Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road; action, Australia / USA, 2015; D: George Miller, S: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

In a post-apocalyptic desert world, Max is kidnapped by War Boys, the army of the dictator Immortan Joe, and held captive for blood transfusion in Citadel. When Joe's female warrior Furiosa escapes in a truck with five slave women, to free them, Joe sends the War Boys to catch them. In the pursuit, Max is freed, and he joins Furiosa and the five women, together with ex-War Boy Nux, to find a green valley. Upon realising that the green valley became a swamp, Max, Furiosa and the five women turn around and head back to Citadel before Joe's army gets there. They blow up the canyon and thus block the entrance, killing Joe. Once in Citadel, Furiosa and Max are treated as liberators.

For all the hype, "Mad Max" reboot called "Fury Road" is principally one thing: a 2-hour 'Monster Truck rally' - and once that is understood, everything else falls into perspective. For all the great action stunts and chase sequences, they can only go so far. Not that the previous instalments were great pieces of art, but they at least had some sense for a story and characters. Here, already in the opening, Max narrates: "I was reduced to only one instinct: survive." And unfortunately that sums up every character in the film: they are all reduced to one-dimensional ploys for the action, the only personality development being that one character beats the bad guys differently than the other one. The cinematography is crispy clear (the fog in the swamp at night), the set designs and costumes are imaginative, the action is done with a lot of effort and thus has its moments (for instance, while chasing the truck, the bad guys swing on poles over to the back seat to pick up one of the women; in another instance, they shoot a harpoon into the steering wheel, thus jamming the truck) whereas director George Miller manages to insert a few comical touches here and there, which help alleviate the mood (one vehicle of the bad guys has a rock star playing a guitar bass, while another one has an accountant with a fancy suit (!), in all seriousness lamenting about the expenses of the chase).

Still, the story is disappointingly thin: Max and Furiosa escape with five women in a truck, chased by Joe's army; they stop and turn around to go back, chased by Joe's army. That's it. One could lament that Keaton's "The General" was also basically just one giant train chase, but that classic operated on so many levels, while "Fury Road" operates only on two: action and some vague allegory. Also, it is detrimental for being so sadistic, vile and crude (a pregnant woman falling out of the truck and getting ran over by a vehicle; Max spending the first third of the film strapped to a car with a metal jaw on his head...), with pointless, grotesque mutants, compared to which not even the events in Bosnia in the 90s were that primitive. A plus point is the refreshing feminist subtext (Furiosa and the five women trying to escape from Joe's Totalitarian society, where women are treated as things and only called "breeders"), yet it is in disparity with the film's approach itself: the authors are ostensibly feminist, yet on the other hand the female characters are so one-dimensional, they are treated as things as well, as mere extras. The five women have no personality, no traits or features, and after the film is over, the viewers will not even remember their names: one stands out because she is pregnant, but that's it, the rest lack any depth, humor, wit or charm. This is a revealing error, and is a inherent to the storyline. "Fury Road" conjures up an extreme pace to cover up its plot holes, yet the action and thrills cannot compensate for the lack of soul.


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