Two days after seeing George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, it is still hard to know where to start this review. Just about every write-up I have seen of the film has been glowingly positive, and the professionals have described the movie with an eloquence I can’t hope to match. It also has an incredible 98% rating on “Rotten Tomatoes,” meaning that average movie-goers are enjoying it too. Interestingly though, most of the hype concerning Fury Road has to do with the sheer force of its cinematography, and not its plot.
As a post-apocalyptic thriller, Fury Road is a visually stunning assault on the senses – which is intriguing considering Miller’s almost monochromatic color palette. Just about everything in this dystopian future is brown (rocks, sand, or people sunburnt and covered in sand) or gunmetal gray (the war rigs, and the guns themselves). There are occasional pops of color – from the white rags barely covering Immortan Joe’s wives to the flame-throwing electric guitar player clad in red – but for the most part, the world is a barren, desolate wasteland.
Yet what this movie lacks in color is made up in its heart-pounding action sequences, thrilling stunts, and an incredible rock soundtrack. Indeed, these seem to be the main things garnering all of the attention – which again shows the paradox of the film as it is primarily a two-hour car chase to nowhere (i.e., Mad Max: There and Back Again).
In this tale, Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron), a commander working for the warlord Immortan Joe, has stolen his five “wives/breeders,” young women who are tasked solely with bearing Joe children. Having been kidnapped as a child herself, Furiosa is hoping to return them to “the green place” where she was born. Joe discovers this treachery and pursues the group across the desert. Several rival groups join in the hunt, but are stymied at various points along the way. About one day into their journey, the women discover that the green place no longer exists and, at Max’s urging (ah yes, there’s our titular hero), decide to return to the city from which they came and claim it for themselves.
But though the plot for the film may be relatively simply – and the title may be a bit of a misnomer since Max (portrayed by Tom Hardy) is almost a non-entity – the car chases and wrecks are incredibly complicated and beautifully portrayed. What’s more, the film doesn’t rely on computer-generated imagery for its battles; instead, the stunts are refreshingly real, which adds to the feeling that you are in the rig along with Furiosa, Max, and the escaping wives.
All of the incredible effects, however, can’t make up for the complete lack of character development. Outside of Furiosa’s revelation that she was captured by Immortan Joe as a child, and Max’s flashbacks of his murdered family, we know nothing about the people on the screen or what’s driving them, outside of wanting to escape from Joe’s clutches. But perhaps that’s part of Miller’s point – that deep motivations are a luxury we enjoy today and that in the future, life is just about surviving along the Fury Road.