Mad Max: Fury Road

Posted on May 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Constant, intense, and graphic violence, guns, explosions, crashes, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: May 15, 2015
Copyright Village Roadshow  Pictures 2015
Copyright Village Roadshow Pictures 2015

Mad Max (Tom Hardy, taking over from Mel Gibson) stamps on a two-headed lizard and then chews its head off. And that’s just in the first minute. That master of apocalyptic junkyard anarchy, George Miller, is back, bigger, wilder, madder than ever with this fourth of the Mad Max movies, all set in a post-apocalyptic desert dystopia of deprivation, chaos, rust, and brutality. In this world, all anyone has ever known is loss and despair. There is no hope, no thought of any possible way to learn or create. At one point, a character points to something completely unfamiliar to him, calling it “that thing.” It is a tree.

The first three films were about the fight for gasoline to fuel the vehicles pieced together from the wreckage. This one is about another, even more precious fluid: water. Other precious fluids come into the story as well, including blood and breast milk.

A brutal dictatorship has taken over, controlling access to all of that. All are the preserve of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, with the right crazy eyes for the role), who lives literally above everyone else in a place known as The Citadel, maintaining control with his army of War Boys, all with shaved heads and powder-white skin and all convinced that their destiny is to die for Immortan Joe and be transported to paradise in Valhalla. Immortan Joe also maintains a harem of impossibly long-legged, lovely young woman. His chief lieutenant is Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a fearless woman with a mechanical arm, so much the central focus of the film that it should have been named for her. When Furiosa escapes with Immortan Joe’s women, including his pregnant “queen,” Joe and his peers come after them, in a convoy of tricked-up vehicles, all made to destroy. Everything is in shades of burnt-out umber except for the bright red suit of a guy shredding an electric guitar to keep everyone angry.

One of the War Boys is Nuz (Nicholas Hoult), who has brought along his “blood bag.” That would be Max, who was captured by Immortan Joe’s troops and kept alive only to serve as a blood donor. Nuz did not want to be left behind but had not yet finished getting his transfusion. So Max is manacled and attached to the front of Nuz’s car. Max ends up with Furiosa and the young women, who are seeing the “green place” where Furiosa was born.

Miller is a master of cinema, and his staging and cinematography on the action scenes are shot through with throbbing, raging, adrenalin that contrasts with the stoicism of Max and Furiosa. Miller has said that the Edge camera car is the most exciting technological innovation in his career. It allowed him (he operated it himself) to put the camera in the middle of the action. He does not like to use CGI, preferring “practical” (real) effects, and the grittiness is so palpable we feel we are inhaling dust.

Hardy is excellent, though, as with Bain, his face is masked for much of the film. Theron is more incendiary than the film’s mountainous fireballs, creating a character with a rich, complicated history in the way she fights, in the determined set of her brows, in the way she looks at the helpless young women, thinking about where she has been and what she has seen. The action makes our hearts beat harder, but Miller’s ability to create characters that transcend the crashes and explosions and themes that resonate all too sharply with contemporary conflicts, are what can make them beat more fiercely.

Parents should know that this film has non-stop apocalyptic action, peril, and violence with many characters injured and killed and several graphic and disturbing images, as well as some strong language, some nudity, and references to domestic abuse.

Family discussion: Why won’t Max tell Furiosa his name? Why did society become so savage? Why was one community different?

If you like this, try: the first three “Mad Max” movies and Welcome to Wherever You Are, A Documentary Celebrating the MAD MAX Mythology

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