A caravan of crazy roams the desert, leaving in its wake a chaotic free-for-all of frantic neuroses. There’s no way to soft sell this review, so let’s just get to it. The latest “Mad Max” is an assortment of cockamamie pandemonium that leaps from one lurid explosion to the next in a momentum-less rush to keep viewers from noticing a script spread thin on character development or anything else of valuable dimension. The plot is straightforward and difficult to explain at the same time. This is mostly because it is so heavily mired in a barrage of convoluted eccentricity that hinders any chance to decipher a coherent explanation for any of its on-screen happenings.
The gist is this: Max (Tom Hardy), a near mute, is captured by a group of crazy people who are chasing after Furiosa (Charlize Theron), the commander of a war rig who’s taken off with their leader’s enslaved harem. Max winds up helping them and in the gang’s ensuing escape across the desert, they must face off against a bevy of circus acrobats, explosions and a heavy metal guitarist. Yes, you read that last part correctly. To say this entire movie is a constant flood of reefer madness would be an understatement. As a result, there’s no heart to any of its machinations. No reason to care or be absorbed into this monstrous dystopia. What compels these characters to even bother trying to survive this nightmare is unclear.
This wacky exhibition in no way bothers to explain why viewers should even care about these characters in the first place, outside of the derivative reasons. The ensemble does nothing to awaken any sympathy or offer an impetus to care about what will become of them. There’s an aching feeling we’re just supposed to care because the movie says so and that’s never a good reason. For all of the universal praise being heaped on “Fury Road” for its portrayal of females, the question lingers as to why. Besides boasting a heavy female presence, what exactly makes this movie any more of an achievement for women than “Edge of Tomorrow”? A movie that featured a strong lead female character, superiorly fleshed out and executed. If what makes “Fury Road” better is the amount of female characters that is a solely surface achievement.
The determination and wherewithal Furiosa displays is commendable, however the people she is expending these characteristics on; don’t behave worthy of it. They’re entitlement to be rescued and do nothing to speed along this process themselves is a jolting indictment that doesn’t earn them any points. In the end, its protagonists are consumed in a tossup of “who cares?” indifference and wonderment as to why Furiosa especially, cares so deeply about this particular band of ladies, for their depth is as elusive as a mirage.
This brings us to the titular character of Max, who is really just there to supply the namesake of the film and give support to everyone else. It’s not Hardy’s fault that Max Rockatansky doesn’t work. He can convey a character with few words (“Lawless”) or many (“Locke”) so the issue doesn’t necessarily lie in the limited scripting, it’s in the lack of character development. As with Theron’s half-baked heroine, hardly anything is explained about Max. For instance, the backstory question of why he is haunted by the apparition of a little girl and at the most inopportune times is left mind-bendingly unexplained for first timers to the franchise. You keep waiting for this character to get one moment of glory, only to see it constantly swiped away and abandoned as a plot point, leaving his arc intensely dissatisfying.
Charlize Theron conveys the much bandied about Furiosa with a power closely reminiscent of her breakthrough role in “Mighty Joe Young”. She’s compelling, compassionate and strong and her extreme makeover for the role shows a dedication that is impressive. Why Theron can’t apparently be taken “seriously” in her natural state of being and still play a kick-ass heroine comes with its own undertones of problematic rationale.
The villains are inconsequential as they too, are portrayed with zero depth. The movie sadly relies on the grotesque imagery of Immortan Joe’s physical appearance to back up most of its propaganda for his evilness. Interspersed in an effort to leave no stone unturned is a religious plot component that harkens to the Norse mythos and castigates religious extremism. Why in a post apocalyptic future the religion of the Vikings is all that survives is a curious suggestion, as is the implication that the only people with religious ideals are crazed lunatics. To be fair, you won’t find a middle of the road depiction of anything in “Fury Road”. This film is as extreme as one can get, so off the wall in its high velocity craziness that it practically combusts in the commotion. Director George Miller has crafted a post apocalyptic vision that is a cacophony of colorful cinematography and unrivaled outlandish antics. Many have said it’s brilliant; I just call it “mad”. Rating: 2/10