Mad Max: Fury Road is one of those movies that sound great in theory, but in execution left me wondering why I wanted to see it in the first place. I’d been hearing things like, “It’s the best action movie of the summer!” “The first modern summer action movie with real character development!” “Nonstop action and atmosphere to boot!” Now I’m sitting and wondering if the critics and I saw the same movie.
I remember the halcyon days of my youth, when I watched the Mad Max films on HBO… and when I say “youth”, I mean I was eight years old (would have been around 1986). My grandparents subscribed to the premium cable channels, and I enjoyed watching the occasional R-rated movie (usually horror, like House, or action/adventure/war, like Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket).
This was my first introduction to non-Disney and non-children’s films, and eventually I gravitated toward Mel Gibson’s road warrior movies: the original Mad Max trilogy. The plots were a little over my head, but I enjoyed the pyrotechnics and the Grindhouse-quality production values, which added grit and atmosphere at a level that went beyond anything in 1980s Spielberg (thinking of the second Indiana Jones flick) and Kubrick.
Fast-forward to 2015. When I found out that the original director, George Miller, was back, and producing a fourth Max picture, I was elated. How could this go wrong, I thought? Well, it went wrong in a lot of ways.
First, and this is important: maybe I’m getting too old for this sort of thing. Lately I’ve enjoyed fare like the Cinderella remake more than anything with blood, guts and any level of violence. Chalk it up to the fact that I’m not 20-years-old anymore, and also that my favorite action movie of the past ten years is the James Bond flick Casino Royale. Maybe I’m just not the proper target audience member for Mad Max. I prefer Bond reboots to all this post-apocalyptic crap.
Now, my gripes. The movie is loud, with near-indistinct dialogue. The action is clearly filmed with 3D in mind, but I watched the movie in a 2D theater. This gives an awkward “angle” to scenes, where it feels like the camera is not looking directly at the subject. (It was enough to draw me out of the “experience” and make me feel like I was watching some hastily-filmed bootleg version of the movie.)
Speaking of 3D, I’m tiring of movies that were filmed with 3D in mind, but not shot in a native 3D format. Movies in which you can’t hear the dialogue. Movies where the editing and pacing move at such a fast clip* that you can’t really follow anything that’s going on. These elements in modern film may have been enjoyable six years ago, when they were still novel, but I’m starting to think I’ve had my fill.
In the end, I couldn’t follow the story. I recognized Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, but, as characters, they weren’t doing much for me. One group was chasing another, but the details were completely lost on me. Maybe it was the cheap sound system in the auditorium I was sitting in? I don’t know.
I wanted to like Fury Road, but it wasn’t meant to be.
out of four.
*The editing is beyond frenetic, and makes any movie from director Paul Greengrass look like stodgy Masterpiece Theatre in comparison.