This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Regional Editor for RiverTown Multimedia, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
The Movie: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
Director: George Miller
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in postapocalyptic Australia in search for her home-land with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshipper, and a drifter named Max.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97 percent
Froemming: Last week, we visited the end of American civilization at the brutal hands of dirty Communists (a political affiliation I may have accused Brown to be in a review or two). And I kinda wanted to stick with the dystopian future theme with “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a film we both have been wanting to visit here at the JOE-DOWN.
I’ve seen the first three “Mad Max” films (maybe not the first one, I don’t remember if I did or not) and thought they were OK. Didn’t do much for me one way or the other, but perfectly fine films.
“Fury Road” is an altogether different beast. I bought this movie on the recommendation both of Brown and my friend, the Rev. K. Bacon Martini, both of whom have wildly different views on film. So, I knew this was going to be a weird experience.
And it was.
This movie has the gall to introduce weird things without any further explanation, such as Immortan Joe’s army of either anorexic Juggalos or skinhead goths called the War Boys. We hear they are ill, but nothing more. Immortan Joe, our-Darth-Vader-in-an-‘80s-metal-band villain, had burns and scars and a jacked up mouth. Max has PTSD flashbacks, but we can only guess at who the ghosts are. We just know what we see. George Miller doesn’t bother to give us more information and — it works somehow. This movie has no right to be as good as it is, but somehow it is one of my favorite movies of all time.
Before we venture out the the Green Place, Brown what are your first thoughts?
Brown: My first thought is why are we reviewing this? This movie is perfect. Did you not get enough testosterone watching “Red Dawn” last week?
This and “Die Hard” have to be my two favorite action movies.
Yes, there is exposition and other things that are never explained, but this world does such an amazing job of world building that it really doesn’t matter. And even with relatively little dialogue, the actors do an awe-inspiring job of acting through mere glances and emotions.
This is a Mad Max movie. That got nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. A (REDACTED) movie with a guy playing guitar on top of a truck for reasons was nominated for a (REDACTED) Academy Award for Best Picture!
Again, why are we reviewing this, Froemming?
Froemming: An excuse for us to watch and gush over this (REDACTED) awesome movie, that’s why!
It is the distant future and the world is a barren wasteland due to the Oil Wars. The first three films really hit home about how important gasoline is in this world. But because none of the Mad Max movies are connected in anyway besides our hero being a guy named Max, this movie downplays the theme because we have our antagonists burning fuel like there’s no tomorrow.
Brown: So I’ve mentioned many times before that I watch these movies with closed caption. And until I did this, I had no idea how much of an exposition dump the start of the movie is. He’s narrating everything that got us to this point. And it’s barely audible because Tom Hardy must have taken grunt-talking lessons from Christian Bale in “Dark Knight Rises.”
Froemming: Here is the obligatory Tom Hardy clip for ya!
Our first shot is a long-haired, bearded Max Rockatansky is taking a leak in the desert and eating a lizard, so you know right away this movie gives zero (REDACTED) about anything.
Brown: I wrote in my notes that long-haired, bearded Max looks like cross-country running Forrest Gump.
Froemming: You’re not wrong.
Anyway, because he is a hardened veteran of this new world, he senses a war party coming his way, and this turns out to be true. The War Boys chase him down and capture our hero, where they tattoo what looks like the Declaration of Independence on his back and attempt to brand him with a symbol.
Look, this movie is 120 minutes of explosions and insane violence. There is not a lot of room to slow down and breath. And it is cinematic perfection.
Brown: The tattoo on Max’s back lets anyone know who finds him that he’s a universal blood donor. That’s helpful in the wasteland, but how the hell are they supposed to have the technology to determine blood type? Everything in this world is either caked in dirt and sand or is a tumorous “human” who wants to eat you. Or a blind guy playing guitar.
Froemming: A guitar that shoots fire!
Brown: This is the third movie I can think of where a big back tattoo is an important plot point along with “Waterworld” and “Red Dragon.” This reminds me that we have to review “Waterworld.”
So Max is able to briefly escape capture from the War Boys until he reaches a door outside that’ll lead him to plummet to his death. He jumps onto a construction hoop in hopes of swinging away… only, swings bring you back, so he, you know, swings right back to the War Boys.
Nice touch. I love when acts of heroism fail miserably.
Froemming: After this, we meet the real hero of this movie, Imperator Furiosa, who is driving the War Machine for our main bad guy, Immortan Joe, to Gas Town to get, you know it, fuel! Oh, there is also Bullet Town too, which probably provides stationary. I dunno. We don’t see that town.
Brown: So the town names are very literal. So what was the name of Immortan Joe’s place? Paleville? Tumor Town? The Village of Dumb (REDACTED) On My Face?
Brief question, Froemming: Is Immortan Joe an honorary member of the JOE-DOWN?
Froemming: I’m glad you asked. I think he is. He’s a very memorable character in a movie we have watched named Joe. We don’t have a strong criteria I guess.
But Furiosa has other plans, and she suddenly drives off-course, causing confusion among Joe’s soldiers on the ride with her.
Right before this, we meet Immortan Joe, whom I described above, as a child is blowing white dust on his burned body, because as we see later, Joe likes to play hard in life. What with a blind guitarist shooting fire out of his six-string and all.
And we find the citadel where Joe lives keeps the citizens at bay by offering them water. Dumped en mass from giant tunnels. I’d say 90 percent of what falls is wasted. Cruel trick there Immortan Joe.
Brown: It’s not only that. Immortan Joe keeps a harem of women so he can keep having deformed children. Other women are used like cattle and are used for their milk, which is all sorts of (REDACTED) up. Every vegan who saw this movie probably saw these women, turned to their meat-eating friends and went “Yup, that’s what we do to cows.”
While she was supposed to make a straight-line drive to Gas Town, Furiosa takes a turn and takes her convoy on a detour.
Meanwhile, Max is having his blood drained for a sick War Boy in Nux.
Froemming: Max is Nux’s blood bag. That’s what Nux calls him. And when Joe finds out that Furiosa has stolen his harem, he gets ready for the chase. And the call is made and the War Boys are ready, except Nux, because I mean (REDACTED) look at the guy. He looks like Powder on a cocaine binge.
Nux refuses to be left behind and he and his buddy prop Max at the front of their vehicle so his blood can flow through to Nux. But if Nux needs Max, why put him in a spot where he can be easily killed? I dunno, I’m chalking that up to the chrome spray paint the War Boy blast into their mouths and teeth.
Brown: I stick with the joke they use in the Nostalgia Critic review in that it’s cake glaze.
So much of this movie fails the “Why?” test.
Why is everyone sick?
Why is there a truck that has both several war drummers and a guitarist with a tower of amps?
In a world where gasoline is sparse, why is every vehicle a gas-guzzling truck/off-road vehicle?
This movie’s answer: Shut up. Because it’s all so visually astounding.
It does bug me that a valuable commodity like gasoline (or guzzoline, as it’s pronounced here) is pretty much tossed aside like a jar full of pennies.
Now, with Max being put in the front of Nux’s vehicle, the one thing that confused me is Tom Hardy’s facial expressions. You’re being driven in a wasteland with nothing but dirt and sand. And he’s bulging his eyes out all the time. You are going to go blind in an instant! I’ll refer you to the Archer clip of fighting on a train.
Froemming: I think part of that might be because Hardy and Theron had no idea what the (REDACTED) the movie was about when they were filming it, which caused a lot of tension on the set. Yet, it somehow became a masterpiece. ¯_(?)_/¯
Now Furiosa is leading everyone into a giant sand storm that, for some reason, has lightning bolts, which I think I might cue up “Crack The Skye” by Mastodon and watch this movie at the same time to see if it has that “Wizard of Oz”/ “Dark Side of the Moon” effect. If anything, it will be an amazing experience no matter what.
Furiosa’s plan to ditch everyone by going into this thing sort of fails because they chase her right into this tornado of awesome. And while in here, Max is able to start fighting off Nux and then….everything goes black.
Brown: Max should be dead. I wrote this more times than I wish to admit. And while this is going on, we have Nux screaming “Witness me,” which is a great line to throw out in everyday life. See, Immortan Joe is also a religious zealot who makes his believers think that their sacrifices will lead them to Valhalla. Because somehow Immortan Joe is into Viking mythology? He’s god merely because he controls the water. Seeing how many characters are sun-baked and have chapped lips, I’d probably worship the owner of the water if I lived in this world.
Froemming: I wrote in my notes that neither of us would last an hour in this world.
Brown: Max should be all sorts of dead after the sandstorm. The War Rig should be incapable of moving because all the engine parts would be drowning in sand. And yet, Max and Furiosa finally meet as he finds the War Rig with Furiosa and Joe’s harem cutting off their chastity belts. They’d rather be dead than go back to that dude. All Max wants is water, because at this point, he’s a feral animal going off of pure id.
Froemming: I just want to add here that Max isn’t the main character of this movie, Furiosa is. Which I love because she is such a kick-ass character that got MRA’s all upset in their parent’s basements across the United States, which made me like her more.
Brown: Who you taking as the most kick-ass female protagonist in a movie: Furiosa or Ellen Ripley from the “Alien” movies?
Froemming: Oh, wow. I have to re-watch the first two “Alien” movies because I haven’t seen them in a very long time, but both characters are amazing. For now, I say Furiosa.
Now Max sneaks up and because he stole Nux’s gun, holds everyone hostage as he demands water and a device to get the stupid doodad off his face. The women put up a fight, and Furiosa does knock the snot out of Max, but unfortunately, Nux wakes up from his coma and distracts her. By the way, Nux should be way dead at this point. He was already weak before going out on the hunt.
Brown: EVERYONE IN THIS MOVIE SHOULD BE DEAD AFTER THE SANDSTORM!
After a failed attempt to steal the War Rig, Max is reluctantly allowed to be in the group. Nux gets thrown off the War Rig, eventually getting picked up by the rest of the War Boys and Joe.
This leads to a canyon where Furiosa tries to barter with a biker gang for safe passage. Before this, Furiosa wipes axle grease on her head because reasons.
This movie really doesn’t explain a whole lot.
Froemming: I didn’t really think of that until I sat down with my JOE-DOWN Nerd Hat™ on and took notes. And, again, it works. I buy these weird asides and concepts because the movie goes so fast you don’t have time to digest them.
Furiosa has Max at the wheel in case things go south and to get the women to safety. Max agress, probably because in a wasteland like this, any adventure to take one’s mind away from the WTF of it all is probably preferable to just surviving.
The biker gang is upset because instead of a few on their trail, they have a (REDACTED) war party on the hunt, which makes the deal a little more complicated.
And then Furiosa and Max just say “screw it” and forge ahead since Joe and his crew are getting pretty close.
Brown: Joe’s car can go off-road though, so he’s able to close in on the War Rig. He tells Nux that he will ride eternal, shiny and chrome, sprays chrome in his face and launches him onto the War Rig in hopes of taking back his harem… only for Nux to stumble and lose his gun.
Because of this perceived failure, Nux basically gets denounced by his god. Harsh.
Who knew the word “Mediocre” would sting so much?
Froemming: You know what else stings? Being pregnant and protecting everyone in the rig from Joe with your body as a shield from his weapons, only to fall off the War Rig, go under the wheels and be left for dead.
It is so cold how Max says “she went under the wheels” when Furiosa asks if the woman survived. She did, but she doesn’t live much longer in Joe’s rig.
Brown: That’s life in the wasteland for ya.
It’s cold but look at the world we’ve witnessed in, what, the first hour of this movie. I don’t expect doctors to be very good in this world. And considering the horrible PTSD-style flashbacks that Max has throughout this entire film and really, you can’t expect him to feel much.
Froemming: The one doctor we do see, which isn’t really a doctor and is played by the guy who played Bear Gerhardt in season two of “Fargo,” cuts the woman open to see if the child can be saved, and we now have a dead woman and her dead child.
This movie was nominated for a (REDACTED) Academy Award for Best Picture, folks.
Brown: And it’s here where Furiosa explains where we’re headed: The Green Place, which Furiosa makes sound like Eden. It’s where she was raised. Why the hell she didn’t stay if it was so great is a little concerning until you hear she was kidnapped.
We see Nux again as he’s hiding on the War Rig, awaiting death. He did get dismissed by his god, after all. But he finds the only compassionate soul in the wasteland in one of Joe’s harem, Capable.
The group pushes on until they get stuck in the mud at night. It’s at this point where I did ask myself how the (REDACTED) any of these vehicles got this far without fueling up once. The tanker on the back of the War Rig, I could see possibly having gas. But Joe’s army, no way they have enough gas for everyone. At least being stuck in the mud works to let the audience breathe a little bit.
This movie is still perfect, by the way.
Froemming: Well, a character in Joe’s posse does complain about all the fuel wasted by this family argument, so it is briefly addressed how silly this all is.
And in the swamp area, as everyone is trying to figure out how to move further, we get a few awesome action sequences. My favorite: The general who is told to chase ahead has his eyes burned out via his binoculars via fire and explosion from Max and Furiosa.
Brown: Even in the dark, guitar guy is still going!
Let’s all take a moment to appreciate guitar guy.
I want that guy behind me every day, or at least to play me down the aisle the day I ever get married.
Froemming: I love The Doof Warrior!
Brown: The guy you’re referring to, the Bullet Farmer, meets his end from Max, who walks in and out of the fog covered in blood (not his own, mind you).
After getting through this swamp (with people on stilts because reasons), the next day sees the War Rig reach a tower with a flashing light and a naked woman, who is there as bait. As it turns out, we have finally reached a key destination as Furiosa finds members of her old clan, the Vuvalini. This is great and all, but now, about this Green Place… Furiosa done goofed.
Froemming: Well, the world has gone to hell since she was last there, and the Green Place ended up the poison mud place they just came through. This means the journey was kinda pointless, but unlike the casino planet part of “The Last Jedi,” it doesn’t feel pointless. In fact, this leads to an idea: While Joe is away from the Citadel, they can turn around, go around him, and take the Citadel as their own! And we get a brief moment where Max is like, “nah, I’m good” and gets a motorcycle for his trouble getting them to their destination. But because he has terrifying Force Ghosts, he is changes his tune and decides to help the women take the Citadel and create a new Green Place.
Again, Brown, you and I wouldn’t last an hour in this world.
Brown: You ever heard Patton Oswalt’s “Sad Boy” routine? That would be us as well. It’s NSFW.
So, we get our final chase. And it’s got arrows, harpoons, tow trucks, dudes on swinging sticks… I mean, this is the most balls-to-the-wall action sequence I can recall in any movie we’ve reviewed.
I’m not trying to short-change it here. It just has to be seen to be appreciated.
That is the best description I can find of this sequence.
Look, this has it all and more. And Immortan Joe goes out with his face getting even more jacked up than before. It’s insane.
And now our heroes make it back to the Citadel, where Joe’s army is baffled, but you know, I guess Furiosa is in charge now, so they don’t do anything to stop them. Which I am grateful for because I was exhausted at this point by the events that came before.
So, Furiosa is in charge and Max vanishes into the crowd…why? I have no idea, seems like a good gig here, what with water and fuel and all, but he’s an adult. He can make his own decisions.
Let’s say you and I ride our War Rig and blast our flame-throwing guitars over to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: No brainer, absolutely. This movie is two hours of insanity and it is awesome.
Brown: Yes. This and “Die Hard” are the quintessential action movies.