I believe strongly in the auteur theory in film, so much so that I feel like we should be seeing the DNA of the director splattered across the film stock if we know where to look. We should know when we see a certain director’s films. We know when we’re watching Hitchcock, Scorsese, or Tarantino. On the other end of the spectrum it could be argued that Michael Bay is an auteur, because I can certainly identify one of his giant piles of garbage instantly. Now here comes a new film that fits into that auteur category perfectly. Mad Max: Fury Road is a work that could be done by no one other than George Miller. This is a singular vision of mayhem and insanity that looks and feels like no other film.
I had high expectations for this film as it was easily my most anticipated summer release. I loved the original films when I was a kid and the trailer for this new chapter certainly kept my hopes high. The trailer promised bombastic chaos in a world that could only come from the Mad Max post-apocalyptic landscape created by George Miller 36 years ago. Mad Max: Fury Road delivers on the trailer’s promise and gives us two hours of relentless high octane carnage. Its only true flaw may be that it overstays its welcome by about 15 minutes or so.
I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the current landscape of summer blockbusters where the emphasis is on superpowers and explosions and any semblance of characterization or storytelling is left by the wayside. I don’t understand why films like the Avengers or Furious 7 even bother with expository scenes at all. It is quite clear that the filmmakers had no interest in writing or filming them so why am I seeing them? George Miller has sidestepped that question by silently agreeing with me. Mad Max is essentially a chase film from beginning to end and it does not rest for silly contrivances like character motivations or plot mechanics. We are dropped into the world and just have to go with it. There are no explanations and we don’t need any. Mad Max: Fury Road is an experience plain and simple. For all those that say they go to see a movie just to turn off their brain and see things blow up- this is the movie for you.
The character of Max was established in the original Mad Max in 1979, but I don’t feel like there’s any reason you would have needed to see that film to enjoy this one. The only thing you need to know is that this takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where humanity has been ravaged. What really sells this film is the visuals which are almost impossible to describe. Fans of the original series can rest assured that George Miller’s maniacal visual flair is still intact.
There certainly are other aspects of the film that merit mention, namely actors Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. Both do a fine job with their roles and Theron makes a strong case that the film is mistitled. She is the star and easily carries the film with her performance. The cinematography is gorgeous and it feels like an interesting choice to oversaturate the colors with the modern trend being to de-saturate as much as possible. Miller takes that color palette and fuses the visuals with the audio in a way that feels completely organic to the world while being completely unlike anything you’ve ever seen. I also appreciated the feminist angle the film seems to take, which is a refreshing respite from the summer movie season mentality of manly men, their heroic deeds, and the luscious ladies that cook them dinner.
My only gripe is that two hours is a ridiculously long time to watch trucks chase each other. I spent a long time admiring the world, the visuals, and the mayhem, but after a while that admiration turns to tedium if nothing new is happening on the screen. I wanted Mad Max: Fury Road to be a masterpiece. It isn’t. But I’ll take the flawed vision of an auteur like Miller over the rubber stamped studio product like The Avengers any day of the week. At least with Mad Max I could walk into the theater saying I didn’t know how the story was going to go, and leave the theater saying I’ve never seen anything else like it. Grade: B+