Well holy flerking schnit, that was an awesome experience!
A couple of days ago I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road with a couple of friends. It was something of a spur-of-the-moment thing. I hadn’t originally been that excited for Fury Road. It was on my mental list of movies I’d probably see if I got around to it, but would likely end up renting. (Note that many movies on that mental-rental list—hee hee, rhyming!—are often forgotten between the time they’re in theaters and the time they’re available on DVD.)
I wasn’t particularly moved by the trailers, and while I’d seen and enjoyed about two of the earlier films—about half of Mad Max partially caught on TV, all of Road Warrior, and the first half of Thunderdome—the franchise held no particularly special place in my heart. I saw the first trailer when it appeared a couple of months ago, and that made the movie appear to be just a huge Michael Bay Explosion Fest. Yet initial reviews were so overwhelmingly positive that when said friends invited me to see it, I figured I’d at least give it a shot.
I’m glad I did. I love how this movie is shot, how it tells its story, how it’s constructed, how it treats its characters…pretty much everything about it. But the thing I loved the most? It felt like non-stop action, WITHOUT giving me action-fatigue. You know when a movie gets so self-absorbed in its own action that it doesn’t seem to care about the viewer? When things just keep exploding, fighting, crashing, etc. far beyond the viewer’s ability to understand why they should care anymore? That’s action fatigue. It’s like when someone wants to teach you about an awesome new video game, but then just focuses so much on the game itself that they forget you’re even there.
So why did Fury Road‘s near non-stop action manage to keep me engaged the entire time? There’s a number of reasons:
1) The visuals were great, and excellently shot. George Miller doesn’t pull any of that shakey-cam crap here, folks. I understood all of what was going on, when it was going on, with full situational awareness. I can’t even begin to imagine how much work went into choreographing it all.
2)There were some small, quieter moments, be those stand-offs or small conversational moments between characters, and none of those characters felt flat or cookie-cutter.
3) The plot set things up in such a way that what essentially is a movie-length action chase actually worked: Immorton Joe’s forces (and others that join him) vastly outnumber Furiosa’s group. Normally, it would strain credulity that the smaller group would be able to last so long against such a horde of attackers, even in a “war rig” like the one Furiosa drives. Yet the primary reason behind the conflict—which is set up quite early in the film but I won’t spoil it here—is also the primary reason why that horde can’t unleash the full force of its might. Furiosa and Max, however, have no such limitations.
4) Some action movies treat story the way porn movies treat story: as an action delivery system. (“I want to have a sword fight on the top of a train that’s falling out of the sky and swarming with cybernetic monkey robots. How do we set this up?”) Yet Fury Road uses the action to tell the story, and gives us an additional reason to care about the action beyond just how awesome it looks.
There isn’t much dialogue in this movie. So much is handled by action, taking “show don’t tell” to a visceral extreme. At one point Max has a metal mask covering his mouth and jaw. Not a single line of dialogue is spent on expressing his desire to have it off, but it’s shown in the ferocity with which he uses every available moment to saw away at it with a metal file.
There’s so much I could say about this movie in terms of character, setting, individual scenes, story, and the world-building that ties it altogether. But for the moment, in the interest of brevity and avoiding spoilers, I’ll say no more for now. Suffice it to say that Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. Possibly the best.
So you should probably go see it.