I watched Mad Max: Fury Road yesterday – one among the very few who ran to catch it on an early show Friday release, the coveted first day. The theatre was empty except for a few couples in corners and probably a few die-hards in the last row. With Mel Gibson’s iconic character still grinning gleefully in my head, I settled down as the lights doused and the movie started.
The Dust-bowl nightmarish version of a post-apocalyptic world with scarce resources and men turned into animals unfolded magnificently across the screen with the voice of Tom Hardy playing Max Rockatansky – savagely grabbing and biting off the head of a long-tailed two-headed lizard in the opening scene while reminiscing about the fact that he is the one who runs from both the living and the dead. It sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Weird and demented as only George Miller’s vision can be, unapologetically brutal - all brakes taken out, no punches pulled and gloriously riotous in terms of the non-stop action thrills. What a movie!! I am going on to lay my neck on the line and claim it to be Hollywood’s best offering in 2015. If ever a movie deserved to be watched on big screen ( try IMAX), then this.is.it.
The movie – a bizarro punk-rock fuelled incendiary fireball of a movie – is a welcome return of the iconic mad roadster, Mad Max to the big screen. A post-apocalyptic world where water is scarce and controlled by mad men, oil is precious and bullets are farmed. A beautiful and hostile ravaged world unlike any other where the dunes stretch for miles and canyon storms can be electrical and fatal – stray a little and you get fried.
So Max, our hero is a drifter taken prisoner by the War-Boys gang who need him as a universal donor. War-Boys are a devotional lot, each lusting for a brave death and entry to the “Valhalla” thus proving their alpha-maleness. They in turn look up to their leader, Immortan Joe – a patriarch residing like a mad emperor within his citadel, rationing water for the general populace and is proud of his male bastion. A demented soul who paints his face geisha white, needs a fearsome breathing mask and keeps a fresh stock of “breeders” to forward his war-lord legacy. [ All played by leggy supermodels including Rosie-Huntington Whitely and others ] So when his favourite Imperator Furiosa decides to “traitor him” and makes a run with his war-rig meant to scavenge for oil and bullets – along with his favourite set of breeders, things start off on a tense note. The levels of tension go ratchetting up as Joe sends his whole hunting party in hot pursuit across the arid desert – straight into a mad man’s nightmare, Frank Herbert’s Dune as painted by a raving lunatic. An absolutely gorgeous CGI-created electrical storm that envelopes them.
Into the fray comes Nux – a devout war-boy who lusts to attain the gates of Valhalla. Played almost to the level of furious maniacal genius of Joker, by Nicolas Hoult. And as he screams, What a day! What a lovely day! We are happy to scamper along right into the heart of this storm. An epic road battle that doesn’t give us a breather right until the end of first half.
The second half is slower. Nuanced. Surprisingly a lot of subtlety and heart thrown in between the action sequences – where George Miller brings in a glimmer of a plot where Furiosa is leading the girls to a promised ‘Green Place’. But as things are wont to go, dreams are reduced to dust flying away on the desert wind and they are forced to go back – And then things go straight into the mouth of an oil-fisted, gasoline-guzzling, death-cultist Hell. Complete with a bizarre guitarist who plays , death metal to the sounds of war-gongs and leads a legion of metallic four-wheeled monster vehicles running as much on gas as much as adrenaline on an epic road-battle that seems to last for ever.
The movie in spite of probably going to be looked upon as the perfect imprint for action-movies in the future is surprisingly feminist. Charlize Theron leads the troupe of strong feminist gang. A bald-headed, muscular tough-talking saviour-angel who reminds us of Sigourney Weaver (from Alien franchise). She’s probably going to an iconic figure, a woman road-warrior with enough grief and guilt in her outlook on life and still can shoot a mean blunderbuss or swing a machete. Tom Hardy is not a speck on Mel Gibson. He plays second fiddle to the tougher Charlize - speaking only in Bane-style grunts and lacks Gibson’s aura or panache. But he still makes up on the dead-pan dialogue delivery and then he lets his eyes do some talking. Hoult who begins pretty well, by the second half loses his God-struck attitude and is reduced to a spectator to the fireworks.
There are lot of small touches of Miller to this fantasy movie – with the outlandish costumes, bizarre sets, mutant crow-like beings on stilts walking across dried ponds, a baby’s mask on the back of a muscular hunk, the characterization of Rictus – Joe’s idiotic son whose is a WWE wrestler with as much brains. It’s manic genius – when it comes to the inventiveness and bottomless depravity. So much so that I’m hoping Allan Moore pens a graphic novel spin-off to the series. Maybe my only complaint would be that things were tied up too neatly at the end without any room for deduction or speculation.
Nevertheless, this ranks as one of the best action movies I’ve witnessed in sometime. A rocket-fuelled romper that stomps home the message of environmental decay, pits matriarchal societal values against a tyrranical one without being overly preachy – Hell, there’s no time to take a breath even as the non-stop epic road battle rages on - gloriously painted on screen by riveting CGI and some mind-numbing skull-splitting badass action sequences. A totally worthy addition to the Mad Max franchise. One that I hope has many more additions to it.