Mad Max: Fury Road Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron Perfectly Matched

Max and Imperator Furiosa

Mad Max: Fury Road is the 2015 offering from George Miller; the creator of the original Mad Max film trilogy with Mel Gibson, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron as the perfectly matched double act who prove that cinema as spectacle is addictive. The film also shows that Miller has lost none of the abilities to produce  post apocalyptic nuances, over the top scenario buildup and grandiose settings  that are guaranteed to make  viewers gasp. He also shows that epic films belong in the Australian desert where miles of road provide the best long-running “car” chases in cinematic history.

This latest Mad Max, which could be called a “re-boot,” has a  protagonist who is that bit more tortured and haunted than Gibson’s ex-cop turned vagabond traveler with an edge. Hardy’s Max is followed by visions of  what appear to be his version of the killed child from the first Mad Max film. Calling his name, asking why he did not save them, the girl is joined by several specters who challenge him and fill his head.

Certainly, this iteration of the tough survivor has much in common with the female protagonist in the film, Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. Both characters are fighters, warriors of great capability and resourcefulness.  Each have their own set of talents and skill sets and the two have one more thing that they share; they seek redemption.

There are some things that have carried over from the original  verse that Miller brought to low budget life back in 1979. Max still has that car, although not for long, he has the long mane of hair, but also not for long, and he has the leg brace. Later he will pick up the double barreled shotgun and the mis-matched right boot.

Something else has popped up from that first film, that crazy motorbike gang leader, Toecutter, aka Hugh Keays-Byrne. The actor appears in “Fury Road” as Immortan Joe, the larger than life dictator who rules his people with an iron fist as he controls all the drinkable water. 

Another familiar element has been kept from the original Mad Max films. The action sequences are filmed in the same manner as those in the  1979 film. The stunt fights and the chase sequences are not “slowed down.” When filming fast and frantic action, director’s opt, as a rule, to slow down the crank rate of the camera, i.e. keeping the frames slowed down a fraction. This enables the sequences to look “natural” whereas all of the fight scenes and chase scenes look sped up in the Mad Max verse. (Resembling old black and white silent westerns, or later cheap westerns with sound.)

(It should be noted that either by design or accident, Miller seemingly pays tribute to another film.  In the two scenes where the water is released onto the populace from above; he appears to give a nod and a wink to the animated film Rango A 2011 “cartoon” western with animals as the main characters that “starred” Johnny Depp as a lizard who wrests control of the water away from the evil Ned Beatty.  In that film, Beatty’s villainous mayor controlled the water and, like Immortan Joe, released the stuff sparingly to the town’s denizens while maintaining his own personal supply. Just like the evil leader in Mad Max: Fury RoadRango was actually a western version of Chinatown and Mad Max, the whole franchise and not just Fury Road, is an apocalyptic western with horses being replaced by horsepower.)

Fighting and dying historic on Fury Road

George Millers re-imagining, or a reboot, of the verse has Max being captured early on. The film focusses upon Joe, Imperator Furiosa, the “breeders” and the “war boys.” At least at first. It then moves on to Furiosa, a capable one-armed warrior woman who drives the war rig and she is on route to get “guzzoline” and bullets. She detours from her ordered mission as she has taken Joe’s special breeders. The plan is to escape to her childhood home, the green place and take these beautiful young women with her.

Immortan Joe learns of the escape and rounds up a war party with two other warlords. War boy Slit (Josh Helman), is on his last legs, Max, who is O- universal donor is used as a human blood bag (and is called that by his captors) and he is hooked up to Slit. The “rev-head” driver/warrior decides to go on the quest to get the women back and Max is brought along.

The film has an interesting cast. Out of the  breeders two of the beautiful young ladies are played by performers who have a sterling show business pedigrees.  Zoë Kravitz (daughter of Liza Bonet and Lennie Kravitz) is Toast the Knowing and Riley Keough (daughter of Lisa Marie Presley) is Capable.  The rest of the Australian cast is filled with splendid character actors who are long time performers in Aussie Cinema and television. Actors like Richard Carter and John Howard for example.

Tom Hardy and Chalize Theron have brilliant chemistry together and each carry their own portion of the film well. There were complaints that the movie was really Theron’s and that  Hardy was almost portraying a secondary character.  While the focus is on Furiosa for a portion of the film, the story really is about their brief partnership and proves that not only is George Miller a proactive advocate of strong female character’s so is Hardy’s Mad Max Rockatansky.

It is worth mentioning that all the female characters in this post apocalyptic desert world are strong. The breeders, the all female family that Furiosa is desperate to return to and even the enormous “milk” producing captives seen at the beginning of the film prove to be strong.

Mad Max feels a bit like David Lean on steroids in terms of landscapes and epic scenes of battle. The stark and surreal beauty of the shooting locations is breathtaking, as are the computer effects, for instance the metal arm that Theron’s character sports through the film has been done so realistically that it is easy to forget it is not real.

The stunts are also stunning. The film’s humor is still there, (the drums the guitar/flame thrower) and combined with the over the top “chopped” vehicles, the madness and the white knuckle chases Miller provides entertainment on such a grand scale that even on the small screen Mad Max: Fury Road fulfills the eternal quest for exciting cinema ten-fold.

This is a 5 out of 5 star film for spectacle alone. In terms of home entertainment, this is what Blu-Ray was invented for.

Mad Max: Fury Road Second Trailer with Battle Royale Music Equals Awesome

Mad Max: Fury Road Second Trailer with Battle Royale Music Equals Awesome

The 1979 cult classic Mad Max is one of those films, that despite the filmmakers deciding to dub Mel Gibson’s voice in U.S. theatres, falls into that sacred category of “should never be remade,” but the release of the second Fury Road trailer complete with the 2000 Battle Royale film music equals some kind of awesome. It also makes the argument of not remaking the film a moot point. When a trailer looks and sounds this great, it is almost fait accompli that the film is going to rock socks at the cinema.

World Gone Wild by David J Moore A to Z of Post Apocalyptic Films

World Gone Wild by David J Moore A to Z of Post Apocalyptic Films

World Gone Wild by David J. Moore is an A to Z collection of post apocalyptic films from a man who clearly loves the genre. Subtitled A Survivor’s Guide to Post Apocalyptic Movies this book is a must for fans of these type of films, or even television shows. In his 12 page introduction Moore explains what got him hooked on the genre, essentially the same things that get most people hooked. The main difference is that the writer tracked down every example of “end of the world as we know it” films he could find. The search also included small screen versions of tales about after the apocalypse and Moore has included them all.

Beyond the Grave: Brazilian Apocalyptic Leone-esque Horror

Beyond the Grave: Brazilian Apocalyptic Leone-esque Horror

The award winning Brazilian horror film Beyond the Grave, an apocalyptic Leone-seque movie that is a homage not only of Spaghetti Westerns, but also of films like Mad Max, is now available to view via VOD on Netflix in the U.S. and Latin America. After collecting a staggering 13 awards from the world cinema film festival circuit this “outside-the-box” apocalyptic horror film is compelling viewing.

Doomsday (2008): Don’t Fear the Reaper

As the poster so clearly states: A New Film From Neil MarshallDoomsday is the third film to be written and directed by Neil Marshall. The first two, Dog Soldiers (2002) and The Descent (2005),  I have written about before. These three films, if watched in the order they were made, show Marshall’s growth and  increased status as a writer/director. Each progressive film benefits from an increased budget and the calibre of actors goes up as well.  More importantly, each film’s scope is enlarged; the first two films were a cozy affair. Single locale, set number of actors and scenes, FX capable but not too flashy. Doomsday in terms of all the above mentioned items, scoops them both.

Filmed for an estimated budget of $30,000,000 Doomsday looks impressive. The cast comprises the usual Marshall regulars, Sean PertweeEmma CleasbyNora-Jane NooneMyAnna Buring, and Craig Conway (Conway gives a stand out performance as the mad-as-hatter ruler of a blood thirsty mob of survivors – Sol). The cast also includes some big namesBob HoskinsMalcolm McDowell (as Sol’s pop, you can see where Sol gets his personality from), Rhona Mitra, like I said big names.

In the not too distant future a killer virus known as The Reaper sweeps through Britain. The government decide to contain the infected behind a huge fortified fence that stretches from coast to coast, cutting off Scotland completely and leaving everyone trapped behind the fence to die. The United Kingdom is condemned by the rest of the world for their actions.

Jump ahead thirty years and two things happen almost simultaneously. Satellites that have been orbiting the  contaminated area north of the fence spies movement and The Reaper has made an unwelcome return. A small group of elite specialist are drafted into entering the contaminated zone. Their mission is to find  a research laboratory that was working on a cure for the virus before they were trapped in the containment area and to find out who has survived and how.

Rhona Mitra is one-eyed Eden Sinclair (this role so obviously got her cast in Underworld 3) who leads the team of experts into the area. Eden, whose “glass-eye” doubles as a camera with video recording capability, is hard as nails and  very independent. Once she and her team breach the wall and head into the laboratory, they get jumped by Sol’s people. They are captured and as part of Sol’s twenty-four hour madness, Sean Pertwee is again killed at the beginning of the second reel.

The film has a very ‘Mad Max‘ feel to it. From the outfits that Sol’s people wear, to the vehicles they use at the end of the film in a protracted Mad Max chase scene, the film feels like an English version of the Mel Gibson cult favourites. Marshall himself stated the the Mad Max trilogy inspired him and that he was paying his own homage to the films.

It was very nice to see Malcolm McDowell as Sol’s father, the lab scientist who has decided to remake the survivors behind the wall into his vision of Darwin’s theory. His madness dictates that he can willing sacrifice his own children if they do not obey him and his rules. Once Eden returns from the infected territory with a “cure” for the reaper virus, she  sets up the very people who sent her and her team to almost certain death. She puts in motion  the mechanics for their downfall.

Doomsday is a cracking film. It has a snappy pace and the actors all do well. The bigger budget shows in the end result and I am guessing the Marshall will have an even bigger budget for his next film.

Marshall’s next film is The Last Voyage of Demeter,  Dracula fans will recognise the name of the ship, it is the one that transports the Count to England in the book. It looks as though  Marshall is going back to his horror roots. The film is due to be released in 2013. I am looking forward to it.