The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Am I the Only One Who Doesn’t Like Mad Max: Fury Road?

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I saw Mad Max:  Fury Road a few weeks back, right after it opened.  I was excited because the Mad Max movies were a mainstay of my adolescence and shaped how I watch films.  Max ranked up there with James Bond and Indiana Jones in regard to cinematic heroes, and was perhaps moreso a “true” hero given the nature of how the films were shot and their approach to the action sequences.  I guess I shouldn’t have held my hopes so high, though—my disappointment in Fury Road has been palpable.

One issue is that Max Rockatansky’s backstory is warped to suit an audience either too lazy or disinterested to watch the orginal film.  Max came in the early 80s on a trail of vengeance for the outlaw bikers who killed his wife and infant child.  The original film is a genius piece of low-budget exploitation.  We next saw him in The Road Warrior, which kicked an insane amount of ass with unbelievable car chases and smashups, and not only kept the low-budget thrills coming, but kept them somewhat plausible, all while shadowing the classic western Shane.  The thing is that Fury Road has to take place between the original Mad Max and The Road Warrior because Max is driving the same car he was driving at the end of Mad Max:  A suped-up Ford Falcon XP with a V8 engine.  The car is destroyed in The Road Warrior, but somehow is also destroyed, or at the very least lost to Max, in Fury Road.  And is this supposed to be some kind of supercar?  The car is pretty well smashed beyond repair in the opening scene of the film, but reappears later, seemingly unscathed, and is a steady presence throughout the rest of the film, until it is demolished yet again.  So what gives?  Ever heard of continuity?  The car is totally destroyed halfway through The Road Warrior after going through pretty much the same  thing it went through in Fury Road.

Then there’s the child who haunts Max’s mind as he wanders the wasteland.  She’s much older than the infant child he lost in Mad Max.  Maybe there were more families with whom he came in contact and couldn’t help…  really?  How are we supposed to know?  Better yet:  Why does it matter?  Anybody who read much of anything about the film knows Fury Road is the fourth film in the series.  It’s easy enough to watch Mad Max and see what happened to Max’s family; i.e., why he’s so mad.

There was far too much suspension of disbelief.  It started with the immortal car impervious to guns, exploding spears, crashes, and all sorts of hell that is unleashed upon it.  Or maybe the car can regenerate itself.  Whatever.  But the humans seem every bit as indestructible.  Max pretty much walks away from the opening scene crash, but in The Road Warrior, he suffers a similar crash and almost died but for being rescued.  One of the other main characters in Fury Road is also smashed up pretty bad…  yet shows no physical damage?  All it takes is a little rest, and some water coincidentally trickling on his head, and he’s good to go, despite being in desperate need of a blood transfusion when we first meet him.  Elsewhere, Max is strapped to the front of his car during a major chase.  There are explosions and wanton destruction literally in his face, but nothing touches him.  He’s barely singed by flames and exploding metal.  Later in the film, a pregnant woman goes under the tires of a truck, but when her body is recovered, it looks like she might have fainted, and that’s it.  It’s assumed that the audience should suspend belief when seeing a high-octane action film, to pretty much unplug the brain, but it went too far in Fury Road.  The Mad Max films were known for their realistic stunts and practical effects, so there should ostensibly be less suspension of disbelief, not more.

There has been a lot of talk about practical effects in Fury Road.  Everybody seems to be raving about how every car was built for the movie and actually worked as shown in the film.  I’m cool with that, because that falls in line with the previous films.  In fact, the previous films were renowned for their technology because the cars were freaking real!  The producers didn’t have the money to do much more than what was literally practicle and doable and what could be accomplished by piecing together some cars busting up a few stuntmen.  The days of somewhat realistic practical effects are over, I guess, replaced by bombastic computer-generated effects.  Despite all the practicality evident in the film, it is still washed with tons of CGI.  The problem is that too many directors can’t find the “off” switch, or even a dimmer switch to control the intensity of the effects.  There’s too much temptation to go bigger, bigger, constantly bigger.  I had read a year ago or so that producer / director George Miller had set up a bunch of cars and something known as a “car catapult” during filming.  I held my breath, hoping that Fury Road would be a game-changing action movie in that it would be a return to practical effects, or in the least be a sensible balance between practical effects and CGI.  It wasn’t.  In fact, it was every bit as bad as The Hobbit.

And do we really need a huge truck in the film’s grand chase that operates as a bandstand, replete with a guitarist wailing on a guitar that is also a flamethrower?  Really?  The post-apocalyptic world is ripe with such genius impractical feats of engineering, and the resources are there to create them?  Part of the fun and wonder of a film like The Road Warrior is to experience how people adapt to a major shift in the world by piecing together what they have into what they need to merely get through the day.  It’s oft times basic and sinister, but it’s more realistic to the setting.  And if the flame-throwing guitar wasn’t enough, did we need a huge set of kettle drums on the same truck to keep a thundering beat?  Ultimately, it looked like Miller let fellow Australian director Baz Luhrmann direct the film.  Their two very distinct styles go together about as well as beef jerky and ice cream.

So about halfway through the film, I was far too disappointed with the wanton “too much” production concepts to much appreciate the feminist angle that has been raved about by pretty much anybody who has reviewed it.  Feminism is not something you expect in hardcore action films, especially in Mad Max films, and it takes a lot of guts to make what happens with the women such a central part of the script.  It takes a great deal of screenwriting skill to make it work, too (see Aliens).  I guess I could have appreciated this particular artistic flair and social commentary as much as anybody else if I hadn’t been dwelling on how Fury Road went so wrong from the start in so many ways.

Finally, the fact that there’s a colon in the title of the film confirms that there will be a rebirth of this series.  Someone smelled “franchise,” and of course it has to come at the expense of gutting and bastardizing what came before it until what was originally quite excellent has been turned into something that is not even average.  See The Hobbit.  See Star Trek.  See whatever you might have cherished in your earlier years.  Goodbye nostalgia, hello big Hollywood money because the general movie going public needs only see the carrot to be lead right into their seats at the cineplex.

 

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Written by seeker70

June 3, 2015 at 8:41 am

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