Yesterday I went and saw the new Mad Max movie that’s come out and I’m going to write a few words about it. Beware that there will be marked spoilers in this post. View this as my own little version of Half in the Bag, but suckier because it’s text-only. Incidentally, they also did a review of Mad Max: Fury Road, which disagrees with my views. Oh well, on with the post itself:
First of all, the main selling points of Fury Road: post-apocalyptic vehicular desert action (action, action, action!). This is of course to be expected with a Mad Max film, and it does deliver on that. There’s plenty of car chases, but also lots of interesting mechanical work and prop work to look at. Most of the car chase scenes are real, done with actual modified cars. All of the vehicles are have very interesting designs, and the story works well enough.
There’s always a but(t). And in this case it’s this: while Fury Road is entertaining with lots of things to look at, it has some problems with pacing. In order to explain this I’m first going to break the film down.
WARNING: spoilers below
The movie begins with Max being chased by what looks like raiders. They throw explosives at his V8 Interceptor, causing it to flip over. Max is then captured and brought to what we later learn is The Citadel, to be used as an involuntary blood donor.
The Citadel is built inside two mountains on top of an aquifer and ruled over by Immortan Joe and his many anemic(?) sons, who hoard the water in order to control the poor who live on the ground below. Presumably they maintain control mainly through gunpower, but Joe himself also controls his children by taking on the role of a Norse preist or god. The general structure of the Citadel is likely supposed to echo Bartertown. There’s even a tiny person!
The first half of the movie revolves around a water convoy lead by a woman named Furiosa, sent by the Citadel to the nearby locations of Gas Town and Bullet Farm. The convoy soon takes an unplanned detour, and we learn that Furiosa is actually attempting to smuggle five of Joe’s wives to “the green place”, the home from which she was kidnapped at a young age. This results in a chase sequence that lasts the rest of the first half of the movie. Max is brought along as a living blood bag for Nux, one of Joe’s sons.
After this chase sequence Furiosa, Max, Joe’s escaped wives and Nux (who chooses to defect) manage to make it to their destination, and join up with the all-female remnants of Furiosa’s tribe. We learn that the water in “the green place” turned acid years ago, and that the tribe has been forced to kill and scavange like everyone else ever since.
After some dithering Max convinces everyone to head back to the Citadel, because the tribe has seeds from the time when they used to grow crops, which the Citadel does not (what they’ve been eating for the last 20 years is anyone’s guess). After once again being chased by Joe and his men for most of the second half of the movie, Nux jams the tanker they’ve been driving thus far into a narrow canyon, preventing Joe’s gang from following them. They also manage to kill Joe and steal his car in the process. Max’ old V8 manages to get destroyed as well, which is a shame. Maybe it’ll be back for the sequel, rising from the scrapheap like a mechanical Pheonix!
Finally, what’s left of our gang makes it back to the Citadel. Upon finding it entirely unguarded Max unveils Joe’s corpse strapped to the hood the car, and the entire group is treated as liberators by everone present, including Joe’s anemic sons. Joe’s men never make it back to the Citadel, and everyone is happy, and they can grow crops with the old tribe lady’s seeds. Max winks at Furiosa and disappears into the crowd, never to be seen again. The end!
END OF SPOILERS
Now this isn’t a bad story in itself, even if there’s some holes and some things aren’t explained in detail. A Mad Max film doesn’t need a complicated story. The problem is there’s maybe 30 minutes of exposition for the entire movie, and two one-hour blocks of non-stop action. Of course, action is fun and exciting, but without much break time it gets boring (for me at least). Such time could also be spent explaining characters’ motivation, backstory and so on. We’re also thrown into the first long action sequence almost immediately, with no explanation why we should care. So yeah, this movie has some problems with pacing.
The second thing I’m going to complain about has to do a bit with tone. Early in the film it is made clear that Joe’s wives are basically sex slaves. But they’re shown scantily clad to titillate the audience, which can perhaps be explained by them having recently escaped and being, you know, sex slaves. What pushes it over the top though is when we get what is basically a wet t-shirt scene the first time we see all of them in one shot. That has to have been on purpose!
There’s also a scene where six grown women are unable to wrestle down two unarmed men. The Indian-looking wife who is surprisingly knowledgeable about guns is interesting though.
On a positive note, the red-haired wife takes an interest in Nux when he realizes Joe might be a bad guy. This brief scene provides some amount of emotional depth, which I would have liked to see a bit more of. I should note here that these two characters may be siblings, depending on the precise nature of Joe’s large, somewhat complicated family situation.
Overall I’m a bit lukewarm about this movie. There’s lots of action, the stunts and props are really well made, but I expected a lot slower pacing. Maybe I’m being unfair, but you know what?