're going to love this movie or not. Because, let's be honest with ourselves here, the movie is essentially one giant action scene. It's a glorious and amazing action scene, but it's a post-apocalyptic, dystopian, macho man, loud, brash, violent, and gory action scene. It's length is only topped by its lunacy and intensity, so if you're into that stuff, this is going to be a field day. If you're more opted to go see a goofy action comedy like Spy, this movie may be too much for you. If you're easily offended, disturbed, or too "sophisticated" for Mad Max, there is no saving you and you should probably vacate this review right now. To everyone else, let's talk about how a man gets his eyes burned off, drives a tank into the desert screaming how he's the conductor of death while shooting two machine guns at people.

Max Rockatansky is... a man who's completely irrelevant to this movie, so let's talk about Furiosa! Furiosa is a woman who is a general for Immortan Joe, an old messianic figure to a cult of men that worship him as a God for providing them water and safety. However, Immortan Joe is insane and a disgusting man, imprisoning women solely for breeding and hooking up every other woman to giant breast milkers to provided his men with milk to drink. Furiosa, disgusted by Immortan Joe, takes his five breeding wives and escapes with them on a massive War Rig, a giant truck that is designed to haul fuel and gas across the Wasteland. Realizing he's been crossed, Immortan Joe assembles three armies, giant monster trucks, insane men who worship Joe and will kill themselves for Joe and to be let into Valhalla, and a plethora of explosives to chase Furiosa and get his women back. Thankfully, Max is there to help Furiosa and the breeding wives on their giant escape, whether he likes it or not.

You know what's hard to do? Write about why a movie is good. It's so easy to say why a movie is awful and the flaws of it, but when something is good it becomes inherently more difficult to ascertain why it's good. In this case, this movie is a great action movie, but I can't describe set piece moments in any sufficient way. It's like trying to turn Pacific Rim into a novel. It's possible, but you just can't beat the idea of "HOLY SHIT A GIANT ROBOT IS BEATING A MONSTER TO DEATH WITH AN OCEAN TANKER." It's cool to say, but you don't understand the scope of it until you actually sit down and watch it. In this case, the action is all on cars and is absolutely brilliant to watch. This isn't polished and pretty like Furious 7. This is dirty, grimy, and cutthroat to watch, something that we lack in action movies today.

Most of our action movies are now CGI with very little practical fighting. Back in the glory days of action movies, the 80's and early 90's, CGI was so piss poor that no one wanted to use it. Everything had to be practical or else the director's vision would be compromised. Once CGI became better though, it was so much easier for a director to cut corners and use CGI for everything instead of practical effects. Take a look at The Phantom Menace for example. CGI should be treated as a tool, and George Miller uses CGI as a tool in Mad Max: Fury Road. It's a tool, but it's not the main focus. It supplements the already stellar practical action.

So here's a movie where most of its effects are practical, and most of the characters are brilliantly designed. The world is ugly and incredibly disgusting, but that just makes it all the more enthralling to watch. When you see a fat man with a giant swollen leg and nipple clamps, you'll want to gag from how disgusting he looks. At the same time though, you just can't turn away from how it's unlike anything you've seen from Hollywood. Not only that, but there are no clear allegiances in this movie. Oh sure, we know Immortan Joe is a monster that should be defeated, but Max is no saint either and neither is Furiosa. The only characters that are pure are the breeding wives, and that's kinda the whole point of their existence. They are meant to be pure and the one good thing that is left to be protected in this bleak and miserable world.

We should also probably discuss the "controversy" surrounding this movie, even though this is one of the stupidest controversies I have ever seen recently. So, get this. Here in America, there are a ton of men that are up in arms against this movie saying that they've "feminized" Mad Max and have ruined it for guys. Furiosa is now the main character, she's trying to protect innocent women from a sexually crazed madman, and Max doesn't do anything. He's a supporting character in his own movie. So many men are saying that this movie, their last safe haven of testosterone, has been violated by feminists and has ruined the Mad Max franchise. That isn't their full argument mind you, but it's a pretty simple gist of what they are arguing. I'm sorry, but your argument about feminizing and removing the male power fantasy Mad Max is invalid when you have a man who is strapped to bungee cords on a truck supported by war drums, in front of hundreds of speakers, as he shreds a guitar solo to motivate his men into battle. Oh, and the guitar doubles as a flame thrower. I'm pretty sure that this movie is still incredibly manly. Hell, I feel like I grew an extra set of balls watching this movie, so it clearly hasn't had its testosterone tainted by its present feminist traits.

And even if it is, who cares? Yes, the movie has strong female characters and yes, their goal is to defeat and egotistical and violent man and yes, women are pretty much the only sensible people in the movie, but it's all irrelevant because they are good characters. Furiosa is a great character and her goal is noble. The breeding wives are interesting and we want to see them get to safety. Just because this movie was designed around feminist elements does not mean that it ruins anything. Fury Road is manly and... um... womanly (the same thing as manliness... only womanliness!!!) A movie can mean multiple things and have multiple messages. What you extrapolate from it varies from person to person. Even if the movie did have too much of a feminist push to it, does it invalidate all of the good action in the movie? Yes, the movie is feminist, but that's not a bad thing at all. If you think it's a bad thing, you may need to reevaluate your own viewpoints on women.

Anyway, I said in the beginning that this movie was incredibly flawed. I said early on that while I love the movie, I could see why someone would not like it. Disregarding its visceral nature and its brutality, there are two majors gripes that slowly eroded at me during the movie. Thankfully, it wasn't anything too terrible, but it was quite noticeable the longer the movie went one. One, I could not understand a damn thing that anyone was saying. Every spoke in a low grumble or had some kind of filter over their mouth so I couldn't understand what they hell they were saying. Even when people were loud, usually they just wailed and made noises that I believe was human diction. The only time that I could understand what people were saying was when it was one of the War Boys, Immortan Joe's followers, spouting insane prayers to Joe, an the only reason I heard them were so that they could be taglines for the movie.

Two, this movie is obsessed with it's up close shots. There are several times in one scene where the camera will zoom in directly onto the character's face and into any singular action that they end up doing. At first it's fine, but it eventually becomes noticeable when characters are driving into battle and a ton of action is happening between the cars, only to be sucked out of it when we zoom in on a character doing something outside of the action. It distracts from what we're actually here to see and it can become pretty annoying at times.

However, neither of those two are good reasons to not see Mad Max: Fury Road. If you're someone who is prude to violence and thinks that Age of Ultron was a violent movie, this movie may not be for you. If you were disgusted by most deaths in horror movies, this movie may not be for you. If you hate women and think that they have cooties and will infect your testicles with estrogen, this movie may not be for you. If you love action, creativity, insanity, intensity, fun, fear, violence, and quality entertainment, Fury Road is for you. Just be ready that the visuals may be grosser, gorier, louder, ruder, and more unsettling than you anticipated. Set your sights right, and die historic on the Fury Road.


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