You’ve already read reviews of Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ve seen it twice now and the repeat viewing was actually better. Simply put, it’s one of the best action movies I’ve seen in so long that I had to actually think about how long it’s been.
Everything about that action has already been said, but from a writing standpoint, it’s also a brilliantly solid film, executed with style and reasoned choices, yet totally unique.
Action movies these days have no weight. Superhero films have taken over and, since we know nobody is going to die, we don’t care. Max challenges the sterile CGI of today’s films, but it also takes writers to task. Here are a few spoilery things Fury Road did way better than other films.
It establishes its world in 1 minute
Or, as I like to call it, the “RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE Principle.” The less setup between telling us where and when we are and why we’re smashing trucks, the better. The first scene tells us the only three things we need to know.
The world is fucked.
Max is mad.
These white boys must die.
Your nagging questions are silenced by just enough stuff making sense
In the scene where the hideous villain, Immortan Joe, discovers that his lieutenant Furiosa has slipped the leash, he runs to a secret chamber to find out what she stole from him. We see him run past a green room where hydroponics grow plants.
When Max is being captured, we see his captors tattoo his blood type onto him so they know he’s O-.
Both these scenes establish facts the movie wants us to know while keeping the action moving. When things start exploding, we aren’t asking nagging questions, because they’ve been answered already.
Characters have clear motivations…
Max wants to see good prevail and to know the world isn’t totally ruined (even if he would never admit this).
Furiosa says she wants redemption, and we’re left to imagine what brutality she’s carried out in the name of Immortan Joe.
The wives want freedom, and even the motorcycle murder grannies have aspirations of reviving the world with seeds.
Nux wants to “die historic, on Fury Road.”
And even Immortan Joe, horrible as he is, is acting on motivations we understand, even if they are vile. He didn’t become king by letting people walk off with his property. We are repulsed by the fact his morality allows him to see women as property, but we understand both why he pursues our heroes and in the same thought why He Must Pay.
…so we’re invested in the action…
Furiosa comes about this close to not making it, and it’s riveting. We’ve seen one of Joe’s wives die, and Nux doesn’t make it.
Throughout, the action has terrifying weight because we’ve become emotionally invested in it.
One of the murder grannies dies valiantly at one point, and another character takes one brief second amid an insane, climactic race to give her just a goodbye look. This character, Immortan Joe’s wife, presses her hand to the windshield that separates them. It’s the tiniest symbolic flourish, but it keeps us mindful of the consequences of all this.
…and when the happy ending comes, it is that much more triumphant.
Yes, yes, spoilers.
Our heroes win, and they win big, and it’s pretty satisfying. If you note character motivations, every hero who fights gets what he or she is after.
Max rejects cynicism and gets to champion a just new order. Furiosa kills the fucking shit out of Joe and wins her redemption. The wives live free, and even the murder grannies get to germinate the future. Nux gets his glorious death instead of dying of cancer, and let me say it again, Joe gets the fucking shit killed out of him.
This whole thing could have sucked. God knows the earlier Mad Maxes have been inconsistent. But good lord, a 70-year-old writer-director just waltzed back in and laid down a better-written movie than any of the Avengers flicks.
I am completely seized by the madness.