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Mad Max: Fury Road ••1/2

Max_Mad_Fury_Road_Newest_PosterStarring: Tom HardyCharlize TheronNicholas Hoult
Director: George Miller
Screenplay: George MillerBrendan McCarthyNick Lathouris
Action/Adventure/SciFi, Rated: R
Running Time: 120 minutes
Release Date: May 15, 2015


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Scott, I thought we were done with the Fast and Furious series. Now we have Fury Road?

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Movie audiences appear to be clamoring for movies filled with endless car chases. And with great fury and furiousness. Let’s recap.

In a future world where gas and water are scarce, we’re introduced to Mad Max. Max was apparently some sort of police officer who was charged with protecting women and children. We learn this through flashbacks of little girls asking Max “why didn’t you save us” in accusatory tones. Max is taken hostage by the wild boys and hung from his heels in a cavern.

We then see Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) secretly steal five breeding wives of the tyrannical and maniacal Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Joe and his henchmen give chase using a strange assortment of battle-equipped vehicles with Max strapped to the hood of War Boy Nux’s (Nicholas Hoult) car. Soon Max escapes and joins forces with Furiosa in an attempt to find a way home and to safety.

Scott, this movie was one long chase scene. There was hardly any time to create a plot. But there is one. Furiosa is trying to get these five young woman back to her homeland – The Green Place. When they arrive the land is dead and the only alternative is to go back where they came from. It’s a very basic story, just enough to justify all the car mania.

I have to say, though, I was impressed. It’s dazzling display of roadwork and a nightmarish vision of the future. Most people I’ve talked to were impressed by two things: the guy playing electric guitar on the front of a war vehicle, and how hot Charlize Theron looked despite being hairless and having just one arm.

Greg, Mad Max: Fury Road is a stunning technical and action-adventure achievement. The look of the movie is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The surreal visuals of the characters and their bizarre motor vehicles are simply incomparable. This dystopian vision of humanity’s future is disturbing yet creatively appealing.

Now, having said that, I was disappointed with the complete lack of character development and storyline. We are never introduced to the main characters. These characters just show up and are being chased, hounded, and tortured by Immortan Joe and his minions. I suppose I should root for them because they seem less dislikeable and bizarre than Joe and his gang, but we have no way of knowing if they are worthy of our support. There simply is no backstory to any of these characters. All we have is one heart-palpitating car chase scene after another. Yes, these chases were fun, but I hoped for much more from a storyline and character development point of view.

The star of this film was definitely the world created by director George Miller and writers McCarthy and Lathouris. We can only judge the characters by what they do, rather than what they might say. Max spends most of his time in the movie being victimized by others. He shows he’s not a bad guy because instead of killing Furiosa when he has the chance, he merely shoots the sand around her. He’s not a killer it seems. Later, when he has the chance to go his own way, he instead chases down Furiosa and her clan to convince them they are going the wrong way. Then he helps them to create a plan to return to the Citadel where there is ample food, water, and gas. So, he’s a good guy after all, but we can only learn this through his choices rather than anything he says.

I agree that Max and Furiosa follow the arc of the buddy hero story, in that they are two people thrown together who dislike each other at first but slowly develop a strong bond. The villains in this story depart from the usual pattern that we see in the movies, Greg. Usually, the mastermind villain (in this case, Immortan Joe) is a man who calls all the shots from afar, safe from any harm. Only his minions and henchmen come in harm’s way. But in this movie, Joe is in on the action in a big way, and he ultimately gets his comeuppance at the end.

Overall, the supporting cast is as memorable if not more memorable than our two heroes. This may be the case partly because the two main characters are so poorly developed, but also because the supporting cast members show some depth, not to mention unusual behaviors and vivid makeup and costuming. Props go out to Immortan Joe and Slit as the memorable villains, and to the friends and allies of our two buddy heroes. Specifically, the five breeding women and Nux, the bad-guy-turned-good-guy.

It’s interesting to see the transformation in a secondary character such as Nux. He starts out literally living off of Max’s blood and chasing the escaping brides. He’s a bad guy being lead by a dark mentor (Joe). But he soon falls in love with one of the brides and becomes one of the good guys. Here is a secondary character who undergoes a moral transformation. In the end he martyrs himself to save Max, Furiosa, and the remaining brides. He is a heroic, redeemed sidekick.

I enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road more than I expected to. Despite the lack of plot I was entertained by the imaginative and detailed dystopian future created by director Miller. I was drawn into the relentless chase and was able to appreciate the transformation of our buddy heroes as well as the sidekick. I give Mad Max 3 out of 5 Reels.

While Max and Furiosa don’t really create an alliance until the midpoint of the story, it’s clear we’re witness to a convergent buddy story. Our two heroes couldn’t be farther apart at the beginning of the movie. But their common desire to escape the villain Immortan Joe and find a safe place draws them together. I liked this buddy story and gave them 4 out of 5 Heroes.

The supporting cast was interesting as well. I’ve already talked about the evolution of sidekick Nux. The five brides pretty much played the damsels in distress. Aside from an occasional opportunity to reload guns, their job was to look beautiful and be rescued. The villains were more interesting than usual. Immortan Joe certainly played the classic mastermind villain (although as you point out, Scott, he definitely got his hands dirty). Joe had his own henchman in Slit and countless nameless and faceless minions. But there was a nice addition of three other factions of bad guys, each with their own mastermind villain.Two warring factions came to Joe’s aid, and the gas guzzling motorcycle gang chimed in to help our heroes. Sadly, we didn’t get much depth to their characters, so I give the supporting cast 3 out of 5 Cast points.

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Mad Max: Fury Road is a visual spectacle and dazzling feast for the eyes and ears. But there is little substance in the form of storyline and character development. If you enjoy the Fast and Furious franchise, you’ll enjoy this movie. I’ll give this this film credit for being highly memorable in terms of make-up, costuming, cinematography, and visual effects. But I can’t give any movie high marks without good meaty characters that we get to know. As a result, I can only award Mad Max: Fury Road 2 Reels out of 5.

Our two buddy heroes, Max and Furiosa, were disappointing because we never get to know them. There is no backstory and almost no dialogue whatsoever that can give us insight into their values, their history, or their character. As such, they do not change over the course of the movie, other than they grow to like each other and depend on each other for survival. Let’s face it — this is an action movie that assumes (perhaps correctly) that audiences only want chase scenes. I can only award these two flimsy heroes 1 Hero out of 5.

The supporting cast was more interesting than our two heroes. We’re not given much insight about Immortan Joe or any backstory, either. But he is obviously a deranged, maniacal cult leader with loads of charisma. Max and Furiosa’s friends and allies play a nice supporting role, and as you point out, Greg, Nux is the one character (albeit a supporting character) who undergoes a transformation. I’ll agree with your rating and assign this group a rating of 3 Casts out of 5.

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  1. I always like the reviews you two give, but I do have a niggling question to you, Greg. With regard to Max, you said “he’s a good guy after all, but we can only learn this through his choices rather than anything he says.” Isn’t that the best way? It’s a classic example of “show don’t tell.” Come to think of it, since the movie is named after Max in the first place, the writers may have assumed people already knew he was the good guy and didn’t bother belaboring the point. (Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the movie yet so I’m sorry if I’m totally off the mark.)

    • Greg Smith says:


      You got me there. You’re right, it’s the choices characters make that make them the hero or villain. What I was stumbling to say is that there isn’t much dialog in this movie, it’s mostly action. So we only have the few actions that Max takes to judge him by.

      Spot-on observation. Thanks Suzanne!

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