Mad Max: Furiosa’s Road by Todd Vandenberg

Craving action? Mad Max: Fury Road is the movie you’ve been waiting for.

Craving plotting and character development with your action? This is the movie you’ve been waiting for.

Craving an answer to the sins of gender inequality in film? You guessed it.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. You’ll see enough explosions and wrecks to make Michael Bay cry for joy, so it’s a hell of an action movie. Unlike a Bay “film”, there’s a plot. A plot that makes sense, is character-driven, and would make an interesting film without a single bang-bang or boom-boom. This is a startling concept, for certain.

As compelling as the action sequences are – and they are, each of the three major set pieces ramping up the tension – two things truly set this film apart for me; character and world-building. Two things that are usually ignored in action films.

Director George Miller continues to flesh out the world he created decades ago in Mad Max, The Road Warrior, and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Miller and his team breathe life, albeit typically a very brutal and very short life, into this grim, dry, and most definitely Mad world. The crazed mythology of this world swallows up the viewer whole, every bit as much as Middle-Earth captured its audience a decade ago. The opening moments of the film clearly show this is a brutal world; even a cute little beast, a mascot in any other film, is just another resource for survival here.

I won’t delve any deeper into the plot. As explosive as it is, this movie really is about character as much as action. And although Max is the title character, this is absolutely Furiosa’s story. Tom Hardy is a terrific actor; if you haven’t realized that yet, watch his brilliant performance in “Locke”. Max Rockatansky begins the film utterly mad, and finds some sanity in bits and pieces as he battles, well, everyone at one point or another. But as my daughter pointed out, you could trim every second of footage with Hardy, and still have a compelling, complete story. Cut Charlize Theron’s scenes, and you have a collection of great action scenes. This is totally Imperator Furiosa’s story, and totally Charlize Theron’s movie. And she is as good in this film as she has ever been. Yes, I’m including her Oscar-winning performance in “Monster”.

Mad Max is the franchise; I get that. The name, even after decades, guarantees interest. At a time when Hollywood is under ever-increasing pressure to address gender equity,  I love that George Miller unleashed this absolutely dominating demonstration of the power of Woman. Fury Road is a ride you won’t forget, that’s for sure, but there’s a lot more going on during the trip than car crashes and explosions. An action film with heart, mind, and soul. To borrow from one of my favorite television shows ever: “Imagine, a thing like that”.

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