Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
Directed by: George Miller (“Mad Max,” “Happy Feet”)
Written by: George Miller (“Babe: Pig in the City,”) and Brendan McCarthy (debut) and Nico Lathouris (debut)
I’m not going to lie and say that I can’t let spectacle wash over me from time to time in a movie theater, ignoring the flaws or lack of substance in a story, but when it comes to assessing the film after the fact, after the awe and excitement have worn off, the shortcomings are typically the first thing that come rushing to mind. Wait, why were those guys doing that thing? Who is this guy again? What’s the deal with the [insert elaborate mythological back story that’s not explained whatsoever]? Such is the case with “Mad Max: Fury Road,” an insane 2-hour post-apocalyptic car chase across the desert that doesn’t really amount to anything more than, well, an insane 2-hour post-apocalyptic car chase across the desert.
The paper-thin plotting kicks off with stoic, lizard-eating Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy, stepping into the role that put Mel Gibson on the map 30-plus years ago) being captured by “war boys” to be used as a “blood bag” for weaker warrior Nux (Nicholas Hoult). The war boys are loyal to Immorten Joe (Hugh Keyas-Byrne, who played villain Toecutter in previous Mad Max films), a warlord who controls his subjects through brutality and strictly rationing water. When Joe sends his most trusted Imperator, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) on a mission across the desert in a war rig to acquire gasoline and bullets, Furiosa instead leads the convoy on a mission to deliver Joe’s sex-slave wives to a the colony Furiosa grew up in, freeing the women from their captivity. Joe and the war boys give chase, with Max strapped to the front of Nux’s dune buggy like a living masthead. When a dust storm interrupts the pursuit, Max is able to escape Nux and form a reluctant alliance with Furiosa. The chase resumes, and doesn’t ever really stop for anything else, not even to explain what the hell is going on.
As other reviews for “Fury Road” reach critical mass, heralding the film as an amazing piece of filmmaking and one of the best films of the year, I’m left wondering why I’m missing out on the breathtaking excitement. Have I been spoiled by years of Marvel blockbusters, where the mythology is explained like it’s going to be on a final exam in theaters in 3 years’ time? Is my general lack of knowledge of a 36-year-old Australian action franchise somehow a hindrance to properly enjoying mega-budget action film in 2015? Maybe to both, but it really boils down to basics: the story just isn’t there for me to take the enjoyment to next level. I want to know more about this world, and director George Miller just seems intent to focus on the admittedly amazing mix of physical and CGI effects with little regard for anything else.