Spoiler alert: Stop reading this if you haven’t seen Mad Max Fury Road yet.
Mad Max Fury Road just came out. There’s a lot of things going on in this film.
- In an early sequence, Furiosa swerves the convoy off the main road. She diverts toward a rogue direction. A trooper swings over to Furiosa’s window. He asks what’s up. Furiosa barely acknowledges the trooper’s existence. The trooper may as well be a fart in the wind.
I found this to be a wonderful bit of storytelling. The crew follows Furiosa’s lead without an inkling of hesitation. Absolute commitment in the blink of an eye. Oh, Furiosa is going off-road for mysterious reasons? Crew, I guess we’re going off-road for mysterious reasons.
With so little, it says so much. We instantly grasp who Furiosa is. We grasp this group’s hierarchical structure. We believe Furiosa’s crew would follow Furiosa off a cliff. We fill in the blanks of how she achieved this respect.
And all of this is achieved
with smart visuals
- In the first sequence, we see Max jetting around in his V8 Interceptor car. It’s his Millennium Falcon, a storied supercharger, the iconic vehicle of the Mad Max universe.
And a couple minutes after the film starts, the V8 Interceptor is flipped like a turtle on its back. Undriveable. Dead. Kaput.
The V8 Interceptor next appears in the climactic showdown, having been refurbished by the bad guys. Max spots the car. He shouts “that’s mine!”
Moments later, the V8 Interceptor explodes. I love this.
Destroy the icon. Then, just for good measure, destroy it again. Burn it all down. I thought I wanted Max and his continuing adventures with his cool car, but, well, I got something a helluva lot better than what I wanted.
- Prior to Furiosa going rogue, many things have already happened.
She busted the fugitive wives out of the vault. She composed an elaborate plan. She made a secret deal with a motorcycle gang for safe passage. She gathered up supplies for her operation. She rose up the ranks of the clan to become Imperator.
And right when the film starts, all that is skipped. The film begins by jumping straight to the final act. This is the boxing movie where the first scene is the climactic final fight. This is a Star Wars that opens with the assault on the Death Star.
Mad Max respects the viewer’s time by starting the story as close to the end as possible. The film excises as much as it possibly could, leaving nothing but the lean bare essentials of the story it wants to tell.
- Admittedly, I had high expectations for Mad Max Fury Road. The director had previously made one of my all-time favorite films. So, I was tickled to find myself smitten within the very first few seconds of Mad Max.
Not the two-headed lizard scene. I liked that, but I’m talking about what preceded that.
I’m talking about the opening billing: “TOM HARDY as MAX ROCKATANSKY / CHARLIZE THERON as IMPERATOR FURIOSA” in grungy hard-core angry font.
Look at those names. Look at that presentation. For goodness sakes, look at those names. Rockatansky. Imperator Furiosa. Completely over-blown. Over-the-top. Over-loud. It’s a perfect fit for what this film is.
And somehow, the film maintains this tone. Every frame, from frame one to frame last, shouts that shred-metal aesthetic. Every frame feels like grungy hard-core angry font. Fury Road knows exactly what it wants to be, doesn’t care about what you want, doesn’t care about what other films are doing, and is unapologetic about it.