“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)

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★★★★½
Holy Schnikes On The Barbie

This movie was one wild ride. Years have gone by and Max is still the lone Road Warrior. As the movie begins, he’s captured by the denizens of The Citadel – a weird, cultish enclave built around a water pumping station. And from there there it’s pretty much a constant flood of flames, car chases, and violence.

Tom Hardy is the new Max. He does a good job recapturing the fast, edgy movements that Gibson had in the original movies. As with the original, Max is haunted by his memories and is probably one bad day away from being psycho himself. As the intro explains, his one motivation is: Survival.

Charlize Theron is Furiosa. She’s trying to get away from The Citadel and get to “The Green Place.” There’s actually more to it than that, but I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone. She’s pretty much a female version of Max – great with cars and guns, fearless, quick, and lethal.

The main bad guy is “Immortan Joe” – kind of a cross between “Bane” and Jesse The Body Venture (as he is now – you know: old). He’s a pretty gnarly looking character. But pretty much everyone in his group is gnarly looking. Lots of weird disfigurements, brandings, scars, headgear, and attachments.

The vehicles are the real stars of the show. Amazing, amazing job building these war machines. From the big rig down to the bikes, they’re all works of art in their own right. Joe’s war party travels in style too, so they have a couple of music trucks that go along on the chase. It’s the most over-the-top vehicular display you’ll ever see.

The chase/fight scenes are likewise amazing. One thing that’s different in this movie is that the different gangs have developed formal tactics for taking down enemy vehicles. The weapons and how they’re used has clearly evolved in the years since the last movie ended. This adds a nice level of complexity to the combat – it’s not just a bunch of guys acting on their own – they’re coordination of effort here. And that makes it tougher to fight against.

But seriously – the vehicles will blow you away. If you’re into Muscle Cars you’ll recognize many of the cars used.

The stunt work is all live – no CGI. Which really makes this amazing. The CGI and other process work was used for things like the sandstorm scene and some of the lighting effects. These are very well done and enhance the film. Having all the action live gives the movie a much more vivid feel. And the camera work is awesome – you find yourself wondering “how’d they film this” during many of the action scenes.

So why not a full five-stars? Two reasons. First, there isn’t the depth of characters that would have put this movie over the top. Max and Furiosa aren’t really deep characters – we don’t know much about her, and all we know about Max was what we knew from the first three movies. There’s no heat between these two either – they’re partners on this crazy road trip, and that’s it.

Even with the bad guys: there’s no back-story. There’s no clue as to how things got where they are. The Citadel has some weird fixation with Norse mythology, which is likewise left unexplained. Given that this is set in Australia, it does make one wonder where these people pulled the references to “Valhalla” from. So you’re more or less watching a live-action cartoon. A great cartoon, mind you. If they’d devoted five minutes to provide some more texture it’d have been well worth it. I mean, they spent all this time building this amazing world, how about spending a little time letting the viewers explore it?

The other problem I had is that the second half of the movie is pretty much the same as the first, just moving in a different compass direction. Only by then you’ve met all the characters and seen all the vehicles. Once they decide on a plan, you pretty much know what’s in store the last thirty minutes of the film. You know how it’s going to end too. The action is still great, but it’s not really suspenseful because … as I said … you know what’s going to happen.

All that said, this is one of the best movies you’re likely to see any time soon. The production values, cinematography, direction, stunts, and overall attention to detail is phenomenal. It’s rare to see a movie create a world to this degree. A little more work on the script, a couple of different edits, and this would be a perfect movie. It’s that close.