Just under a week shy of the official start summer movie season, which is traditionally marked by the Memorial day weekend, we viewed Mad Max: Fury Road, which stars Tom Hardy in the title role of Max Rockantasky aka Mad Max, and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa.
Absent some of the director's notes when I viewed the film, I based my opinion on my movie-going experience as any other paying audience member would: 1. Do I related to the characters? 2. Is there a cohesive story? If so, is it original? Or rehashed? 3. Is it visually appealing? 4. Given that it is an action film, how is the action? Lackluster? Abundant? Overwhelming?
As far as the characters go, my impression of Tom Hardy's personification, is that a more apt title would have been Meh Max, because the overly silent, brooding, troubled characterization that he was going for was lost on me(and most of the audience that I attended with). I'm not sure how many lines that he spoke over the course of the film, but it couldn't have been more than a dozen or so. I found myself waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for him to snap out of it and take command of the screen and the story, but little by little the screen was swallowed up by his co-star. Perhaps Tom Hardy come from the "less is more" camp of acting, but in the case, less was just less.
On the other hand, Charlize Theron's character, Imperator Furiosa, was visually captivating from the word go. Branded scars, with a shaven head, axle grease covering her forehead(which really made her eyes stand out), a proxthetic arm, and more weapons than you could shake a stick at, you knew from the jump that she was the one to watch, and you were right. Furiosa is no joke, and all but single-handedly carries the film.
The story of Mad Max: Fury Road, is the story of Furiosa; her plans, her actions, her motivations, her history. For all practical purposes, Mad Max is an aside to this story. In fact, the story itself(plot) had already been set into motion before Mad Max crossed paths with the group from which Furiosa was seeking to escape. It was going to happen whether or not Max was involved. He just provided a window through which we could accompany Furiosa. Over the course of the two hour story arc, I could not help but think that it seemed more like a vehicle to introduce Furiosa, than another episode in the saga of Max Rockatansky.
Action-wise is was pretty classic Mad Max faire; lots of car chases with over-the-top, supercharged, nitro-boosted vehicles, gunfire, explosions, mayhem, mutilations, violence, and the requisite post-apocalyptic mutated humans. Oh, and as an aside, apparently there aren't any Blacks, Latinos, or Asians, in the post-apocalyptic world....with the exception of Zoe Kravitz. Everyone else is white. Males(adults) are predominantly bald and musclebound, with some sort of genetic ailment, and varying degree of psychotic tendency. Women are either fat and hooked up to "milking stations"(I kid you not), or supermodels designated as "breeders".
Visually, it was not your typical post-apocalyptic cinematography. The lighting and colors portrayed the landscape boldly and brightly, in stark contrast to the environment in which most stories of this genre take place.
After seeing the movie and making my notes, I came across notes from the director of the film, George Miller, regarding his idea and vision for this Mad Max incarnation. Apparently, Mr. Miller envisioned this story as a continuous chase film, with little dialogue, focusing on the visuals.
Say what? Is this Mad Max we're talking about? To me this sounded like when Ang Lee had the vision of The Hulk, as a Greek tragedy.
In the end, rating Fury Road as a Mad Max film, I give this about a 4.5 out of ten. It would be even lower were it not for the rich visuals, and the fact that I'm a "Mad Max" fan.
However, as an introduction film to Imperator Furiosa, with Mad Max as just a background character, I'd bump the rating up to 6.5 or 7.
Word has it, that there is already an Imperator Furiosa film in the works. If that rumor is true, count me in, because Furiosa rocks.