I don’t want to review Mad Max: Fury Road. I want to write love letters to it or draw it like one of those French girls. If I could find the right keystroke combination, this review would just be one long onomatopoetic recreation of the feral roar of approval bellowed from deep within my bosom as the credits rolled. They’ve called it a “game-changer,” a “masterpiece” and a “work of genius,” but none of those capture the totality of what writer/director George Miller has done here. It deserves some new term, some unique series of letters fused together by explosions underneath a desert sun. I don’t know? Maxcellent. There you go: It’s Maxcellent.
It’s been asked “Is this a sequel to the other Mad Max movies? A prequel? A remake?” Shhh. Don’t you worry your pretty head about that none. You just keep your eyes on that extra fiery fire and characters with names like “Rictus Erectus” and “Toast the Knowing.” The film is set some time in the future when earth is almost uninhabitable, so given the Senate’s recent denial that climate change is a thing, at least 2016. Lone wolf Max (Tom Hardy) is grabbed by goons who serve Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a decrepit and bloated monster who rules over a group of survivors. The entirety of the plot is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) trying to escape with five of Joe’s sex slave brides and Max’s reluctant help. That’s it. Literally, there is no more plot.
This isn’t to say that the film isn’t speaking volumes. Hell, it’s not even speaking: it’s shouting and screaming over a wailing guitar riff. The brides scrawl graffiti in the dungeon they escaped, reading “We are not things” and “Who killed the world?” The latter has a clear answer: Dudes. Dudes killed the world. Unchecked masculinity killed civilization. Joe’s vile kingdom is the furthest point in testosterone-fueled evolution: Men are solely bred for war, women are disposable resources.
Enter Furiosa. With one metal arm, no hair and so much bad-ass nobody else can have any, Furiosa is a human axe born to lop the head off the top of the patriarchy. She is powerful without surrendering her desired femininity and one of the greatest action heroes ever. Miller pulled off one of the boldest funding stunts, convincing the studio this was a Mad Max movie when Max is window dressing in a leather jacket, there simply to look cool.
Fury Road is violence as opera; it is car chases as visual poetry. The stunning physical and practical effects trump any and all computer-generated tomfoolery. Your eyes literally can’t consume all that’s happening, flicking back and forth like nightmare-fueled REM sleep. Miller’s magnum opus is proof a film can be fueled by meaningful social subtext and still kick ass. It’s evidence that all-out action need not be reduced to “dumb fun.” It’s a reminder that computers can never, will never, be able to out-adrenaline real stuntpeople doing real stunts. It’s brilliant. It’s glorious. It is Maxcellent.
Grade = A+