Mad by Name – Bonkers by Nature
It is truly mind blowing to think that director George Miller has pretty much only directed two types of films: Happy Feet/Babe with their super cutesy anthropomorphic animals and Mad Max with it’s depiction of the degeneration of human kind and decline into madness. I’d love to know what goes on in his head, a cross between talking unicorns and Arkham asylum perhaps?
Still, you have to love him because the original Mad Max was pretty much an instant cult classic and you only need watch the first few minutes of Fury Road to know that the same is true about this film. Still not sure? Just watch Nicholas Hoult say “Oh what a day. What a lovely day!” I will be quoting that endlessly I’m sure.
The film starts with Max getting chased down and held prisoner by a gang from “The Citadel” which is run by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a self proclaimed idol who promises to take people to Valhalla when they die. Because of this he has a layer of frenzied skinhead “War Boys” who keep order over a horde of downtrodden followers that are just grateful to get rations of water now and again.
Immortan Joe is a typical dictator surrounding himself with water, fresh food and unblemished women. So when one of his wives Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) takes it upon herself to free the other women under Joe’s control the rest of the film happens: one long, absolutely bonkers, car chase and Max (Tom Hardy) is dragged along for the ride!
Did you, as a child, do any of the following; play a game called Twisted Metal or Vigilante 8? Doodle the craziest looking cars possible with 8 wheels, a machine gun and a lookout perch? Build a car out of Lego that looked nothing like a real car but wonder why real cars weren’t made like yours?
Of course you did. Mad Max is exactly this but on film. You are treated to a visual feast of cars that look like hedgehogs, drag racers with flame thrower turrets, 70’s saloons with caterpillar tracks trying to blow up an armoured fuel truck with machine gun turrets. Of course, with such an arsenal things are going to get blown up, dismantled, over-turned and people are going to die in both amazing and shocking ways.
Mad Max has such a cacophony of petrol headed eye blistering action that it is easy to overlook some of the more subtle aspects of the film. The most obvious is the sheer descent into madness as humankind is fractured in this post apocalyptic landscape. OK, so this aspect isn’t particularly subtle but it’s a joy to watch each of the main gang leaders indulge in insanity. Joe with his see through body armour and skull mask/breathing apparatus, The People Eater (John Howard) with his diseased feet that look like elephant trunks and the Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter) with his suit made of bullets. Interesting as these characters are it’s when you look at the rest of the war boys and compare the vast gulf that is our current society and what the world has become in Mad Max that will captivate most peoples attention.
Another more subtle aspect of the film is the fact that we never really know what happened to the world in the first place and also how it became so broken. we are given just enough glimpses to form our own opinion but it’s always left to your interpretation and child-like imagination.
Finally there is the way that gender and ability is portrayed in this film. The son’s of Immortan Joe are physically and/or mentally disabled but in this dystopia they are all equal. Similarly Furiosa has lost an arm yet she is probably the strongest character in the film and further to this the wives she is trying to save start off as dainty helpless beings but grow to be quite resilient – comparatively at least. It might be weird to think that Fury Road casts such an unbiased representation of gender and disabilities but if you think that everyone in the film is equally as broken, just in their own ways, it actually makes a lot of sense.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the film however is Max himself. The script doesn’t do anything to really develop the character or give us a reason to really care about him apart from the sole reason that he is the main character. Unfortunately Tom Hardy plays Max like he played Bane from Batman with just a few grunts and mumbled sentences. It’s a rare miss for Hardy and exacerbated by how strong Charlize Theron is throughout the whole film.
Nicholas Hoult’s portrayal of Nux – psychopathic yet gentle and at times naïve war boy in Joe’s gang – is also one of the standout performances here and fills in for the absence of a loveable male lead.
But Max isn’t the only misstep in the film as the plot is really rather basic; Furiosa tries to save the women and Max gets absorbed into the fold. That’s as complex as it gets. No real plot twists. Barely any plot development just a car chase.
It may sound like a bit boring just being one long car chase but this is action like you haven’t seen before. Not only because of the stunts but it is also gloriously shot. It is coloured to perfection and is on a scale that is both vast as they travel through expanses of desert but localised to the twenty or so vehicles involved so never feels impersonal.
The film is so delightfully mad and over the top that it is hard not to love it even if it’s not perfect but hey, that’s almost the definition of a cult film right? Either way, I can’t help but think if there was a post apocalyptic world I wish it was like fury road because if life is going to be a pile of shit it may as well be a full frontal, unhinged crazy pile of shit with grenades on sticks and harpoon-gun-cars right?
- Glorious madness
- Action satisfaction
- Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult
- Plot doesn’t really go anywhere
- Max isn’t the hero you want him to be
- Script doesn’t help the plot or Max