Sean K. Cureton

Hyperbole and All

In Movie Reviews: 2015 on May 30, 2015 at 10:48 am
Theatrical Poster

Theatrical Poster

Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by George Miller
4 out of 4 stars

Set against a post-apocalyptic landscape inspired by his own initial trilogy of films from the 1980’s, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is part-reboot and part-sequel in the same vein that Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is, only Miller’s Mad Max character and attendant property maintain their thematic cohesion. With British stalwart Thomas Hardy taking over the role that made Mel Gibson a bankable star, Hardy plays Gibson’s road warrior of yore in the midst of inner turmoil and an exterior, feral madness. In Fury Road, Max’s past mistakes continue to come back to haunt him, driving him to live a nomadic existence in the desert, his only known possessions being the clothes on his back and the off-road, automotive vehicle he has set up for himself in some undisclosed period of time since 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome. Shortly after the film’s opening monologue, which serves to brilliantly establish the context and continued history of the franchise succinctly and dramatically, Max is taken hostage by a band of fellow road warriors, led by one Immortan Joe, the ruler of a chimerical bastion of fertility inexplicably subsisting amid the surrounding, arid clime. By a strange and surreal turn of events, Max soon finds himself subsequently shepherding a harem of young brides away from Joe’s reign of tyranny and terror, with the aid of one of Joe’s “War Boys” and a stunning female heroine named Imperator Furiosa.

Much of Fury Road’s success rides not so much within the script’s narrative logic, but rather just outside of it, Miller’s cinematic world subsisting on the fanaticism of its visual tenacity, the world shaded in with the colors of dream and nightmare. Shot-to-shot, sequence-to-sequence, and scene-to-scene, Fury Road is so seamlessly constructed and vividly performed that the absurdity of the film’s dramatic content becomes secondary to the thrilling rush of merely experiencing the film as a whole. As a piece of genre filmmaking, Fury Road is alright, but as a mad-cap, hell-on-wheels, balls-to-the-wall, churning-action-vehicle, Miller’s film roars to life, tearing down the highway with menace and reckless abandon. The prurience of Miller’s cinematic world in the Mad Max franchise has always worn its heart on its sleeve, only now that juvenile astaticism feels to have truly been given free rein and carte blanche. Fury Road earns all of the hyperbole of its title and maintains its cinematic relevance on the back of its wickedly inspired aestheticism, cinematographer John Seale delivering the most visually masterful action film in decades.

Beyond Fury Road, and perhaps what resides within its rhythmic synchronicity, lies the possibility opened up by Miller’s triumphant return to the feature franchise that made the aging Australian director a household name. In Fury Road, the possibility for artistry within the contemporary action blockbuster is re-introduced, the intensely choreographed action sequences and practical stunt-work on display in Miller’s veritable barn burner a precedent that needs to be followed by an industry that has grown lazy. In the films that comprise the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for instance, few of the action scenes and sequences depicted on screen enjoy the same sort of visceral cohesion that Miller’s film so consistently does. While Age of Ultron is an intellectually capable meta-narrative on comic book historicism and demagogic sophistry, Fury Road offers a montage of thrills that The Avengers at times toys with replicating, only without any of the imagination bred by Miller’s singular genius, or, more importantly, his particular madness. George Miller is certainly not as a great a screenwriter as some Marvel Studios’ best show runners, but he also doesn’t have to be, his film a self-contained masterpiece dependent on itself, the films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe discordantly indebted to each other’s respective successes and attendant redundancies.

George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is the must see summer blockbuster of the year so far. In its uncompromising authority, Miller’s fourth entry in his post-apocalypse franchise is the best entry so far, abandoning much of the camp-factor based in a pseudo-reality of the original films for a surrealist, anti-realism that proves to be ironically more believable and self-sustaining. The thematic insanity of Fury Road is off-set and bolstered by its latent flair for being conceptually sane, the Mad Max character the proverbial sane man in an insane world, his ability to hold it together long enough to defeat the despotic antagonists birthed by the film’s lunacy diagnostic of his and our own world’s most insidiously entrenched socio-cultural ills and profanities. In Immortan Joe, the misogyny bred by a patriarchal world-view that still governs and holds authority in much of the world’s individually ruled bodies is exposed, the face of which is terrifying to behold. More than that, Miller’s film is just plain, good old-fashioned fun, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that it is also a great feature film to boot, hyperbole and all.

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