Review by Gene
In the shadow of Marvel’s latest behemoth, Age of Ultron, is not where most movies want to find themselves being released. But that is exactly where George Miller’s reboot of his cult classic character Mad Max finds itself in 2015. If you’re a fan of the originals and looking for modern camera quality to amplify already terrific stunt work and desert car chases, you won’t be disappointed with Fury Road.
Mild Spoilers ahead…
I refer to it as a reboot mainly because that is how I have heard it being categorized. However, I think a strong case can be made that Fury Road is merely a continuation of the original Mad Max stories. We don’t get a fresh telling of Max’s origin. Rather, he is haunted by visions of those he couldn’t save. The audience is led to believe this involves a daughter and a wife at minimum. There is even the eerily familiar quick shot of widened eyeballs invoking sheer panic right before death, which the first two films were infamous. Max still has his familiar vehicle, he still has the leather jacket with a single right shoulder pad, and he still favors a short double-barreled shotgun. All other things being equal, I think Fury Road is better viewed as a sequel than a reboot.
Be that as it may, there is one thing noticeably different in Fury Road than in Miller’s original trilogy. That is that Max (Tom Hardy) seems to become a secondary character to Furioso (Charlize Theron). It opens with a short monologue by Max describing his haunting visions of those he couldn’t save, and the depths to which he has fallen in this world. “As the world fell, each of us was broken”, he says. Any Christian even vaguely familiar with what the fall of Adam and Eve did to the world and to mankind should immediately see the relation here. The debasement and perversion of man is amplified and people such as Max are reduced to a single instinct: survive. We see his capture and imprisonment through his lens. Even large portions of the first major desert chase are seen as it affects him, strapped to the front of a vehicle while serving as a blood donor to a zombie-esque warlord named Nux (Nicholas Hoult), bent on sacrificing himself and making it to “Valhalla”. But once things slow down and Max meets Furioso and learns of her plan, the movie really becomes more about her personally and completing her mission.
In this way it deviates from George Miller’s previous renditions of the Road Warrior. We still get a surface level intimacy with Max’s personality and his demons, but we’re much more invested in Furioso and her mission. Their common enemy and the big bad in Fury Road is Immortan Joe, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne. This is the same actor that played the Toecutter in Mad Max (1979). It’s not clear whether we should see this as the same person in this universe who has risen to this level of power. Regardless, the triangle of Max, Joe and Furioso is really an embodiment of three “savior” types.
Immortan Joe is introduced as a lord over an impoverished people complete with his own army of extremists ready to die for him, known as warlords. They believe he will take them to Valhala upon their death. He proclaims to the people, “I am your redeemer. It is by my hand you arise from the ashes of this world”, just as he douses them all with water only to take it away from them with a warning not to get “addicted to it”. Immortan is a false Savior. His promises for eternity are empty and designed to suck every bit of value as possible out of each person. He’s the logical conclusion of what a world based on survival alone would produce.
Max plays a familiar part in this film as the reluctant Savior. Very similar to his role in Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome wherein his skills and drive were needed to bring liberty to certain people. Deep down he is a good, justice seeking man who just wants to be left alone. And he wants to leave others to their business as well. He doesn’t want to get involved, he doesn’t want to get attached to people for fear of losing someone else he cares about. So, when a situation arises that calls for his help his head tells him to walk away, but his heart tells him he must help.
Furioso takes the bull by the horns and makes things happen. She is our active Savior. She observes Immortan’s many wives in sexual slavery and puts a plan in motion to grant them freedom. But she doesn’t merely set them free. She goes along with them to ensure their freedom as well as hers. She sacrifices, she protects and she guides these women as a mother would her children. And all with one arm! A pragmatist might say that she only brought them along as leverage to secure her own freedom. I suppose that case could be made, but then my little triumvirate here wouldn’t work. 🙂
About 80 minutes into this 127 minute run time, Furioso reflects on how Immortan’s wives are looking for hope, but she is looking for redemption. Even later she reveals that she was taken from her home as a young girl. This whole journey down fury road is an effort to get back there. Back to where she belongs. Where she’s from. Redemption for Furioso came in the form of being reunited with her homeland. This is a strong draw within people; to redeem things and make them right or good. As Christians, this is something we can and should try to do daily. When we decide to pray instead of worry, we’re redeeming our focus toward God. When we study God’s word rather than rely on our own think-so’s, we’re redeeming our wisdom toward God. And when we worship the Lord in community with fellow believers, we’re redeeming our time toward God. All of these are things we can do or change about our habits, much the same as Furioso had to take matters into her own hands to get her redemption. But the ultimate redemption is one we must fully rely on God for. No amount of good deeds on our end can redeem our souls to God. Only the perfect offering of Jesus can do that. It’s only through Him that we can have a hope of redemption.
“For the grace of god has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” -Titus 2:11-14
My Rating: 4/5
I feel confident in saying that if you’re seeing this in theaters you probably know what you’re getting into. And if that’s the case, you won’t be let down. George Miller delivers completely on beautiful desert landscape chases while not filling every empty space with CGI. It all feels real and dangerous, not contrived. The continuous action and explosions will certainly give Age of Ultron a run for it’s money this year when looking back on best action scenes. In my opinion Theron steals the show. In fact, it could have just as easily been called Furioso because it really does focus primarily on her and her mission after about 30 or 40 minutes in. Tom Hardy does a fine job as Max, but I will say I felt more of a connection watching Gibson in this role 30+ years ago. There is of course ample violence as one might expect for an ‘R’ rated movie about the Road Warrior. But I will say I appreciated the lack of nudity. There was one scene when it was definitely within likelihood, but they held short of that. That was a staple of the first three as well.