“Mad Max: Fury Road” has been nothing short of a cinematic phenomenon for 2015. It has been one of the highest praised films of the year, not only in the action genre, but for all films in general. With so much love for it, as usual, we must ask the important question of whether or not it is truly deserved. After all, the original “Mad Max” had gotten a fair amount of praise itself, but was actually a rather flat and dull outing. That being said, we should give the return of “The Road Warrior” the benefit of the doubt, for, if nothing else, this infamous cinematic character has garnered an impressive cult fan base over the last few decades. Now, with the return of director/co-writer George Miller, a new cast, and a much larger budget, we can see if the 30-year wait was worth it as this cinematic legend gets an update for a new generation.
Taking place in an apocalyptic wasteland, our “hero” Max (Tom Hardy) has the same thing on his mind as everyone else: Survival. Things get a little rough right from the start as he is captured by some henchmen of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a leader who keeps his people in check by having complete control over the only source of water. Upon Max’s arrival at their headquarters, “The Citadel,” one of Joe’s underlings, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), is going on a gasoline run in a fully-loaded war rig. However, it turns out she has other plans, suddenly straying from the road and heading out in a different direction. Understandably, Joe is furious and sends out a pursuit party, one of which, Nux (Nicholas Hoult), ties Max to the hood of his car and uses him as a “blood bag.” Eventually we learn that Furiosa is simply trying to help Joe’s five wives/”breeders” escape captivity, a cause that will eventually unite them with Max and Nux as they try to flee in an epic chase that spans a multitude of miles through mostly open desert.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is the kind of film that is the very reason we have the phrase “style over substance.” About 90% of the film is a combination of chasing, racing, crashes, and explosions, all of which are done with the utmost technical prowess, but when you look beneath the surface, you’re going to find that there’s not much else to see. The characters here are sadly rather flat and one-dimensional, and the plot, as much as there is of one, feels like more of an afterthought than something that Miller and his co-writers planned out thoroughly. All of this begs that another question be asked: Can a film be all style and no substance and still be recommendable?
That’s a question that can really only be answered by each viewer on an individual basis. Do you care that you’re getting nothing more than a shiny surface with hardly anything else to speak of beneath the superficial level? If not, then you’re sure to have a hell of a time with the spectacular stunt sequences that happen throughout these two action-packed hours. However, if you do care, then you’re going to find yourself wondering why you should be caring one bit about what’s going on.
I find myself at something of a middle ground. I appreciated all of the hard work that went into the insane action sequences, and had some fun seeing what looked like impossible moves being pulled off. When it came to the 17-minute climactic chase in which some of the villains were swinging around on poles, I even came close to recommending it right then and there due to it being one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen on film. But throughout the film, as some of the lengthier action scenes dragged on, there was an undeniable feeling of wanting it to move forward with the plot, as opposed to just having them chase each other for several minutes at a time.
That being said, while I can’t fully recommend the film, it’s not one that I would tell you to stay away from either. As mentioned, the stunts are extremely impressive, as are many of the technical aspects of the film, including the cinematography, editing, and visual effects. There is certainly a lot to admire about it, but at the end of all the action, after the last car has crashed and burned, I find myself wondering what it was all for when there was so little actually going on with the storyline and characters. As mentioned, and has actually clearly been shown, the adrenaline of the relentless action will be more than enough for some people, but for those looking for a little more than just a shiny surface, it won’t quite reach an acceptable level of satisfaction.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” comes to Blu-ray in a remarkable 2.4:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that presents a flawless picture throughout, which does great justice to the incredible stunt work performed in the lengthy car chases. The 5.1 Dolby Atmos audio is equally high quality, giving you the thundering score and multiple sound effects in perfect clarity. Overall, fans that have been waiting for the home release will be more than satisfied with the treatment the film has been given.
Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road (28 Minutes): A fascinating look at how the film was planned via storyboards and how it was filmed, featuring interviews with the cast and crew, as well as lots of behind the scenes footage. Definitely worth watching.
Mad Max: Fury on Four Wheels (22 Minutes): A featurette that focuses on the cars used in the film. If this is something you are into, then you’ll probably find it worth checking out.
The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa (11 Minutes): A featurette that explores the two main characters through interviews with the cast and crew. Unfortunately, given the lack of characterization in the film, they don’t have that much to say, making this one you can easily skip.
The Tools of the Wasteland (14 Minutes): A neat look behind the scenes at the props and costumes made for the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew. Worth watching.
The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome (11 Minutes): Like the other character featurette, this is rather superficial, especially given that these characters are even less developed than the others. Easily skippable.
Fury Road: Crash & Smash (4 Minutes): A brief collection of behind the scenes footage that takes a look at the chases, crashes, and explosions in the film. It may be short, but it’s rather interesting to see the raw footage.
Deleted Scenes (3 Minutes): Three pointless scenes that were easily cut from the film. Even die-hard fans will agree that their deletion was no loss.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” will be a delight to anyone looking for nothing more than an adrenaline-fueled, action-packed thrill ride, but for those who expect a little more thought put into the story and characters, it will be something of a slight disappointment. It’s by no means a “bad” film for there are many things to like about it, including the impressive stunts and its outstanding technical aspects, but without a solid foundation, we’re pretty much left with a film that looks great and has a little excitement to offer, but not much else.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic and be sure to subscribe for the latest updates.