“Thirty years have passed since our last visit to George Miller’s sun-scorched post-apocalyptic wasteland, and yet ‘worth the wait’ still seems a puny response to the two hours of ferocious, unfettered B-movie bliss offered by Mad Max: Fury Road,” begins Variety‘s Justin Chang. “The sort of exhilarating gonzo entertainment that makes even the nuttier Fast and Furious movies look like Autopia test drives, this expertly souped-up return to Max Rockatansky’s world of ‘fire and blood’ finds Tom Hardy confidently donning Mel Gibson’s well-worn leather chaps. Still, the tersely magnetic British star turns out to be less of a revelation than his glowering co-lead, Charlize Theron, decisively claiming her place (with apologies to Tina Turner) as the most indelible female presence in this gas-guzzling, testosterone-fueled universe.”
“A relentless action spectacle that will dazzle audiences with its visceral torque and blazing vehicular madness, perhaps the most impressive feat director George Miller has achieved” is “[reimagining] it as a kind of feminist manifesto with much on its mind,” suggests Rodrigo Perez at the Playlist. “No, really. Fury Road might be the most intense and bruising action ride of the year, but the film also moves like a speeding maniac in possession of big and provocative ideas—ideas it scatters out the window while it’s moving at breakneck speeds.”
“Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler consulted on what turns out to be a very feminist film,” writes Eliana Dockterman, introducing her interview with Ensler for Time. In Fury Road, “an evil ruler becomes enraged when he discovers that Charlize Theron’s character, Furiosa, has helped his sex slaves escape his grasp. Behind them they leave the message: ‘Women are not things.’ Furiosa encounters Max on the road, and they team up in search of a matriarchal promised land with bad guys in hot pursuit. Theron, not Hardy, leads the charge; she also does the majority of the fighting.”
“It’s like Grand Theft Auto revamped by Hieronymus Bosch, with a dab of Robert Rodríguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn,” finds the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. “At certain key moments, people’s body movements, especially Max’s, slightly speed up, giving the film a kind of dreamlike horror effect, which further colors the occasionally Dalí-esque strangeness of these feral militia on the landscape.”
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy declares that “it can safely be said that this madly entertaining new action extravaganza energetically kicks more ass, as well as all other parts of the anatomy, than any film ever made by a 70-year-old—and does so far more skillfully than those turned out by most young turks half his age.”
“In the years since his previous Max outings,” notes Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn, “Miller has developed a peculiar filmography of mainstream works that smuggle mature themes into popular material that never demands it—most successfully with Babe: Pig in the City and the first Happy Feet—even if the sheer cinematic virtuosity of the Mad Max movies went latent. Judging by the constant forward momentum of Fury Road, Miller had a lot to get out of his system: The movie starts at a high velocity and barely ever slows down…. Inspiring fear and giddy excitement in equal measures, Fury Road suggests the unruly collision of Ben Hur and a Road Runner cartoon.”
For the New York Times, Cara Buckley talks with Miller and Hardy: “Mr. Miller was looking for someone who had the ‘animal charisma’ of Mr. Gibson while conveying a sense of both accessibility—’You want to be his best friend,’ Mr. Miller said—and mystery. ‘On the one hand, there’s extraordinary attractiveness; on the other, you know there’s something unpredictable and dangerous at the same time,’ Mr. Miller said. ‘These are essentials of a movie star.'”
And Kyle Buchanan talks with Hardy for Vulture. At io9, Abhimanyu Das gathers the “craziest stories” about the making of the first two Mad Max movies. Meantime, more on Fury Road from Jason Gorber (Twitch) and Drew McWeeney (HitFix).
In case you are wondering whether to see FURY ROAD in 2D or 3D: pic.twitter.com/b1PLCj7BBg
— Peter Labuza (@labuzamovies) May 7, 2015
Updates: “In an age of weightless movie spectacles, here’s a movie that feels like it was made by kidnapping $150 million of studio money, fleeing with it to the Namibian desert, and sending footage back to Hollywood like the amputated body parts of a ransomed hostage,” writes Time Out‘s David Ehrlich. “Marrying the biting frenzy of Terry Gilliam’s film universe with the explosive grandeur of James Cameron, Miller cooks up some exhilaratingly sustained action. But the key to this symphony of twisted metal is how the film never forgets that violence is a sort of madness.”
Fury Road “is nothing less than a Krakatoan eruption of craziness,” writes the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin. “The director last visited this world in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 1985, but this feels more like a spiritual sequel to The Road Warrior, the far superior 1981 installment.” And at RogerEbert.com, Peter Sobczynski walks us through the history of the series.
“Ever since Christopher Nolan rewrote the blockbuster handbook with his Dark Knight trilogy, summer tentpole movies have tended to be overly earnest, joyless experiences,” writes Adam Woodward at Little White Lies. “Not so Fury Road. There is simply so much to admire here on a technical level, from the tire-screeching, heavy metal guitar-shredding chaos of the action set pieces to Junkie XL’s thundering drum score to John Seale‘s punchy cinematography. These individual components may be informed by contemporary trends and techniques to some degree, but there is something excitingly original—maverick, even—about the way Miller fits them all together.”
“Character drama and emotional investment take a backseat to orgiastic car chases,” finds Screen‘s Tim Grierson. “Consequently, Fury Road is perhaps best appreciated as an objet d’art: as a kinetic, oddly distancing whirlygig that pummels you into awed submission.”
Charlie Schmidlin interviews Miller for the Playlist, while Kristopher Tapley talks with Seale for HitFix.
“Fury Road is more digitally enhanced than the critic press releases will state in their reviews, but that’s actually one of its values,” suggests Peter Labuza. “Miller blends CGI-antics with physical stunts, and most importantly, the digital elements feel weighted in the world (there’s always dust blowing in the wind). Explosions are created with an intense, comic versatility, often with jarring smack edits to the not-so-innocent victim in flashing, epileptic inducing, colors before he goes crashing into the heavens. In many ways, Miller reminds me of where Michael Bay’s action scenes succeed—the world crashes around, but camera zooms, swings, and cuts in every direction, creating the sense of a 360-degree reality.”Updates, 5/12: For Slate‘s Dana Stevens, Fury Road feels less like “a reboot of glory days past than a prequel of scary days to come. Miller was always influential, but we didn’t know he would turn out to be an environmental prophet.” And the “design details, executed with wit, imagination, and care, gave me something to appreciate even when the adrenaline from the nonstop virtuosic car stunts started to run dry around the 45-minute point.”
But for Michael Smith, Fury Road is “one of the leanest and purest pieces of action cinema I’ve ever seen. The film it reminds me of most is, believe it or not, Buster Keaton’s The General; the entire first half is basically one long heart-stopping chase from west to east and the second half one long heart-stopping chase from east to west. Exposition and the illusion of ‘character psychology’ are refreshingly absent but it’s also full of the kind of highly idiosyncratic, occasionally surreal production-design touches that have always been director George Miller’s specialty (a combination electric guitar/flamethrower, chastity belts with metal teeth, etc.) and it’s all beautifully cut together by his wife Margaret Sixel who had never edited an action movie before.”
Buzzfeed‘s Alison Willmore: “It’s fitting that a week before the arrival of Tomorrowland, Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof’s earnest argument in favor of hopeful futurescapes, the face-melting fourth installment to George Miller’s franchise is gunning into theaters to suggest there’s nothing like the flame-out of humanity for unprecedented spectacle. The movie makes a fume-drunk, totally convincing case for how thematically lavish and awesome-looking the apocalypse can be, as long as you don’t have to live there.”
For another look back at the original trilogy, turn to Jared Mobarak at the Film Stage. More interviews with Miller: Logan Hill (Wired) and Leonard Lopate (WNYC, 16’30”).
Updates, 5/13: “Mad Max: Fury Road is the sort of undeniably bugged-out hot mess-terpiece that would make even the most dedicated glitter spray-paint huffers bolt upright in their seats,” writes Eric Henderson for Slant. “Aesthetically speaking, it takes no prisoners. What the (per Armond White) Von Sternbergian overtures of The Chronicles of Riddick were to the svelte muscularity of the original Pitch Black, what the battery-acid wash of the overloaded Crank: High Voltage was to the Energizer Bunny first installment—that’s what Fury Road is to the now comparatively sinewy Mad Max films that precede it. In his book Film Follies, critic Stuart Klawans perceptively performed a taxonomy of the ‘movies for people who want to die from too much cinema.’ With Fury Road, septuagenarian Aussie auteur George Miller seems scarily willing to take Klawans up on that bet.”
The Guardian‘s Catherine Shoard argues that “one of the more cheering morals of the movie—and, to a lesser extent, the three preceding—is that disability need be no barrier to ambition. The director, George Miller, was working as a doctor in Sydney’s A&E when he wrote the first Mad Max, patching up traffic smash survivors. So the world he presents is rich in amputees, the brain-injured, the frail and the chronically sick. But rather than being crushed, as one might fear in such a feral society, those coping with challenging physical conditions prosper, roping in others to help with creative solutions.”At the Film Stage, Jordan Raup‘s embedded Junkie XL’s full score. And the Hollywood Reporter‘s Gregg Kilday interviews Miller.
Updates, 5/14: “Fury Road’s action plays more like visions from the future than like throwbacks,” writes the Dissolve‘s Keith Phipps. “It’s as if director George Miller… got tired of waiting for everyone else to catch up with the action movies inside his head, and decided to show everyone how it’s done once more.”
“It was worth the wait,” adds the AV Club‘s A.A. Dowd. “Rather than cede demolition duties to a digital team, the filmmaker pours most of his pennies into the lost arts of daredevil stunt work and real pyrotechnics. The result feels like the closest Miller has ever come to getting the noisy, spectacular action movie in his head—the Mad Max he could only dream about in his fledgling years—up there on-screen.”
“This doesn’t feel like a film that exists,” writes the Voice‘s Alan Scherstuhl. “How is George Miller’s bonkers, exhausting, no-future smash-’em-up Mad Max: Fury Road not one of those almost-was boondoggles mourned and dreamed of by fans, a revered director’s impossible vision that, thanks to the un-stout hearts of studio beancounters, never actually vaulted from storyboard to screen? But Fury Road somehow is. In the era of greenscreened blockbusters, we have an R-rated studio release on which a 70-year-old director blew hundreds of millions of dollars crashing real cars into each other in Namibia.”
“The man who re-wrote the rules of the post-apocalyptic action genre has returned to show a generation of filmmakers how they’ve been stumbling in their attempts to follow in his footsteps,” writes Brian Tallerico at RogerEbert.com.
HitFix‘s Drew McWeeney interviews Tom Hardy.
“It’s worth paying a few more dollars for 3D,” suggests A.O. Scott in the New York Times. “That newfangled format brings out the virtuosity of Mr. Miller’s old-school approach. The themes of vengeance and solidarity, the wide-open spaces and the kinetic, ground-level movement mark Fury Road as a western, and the filmmakers pay tribute to such masters of the genre as John Ford, Budd Boetticher and, not least, Chuck Jones, whose Road Runner cartoons are models of ingenuity and rigor. Like Mr. Jones’s universe, Mr. Miller’s world has its rules. Viewers raised on the more baroque, digitally enabled forms of blockbuster spectacle are likely to admire the relative simplicity of Fury Road, while aficionados of the traditional slam-bang methods will revel in its coherence.”
Viewing (4’33”). The Guardian‘s Catherine Shoard talks with Miller, Theron and Nicholas Hoult.
“As Fury Road geared up for its magnificent climax,” writes Flavorwire‘s Jason Bailey, “I was reminded of a Quentin Tarantino interview where he recalls seeing John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow II for the first time, with a friend who turned to him at about the same point and posited, ‘If they don’t get naked and boogie at the end of this movie, this has been for nothing.’ Have no fear—Miller gets naked and boogies. That final chase is, quite simply, one for the books, a dazzling delirium of dust and fire and sheer kinetic force. Miller zips his camera, pulls out his sound, wails his punches, and bangs and fuses his shots up against each other like a welder. It is bonkers, and it is brilliant.”Updates, 5/15: Adam Nayman at Reverse Shot: “Like the recent efforts of the Wachowskis—probably the only contemporary filmmakers who could go toe-to-toe with Miller in the putatively progressive politics and ridiculous character names departments—Fury Road comes on strong as a critique of decadent spectacle whilst doubling as an example of same. When (original Mad Max alum) Hugh Keays-Byrne’s gas-masked King Immortan Joe magnanimously douses his huddled, half-starved subjects with jets of water and smiles as they lap it up, the suggestion of haves and have-nots is powerfully unsubtle. It’s also as applicable to the present tense of global film production as some imagined postnuclear future.”
“More than any action film in recent memory, Fury Road explores the dramatic and kinetic possibilities of a big rig haulin’ ass with a hostile army at its back door. And while its setting is pure post-apocalyptic sci-fi, its outlaw spirit and hardware align it to another genre: the trucker movie.” And Nick Pinkerton is off and truckin’ in his latest “Bombast” column for Film Comment.
Alex Pappademas at Grantland: “I walked out of this movie feeling the way I imagine poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti did when he flipped his Fiat into a ditch in 1908 and emerged with the idea for ‘The Futurist Manifesto’: ‘When I came up—torn, filthy, and stinking—from under the capsized car, I felt the white-hot iron of joy deliciously pass through my heart!'”
More from Sean Burns, Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 4/5), Shaun Brady (Philadelphia City Paper, A), Luke Goodsell (Movie Mezzanine), Christopher Orr (Atlantic), Marc Savlov (Austin Chronicle, 4.5/5) and Michael Sragow (Film Comment).
Updates, 5/18: “George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is a really magnificent slab of cinema language at its most effectively elasticized,” writes Glenn Kenny. “I’ve seen it twice within four days, once in 3D, and again in super-big-screen 2D (I prefer the latter, but the 3D wasn’t bad), and both times I felt positively transported. The speediness and the suspense of the simultaneous car chases/firefights/hand-to-hand combats and more had, for me, the effect of being suspended; metaphorically holding my breath and waiting to get pulled out and up into a place to exhale. Every shift of cinematic gear accomplished by Miller does that job of manipulations perfectly.”
“Call me bourgeois, but I like a little more context for my mayhem, which is why I was more involved the second time, when I knew Furiosa, knew the breeders, and knew a bit more about why Max was on the front of a truck connected by an IV line to a skinny, bald guy with a white face and blackened eye sockets,” writes New York‘s David Edelstein.
“Madness is violence and violence is life and life is madness and the cycle does not abate until death,” writes Ray Pride in Newcity Film: “Fury Road is not so much pessimistic but cheerily brutal, as, you have to admit, Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet 2 are for the messages they leave the kiddies of generations. George Miller in three sentences: We’re doomed. Keep moving. Be kind. Plus: Armageddon out of here!”
Update, 5/19: Vulture‘s Bilge Ebiri delves into links between Mad Max and two other films Miller’s directed, Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) and Babe: Pig in the City (1998).
Updates, 5/22: “[George] Miller and his co-writers, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, lend the story a quasi-Biblical starkness as well as a visionary mythology involving a band of older biker women, the Vuvalini, who are refugees from the ‘green place’ as well as the last bearers of witness to those bygone green times,” writes the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody. “The revolutionary fervor that rises toward the end of the film is rousing and gratifying. But it’s precisely in these satisfactions that Miller’s vision turns from stark to thin.”
“Even after two viewings, I feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface of Mad Max: Fury Road,” writes the Chicago Reader‘s Ben Sachs. “Nux is the heart of Fury Road, which improbably combines rousing action and fairy-tale idealism with moving results. If Nux is the heart of the movie, then Furiosa is its soul, a hard-charging but sympathetic warrior committed to finding a better world. One of the big surprises of Fury Road, however, is that there is no better world to be found.”
Once again, George Miller schools everyone on how to stage action. Couldn’t match him if you put a gun in my mouth. — Bitchuation (@Bitchuation) May 25, 2015
Updates, 5/25: “At his best, Miller makes a cinema of pure kinetics, where the action is the exposition,” writes McKenzie Wark. That said, Fury Road “suffers from a sort of white desire to be indigenous. It might have upset the men’s rights activists, but it isn’t feminist cinema. Charlize Theron is a degendered hero, and most of the other female characters turn out to be expendable. The way disability figures is more interesting. The good and the bad guys are crippled, if in slight different ways. The bad guys tend to a sort of fleshy excess; Charlize Theron appears missing a forearm. All are cyborg characters, mixtures of flesh and tech, dependent on systems and apparatus. It’s a clue to what this film is really about.”
“If you’re going to bring feminist propaganda to the masses, there are worse ways than in a giant exploding truck covered with knives,” writes Laurie Penny at Buzzfeed. “The fact that Fury Road is so much fun is almost certainly part of the reason the antifeminist keyboard-slobberers who inhabit the murkier corners of the internet are pushing for its boycott…. Fury Road—in which an ass-kicking half-bionic heroine defies death to rescue five young women from sex slavery—might be an existential threat to recreational sexism because it is so enjoyable.”
Update, 5/26: “Who would have thought that ‘women in prison’ films, one of the most despised exploitation movie subgenres, would become so influential?” asks Noah Berlatsky in the Guardian:
Fury Road hasn’t generally been thought of as a WIP film. But much of it has been lifted directly from that genre. The whole movie is organized around a prison escape. Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is freeing a group of women from sex slavery at the hands of the evil patriarch Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). The fact that those freed prisoners all look like supermodels dressed in lingerie is a standard WIP trope. So is their growing battle-hardened resourcefulness and, for that matter, their commitment to feminist revolution. The end of the film is foreshadowed directly in Jonathan Demme’s cult WIP classic Caged Heat…. But while Fury Road has moments that are more thematically daring than its exploitation roots, in other ways it’s far less bold.
Update, 5/28: “The menacing symphony of Mad Mad: Fury Road, rather than a cautionary tale, sounds like the field-recorded soundtrack of our dark times,” writes Celluloid Liberation Front in the Notebook. “The apparent dissonance between the world director George Miller conjures up and the one we live in is more a stylistic difference rather than a substantial one. Considerably vast portions of our planet are caught in a state of perpetual warfare not that dissimilar from the one depicted in Fury Road. A medieval future where divinity-like overlords rule over hordes of dispossessed and where natural resources (including human milk and blood) are the coveted stuff of monopolies doesn’t seem that far-fetched after all. Though superficially unnatural and post-apocalyptic in tone, the lawless lands Mad Max is dragged through might not look that alien to the damned souls trapped in the war-ravaged chaos of say Libya or Syria.”
Update, 5/29: An 80s-style trailer from the Playback Collective:
Update, 6/6: “One of the many reasons Mad Max: Fury Road is so successful as an ac