There’s a specific kind of story films have been retelling for the past 70 years. One of helpless villagers being harassed by a gang of outlaws forced to hire the skills of someone not so helpless. We saw it first in the Seven Samurai, Magnificent Seven and later Mad Max 2. Except the latter doesn’t crescendo into a last stand of Samaritans – it opted to differentiate itself with a chase sequence and all the recognition that followed.
Mad Max: Fury Road obviously has no illusions about that success – because it based a whole movie around it.
One would think taking the most notable part of one film and making it the premise for another would be a bad idea. And it kind of is a bad idea. It even smells a little of opportunism to make the entire movie one long chase sequence. More of a good thing isn’t necessarily better, particularly out of context. How would you juxtapose tension and climax when a chase scene is inherently meant to be climatic? How would you prevent your action from boring when action is really all you’re showing?
Calling it repetitive wouldn’t be unreasonable, but it would be overly simplistic. There comes a point where it’s necessary to ignore accusations of repetition when what you’re watching is actually fun, and Fury Road is certainly that. Everyone is so psychotically off their rocker that it creates a deranged sense of enjoyment in the asylum-like antics. It knows how to have fun unreservedly, being so outlandish and unpredictable that it makes any notions of repetition void. It understands that if you’re going to do a singular thing for a long time, you need a music-insane guitarist rocking atop a monster truck with a fire-infused instrument playing some truly awesome music.
Despite the seemingly relevant title, this isn’t really a movie about Mad Max. Amidst everything else he’s not particularly interesting, doesn’t get much development, nor is he even necessary to the plot. He’s just kind of there. More like an obligation that had to be included on the basis of expectation. The real characters are atmosphere…and sand. George Miller’s aptitude at creating dystopian worlds with environments and attire, are unchanged. A lot can be deduced from its scenery and dusty desperation.
Mad Max: Fury Road feels like the kind of movie that’s trying to make some kind of social criticism. At the very least it explores the limits of the human spirit amongst such desolation. At odds with its subject matter, it doesn’t have much to say about anything. What it does have is oodles of mercurial joy and a crackbrained attitude that knows how to enjoy itself with no care for manners. It may be just a whole movie of the same thing, but it does so with such a unique lack of composure and restraint you’re probably not going to care.