Mad Max: Fury Road hasn’t exactly been lighting up the box office, but it’s already being hailed as one of the best blockbusters in recent memory. A soft reboot of the 80s cult favorite Mad Max series, Fury Road is the rare resurrected franchise film that maintains the vision of its creator, as George Miller returns in the directing chair. Anchored by dual lead performances from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, Fury Road is proof that reboots of old franchises can feel fresh and vibrant. There will not be a better action blockbuster in theatres this year (the jury’s still out on The Force Awakens of course) and here are 10 reasons why.
9. Memorable Villain
Too many blockbusters spend so much time focusing on their heroes that they forget to throw in a compelling antagonist or two. Guardians of the Galaxy had one of the most dynamic cast of heroes last year, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many casual viewers who could remember the name of that film’s villain (it’s Ronan the Accuser. a blue-skinned schmuck destined for the dustbin of villain history). Fury Road borrows a page from the Star Wars school of villain design with warlord Immortan Joe (coincidentally played by Hugh Keays-Byrne — Toecutter in the original Mad Max). Not only is Joe visually memorable thanks to his distinctive breathing apparatus and weird plastic armor, his antagonistic qualities are clear and not overly complex He’s a dictator who enjoys keeping his subjects down, especially when they’re women; in other words, he’s a villain you love to hate, which makes him the best kind.
8. Focus On Practical Effects
Fury Road was primarily shot on location, with actual props, sets, and ample stunt work, only using CGI when needed to enhance what’s already on screen. It’s also exponentially more thrilling and exciting than the majority of CGI-laden action flicks. This has the effect of making the world of Fury Road feel tangible and real because for the most part, it is. The actors and actresses are all interacting with real props instead of jumping around in front of a green screen. No knock against CGI, but when something can be filmed convincingly in a practical way, it’s almost always going to look better, something that George Miller and his technical crew clearly understand.
7. It’s Not Max’s Story…and That’s OK
It’s admittedly a bit jarring at first when you realize that for a film with “Mad Max” in the title, there isn’t really all that much of Max in it. Tom Hardy does a fantastic job in the role, stepping into Mel Gibson’s shoes with ease, but he’s practically a side character in his own movie. Fury Road is most definitely Imperator Furiosa’s (Charlize Theron) story. The one-armed former lieutenant of Immortan Joe is shown to be every bit Max’s physical equal (best conveyed through an early knockaround brawl between the two) and could have probably accomplished everything she does without Max’s help. Some misogynistic members of the viewing audience were up in arms over this, but turning the film over to a different character isn’t in any way a bad thing. There are enough characters in the film that are reduced to cannon fodder as it is, so having another character around who is just as developed and humanized as the ostensible lead results in a better film. Since when is there a hard and fast rule that says a story has to be all about the title character anyway?
6. Doesn’t Over-Explain Everything
One of the most surprising things about Fury Road is that it doesn’t insult its audience’s intelligence with needlessly convoluted explanations for every little person, place, and thing. The film provides just enough details to get viewers up to speed on the post apocalyptic world of Mad Max, then it puts its foot on the gas and never lets up. Even the dialogue is sparse, with characters dropping little nuggets of information here and there that color in the lines of Fury Road‘s world and fiction without losing sight of the primary conflict. It’s smart and efficient filmmaking that provides enough necessary information, while leaving certain aspects open for interpretation from the viewer.
5. Leaves You Wanting More
Fury Road is a cacophony of vehicular mayhem and explosions that dulls the senses and leaves you wanting more — and not just a thirst for more awesome car combat. As already mentioned, Fury Road doesn’t talk down to its audience by filling in every little gap of information. That said, the film’s restraint definitely presents a lot of questions that aren’t given much of an answer (What’s Immortan Joe’s backstory? What was Max doing before the film starts? Why are all the War Boys so sick and pale?). These are the kinds of questions that most other blockbusters would devote unnecessary flashback sequences to. Thankfully, a sequel to Fury Road has already been confirmed, so more Mad Max is on its way.
4. Visually Dynamic
The world of Fury Road is a post apocalyptic wasteland full of sickness and death. Most films in this familiar genre would fill the screen with drab colors and crank up the depressing imagery to 10. Why then is Fury Road receiving so much praise for its use of bright colors and striking imagery? Well, George Miller and co. seemingly recognize that the subject matter of a film dealing with the end of civilization is bleak enough as it is, so it might as well be as fun and visually dynamic as possible. The saturated oranges and yellows of the desert really help the wasteland come alive (an oxymoron if there ever was one), while the starkly white War Boys seem to contradict the ever-present scorching sunlight. There’s also a fire tornado at one point, which should be a feature in every film going forward.
3. Tells a Story Through Action
George Miller reportedly didn’t have a screenplay made until after the film had been storyboarded because he saw Fury Road as one long chase scene with sparse dialogue. That’s very much what the film turned into, but it’s interesting to note how effective this narrative framework actually ends up being. There is little exposition devoted to explaining what’s going on and why; instead, the characters largely speak through their actions, resulting in a film that feels more like a comic brought to life than most films that are actually adapted from comic books (fittingly, a line of Fury Road prequel comic books were recently announced, with the first issue already available ).
2. The Music
No serious discussion of Fury Road‘s numerous merits can be had without talking about the film’s incredible use of music. Multiple composers were attached to the project before Tom Holkenbourg, aka Junkie XL, officially took the reigns. The score itself is bombastic and rousing, but it’s really the implementation of Junkie XL’s score that sets Fury Road apart from other blockbusters. The music is practically its own character and literally is in some cases, thanks to the glorious absurdity of the Guitar Doof and his chorus of tribal drummers. Fury Road actually personifies its musical score in the form of a guy strapped to a vehicle of towering speakers, sporting a double neck guitar that spews flames. It’s awesome and emphasizes the sheer level of wild creativity that permeates the entire film.
1. Treats Women Right
It’s pretty well known that Hollywood has a problem with female representation, particularly in the blockbuster sphere where female characters are generally moved to the sidelines in favor of white, male heroes. Mad Max: Fury Road may have a man featured prominently in its title, but make no mistake: this is a film driven by its female characters. As already mentioned, Fury Road is Imperator Furiosa’s story, as she initiates the main conflict and plays a primary role in resolving it. Although the film deals with serious issues of female agency and sexual exploitation, the film never devolves into a male gaze power fantasy. Each member of Immorten Joe’s breeder harem is awesome in their own right and are never subjected to on-screen sexual violence. Even a scene involving wet clothes and a water hose is done tastefully, with no lingering shots of the women’s chests or backsides. 99% of today’s films couldn’t achieve that sort of restraint.