Saturday, 27 June 2015
Mad Max: Fury Road
The fourth instalment to the Mad Max series, a vigorous reboot of the cult franchise, is an irresistible Western car-chase fever dream, adorned with a delicious, persistent slick of grit and stamped with a brimming, big-budget ego. With smooth and captivating confidence, Mad Max: Fury Road is the holy grail of summer blockbusters, of franchise instalments, of fandom parities. Make no mistake, the feature is tightly secured in its action genre, but perhaps it is the determination to emphasise every genre trademark in zealous rapture that wins over the audience. However atypical and oddly original the feature may be, it is nevertheless recognisable - gas is burned, prizes come in the form of beautiful women and the threat of death lingers near, with terror perpetuated by the ruthlessness of a wretched villain. But only the subtlest and darkest comedic relief is offered, absent are the lingering gags and useless, flimsy character traits to memorise and play on. Only a strong narrative powered by an angry cathartic score and engaging, exorbitant warfare engage the audience with aggressive exuberance. It may not be subtle but it is nonetheless a winning, symphonic recollection of derisive elements thrown together with dubious abandon.
In the harsh, post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max, women, fuel and water are valuable commodities, harvested and monopolised by the greedy, grotesque cult leader, Immortan Joe. Setup sequences portray this dystopian realm to harbour only the most primitive, brutal type of living - all sanctity of human life is forgone- sexual slavery of women is rampant, men are mere blood-bags for the road warriors and breast milk is gathered systematically from obese women. One-armed road warrior Furiosa seeks to escape the hellish citadel with Immortan Joe's five wives by traveling through the desert wasteland, in hopes of reaching an oasis, the "Green Place".
The reboot is undermined by a deceptively archaic marketing campaign consisting of a one-dimensional trailer, synonymous to the way Martin Scorsese once marketed his cinematic spectacle Hugo as a mere children's adventure film. No implication is provided of the grandeur and spectacle the actual feature graces its audiences with. Only bristles from its fandom, loyal even after a 40 year lull in the franchise, could possibly have prepared audiences for the dazzling, apocalyptic head trip. Unlike the tired action movie staples which break up plot with intermittent car chases for fear of losing audience's attention, the entirety of Mad Max is a car chase. Miller it seems has achieved the idyllic state of critical esteem and commercial success, appealing to wide audiences without making artistic or intellectual compromises. He has defied the typecasts which ground classic Hollywood movie-making, achieving that oasis electronic duo Flight Facilities describes in its immersive track "Two Bodies".
Director George Miller, in quoting Hitchcock, strived to create a flick so sparse on dialogue that it could be understood in Japan and although successful in achieving this, the film is in no way purely superficial. The feature is a visual feast and the most fun anyone will have in the cinema this year but it is far from the mind-numbing exercises of common action films. The characters are delightfully dimensional, intriguing the audience, sparing us the long-winded tedium of background stories and unsolicited flashbacks. One brief conversation with Furiosa aptly summarises her history and Max's dark past is captured in a stimulating narrative and cathartic memory recalls.
Michael Bay's go-to-stunt is an explosion. Miller however sees his action sequences not as mindless guilt trips he would have to compensate for later but a glistening opportunity for some innovative fun. He invests in pole cannons, creating comedic and memorable visuals of men battling it out in the space between vehicles. One particular road warrior, strapped to a multi-stereo wielding truck, dons a red playsuit and brandishes a flame-throwing guitar, a war accessory which seems to fit in perfectly amongst the fervent road warriors and the nosey orchestra of a thousand engines. These sequences are compositions crafted by those who appreciate the expansive faculty of the cinema - the sound design and imaging is elaborate and theatrical, but far from tacky. Mad Max will satisfy your appetite for screen entertainment with a deliciously violent escapade catering for the neurosis in all of us.