Tuesday, May 19, 2015


imperator [im-per-uh-tawr]
1. An absolute or supreme ruler.
2. (in Imperial Rome) Emperor.
3. (in Republican Rome) A temporary title awarded to victorious generals.

"Mad Max: Fury Road is the new standard for action cinema.

It is unique, it is heart pounding, it is mad. Every frame is a beautiful piece of overstimulation. You will lean forward, unblinking and your breath will be taken away by a spectacle that needs to be seen in theatres.

Oh what a lovely day, indeed. 5/5."

And that summed up my feelings after watching the film but, if you'll indulge me, I'll expand upon my gushing a little bit:

The story is pretty elementary and follows the Mad Max formula we know from the last two films (Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome). Max (Tom Hardy) is a lone survivor in a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland created by a conflict over resources, specifically "guzz-a-line" (gasoline + accents), and in a new and welcome addition, water. The world is cruel, stark and empty of all but the mad remnants of humanity and a lot of road rage. Max is just trying to survive but, as always, he is dragged kicking and screaming into playing hero. In this film though, he takes the passenger side seat to a noble bad-ass Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Therone). Some critics tried to rake up some controversy by calling out false advertising on a film that, arguably, should've been called "Furiosa's Road" rather than following Max. And you know what? Who cares!? Furiosa is one of the strongest female protagonists in a long time!

While Max is a reluctant hero, a violent but ultimately sefless mad man driven by guilt and survival, Furiosa is a heroine molded in the shape of the Alien franchise's Ripley and Kill Bill's The Bride and she steals the show (as she should). I don't want to give away too much of the rather simple story, so I'll keep her motives short:

Furiosa is the imperator, victorious general, and driver of the War Rig (a prize truck) in warlord and cult leader's Immortan Joe's convoy. Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne who, incidentally, also played the villain in the original film) rules the Citadel, a desert fortress with access to the most valuable resource in the wasteland, clean drinking water, and he rules it with a fist of grubbing, greasy heavy metal-- everyone in the Citadel is his property, controlled by violence, dependence on water, and cult-like adulation for the leader-- and the metal arm wielding Furiosa seeks to undermine the tyrant by stealing away his most prize possessions, his harem of enslaved wives.

In a cruel, cruel world, Immortan Joe makes it crueler.

From the moment Furiosa leaves the Citadel to the explosive climax, the film becomes a series of intense chase scenes inter-spaced with world building, plot, and character development. And that would usually sound bad. After all, that sounds like the Fast and the Furious. The difference? Mad Max manages to elevate itself from its contemporaries by filling every glorious frame with the best stunts, the best cinematography, and the best kind of insanity. I call it a masterwork of over-stimulation.

Over-stimulation can be a nuisance. Many CGI heavy films are notorious for trying to fill every busy frame with as much crap as possible (like the Star Wars prequels) and they bombard you with obnoxiously loud sound and intercut shaky shots of the action that make it difficult to tell what is going on (Bay's Transformers films). Mad Max: Fury Road evades this quagmire by relying on traditional cinema. The vehicles are real, the stunts are as real as stunts can be, and the film is shot brilliantly. When CGI is used in the film, presumably for explosions, small details and things difficult to pull off with traditional effects, it is not distracting. The film is awe inspiring.

As I sat in the theater, every time the film took a break from the otherwise non-stop action, I could audibly hear the audience deeply inhale. Why? Because they were holding their breaths in anticipation! There was no obnoxious commentary, no inappropriate laughter and no cellphones lighting up the view before me. The film captivated the audience for two hours. And that's a film's damn job.

George Miller did a damn fine job directing the sequel to his own films.

If you go see two films this summer, go see Mad Max: Fury Road and then go see Mad Max: Fury Road again! Cliched? Yes. Do I care? NO!

The film has a guy with a guitar that shoots flames, suspended by bungie cords, driving in a war convoy through the desert.

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