Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Short version: If you want to see it, you definitely need to see it on the big screen. The action and effects just cry out for it. Do you want to see it? That entirely depends on how you feel about intense, violent, dirty action movies. Because make no mistake, this movie will have you gripping the armrests.

I've put off writing this review for over a week now. Why? Quite simply because I wasn't sure I wanted to voice a dissenting opinion in the face of some pretty intense love out there on the internet.

Don't get me wrong. I did enjoy this movie. It was exceptionally well done on so many levels. The direction was flawless. The acting was solid on every part, but most particularly from Nicholas Hoult. The action scenes were intense and frenetic without resorting to the kind of shaky-cam nonsense that makes you think the director was covering up for terrible choreography.

So what is my dissent? Simply that the script was underwhelming. There was nothing to the plot that we haven't seen in a dozen similar post-apocalyptic movies. There was no twist. None of the characters particularly stood out, and few were more than caricatures. This is a movie that will be great for years to come on FX, where I can turn it on and tune it out. Because there is nothing deeper than the spectacle.

But what about the feminism? That's the great hue and cry for this movie. It's so feminist! To which I say, you really need to raise your bar a bit. This movie is not feminist. Really. It simply manages to rise above being misogynist. It avoids decades' worth of action movie tropes that portray women badly. (Of course, if you'll notice, the first three Mad Max movies were fairly good in that respect, too.) That it should be lauded so enthusiastically for simply not being abusive is a sad, sad commentary on the state of action movies. (Though, as a note, it does pass both the Bechdel and Mako Mori tests.)

This is a good movie. It was spectacularly well executed. It is exactly the movie that Zach Snyder has been failing to make for years now. But it's not a great movie. It's not a new landmark in the genre. It's the same old movie that we saw done badly over and over in the 80s. The only difference is, Miller managed to use all those lessons to do the old movie perfectly.

Should you see it? Honestly, yeah, you probably should. It will be a major talking point for the rest of the year, if nothing else. And it is a hell of a fun ride. Though, do be warned, it is violent. It's really nothing but violence, punctuated by stretches of brooding about violence. And it is a gritty, grindhouse kind of violence, not the fun 'splodey kind of violence we're used to from superhero flicks.

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