Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road ★★★½

[UPDATED May 23 with an additional list.]

"Derby Goes Bananas."

Late show. 3D.

10 Things I Learned Watching Fury Road.

1. This Mad Max grunts so much, says so little, that if they ever make an Old Mad Max movie he should be played by Timothy Spall. Tom Hardy's job in this movie seems to be to stare wildly at things and do an impression of the laryngitis that I had for a whole week this year.

2. Charlize Theron could've, should've been the lead. This was a Mad Max movie that didn't need Max at all.

3. LOUD NOISES. Apparently, this movie is an allegory about the rise and fall of '80s heavy metal.

4. Big, real car chases and explosions and stunts are still so much more engaging on a big screen than CGI equivalents. No surprise there, really.

5. After a three-decade run, Raiders remains the Great Truck-Chase Movie. Fury Road may have more spectacular truck-chase action, but it has no third act. It's basically two major chase scenes interrupted by occasional blips of dialogue and something that almost registers as character development.

6. "Feminist" storytelling apparently involves casting women who look like waif-ish supermodels from the pages of Vanity Fair parading something called Post-Apocalypse Chic and showering each other with garden hoses. (Oh, but they can shoot better than the men! So everything's cool. They're real women.)

7. Nicholas Hoult can make an impressive performance register under even heavier makeup than he wore in Warm Bodies. He can also make a character's implausibly sudden change of heart seem pretty believable.

8. The Sandpeople still haven't learned how to shoot up a desert transport vehicle with any kind of accuracy.

9. Visions of extravagant violence will build like a volcanic eruption in the head and the heart of a great action director who is consigned to making things like Happy Feet instead of extending his visionary franchise.

10. I miss Mel Gibson. He had twice the personality and soul and history of this Max.

BONUS LESSON: Wisdom, according to this movie, sounds like this: "Hope is a mistake. If you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane.” Welp, if the only hope of a broken-beyond-belief cosmos is that humankind "fix it" ... then, insanity it is!

Late-Breaking Lessons

11. Immerse audiences in excessive CGI and over-plotted superhero movies, and they will respond to an impressive show of practical effects and simpler storytelling as if it's the Movie of the Year.

12. Shave an actress's head, have her suffer under patriarchal cruelty, have her cry... and you've got automatic comparisons to The Passion of Joan of Arc.

13. Continuity with previous installments in a series is apparently unimportant so long as you serve up the action. (How can this be the the Max of the previous movies? I haven't seen them in 20 years, but this guy really doesn't remind me of the the previous Max.)

14. The end of a good-guy/bad-guy conflict is not necessarily enough to serve as a conclusion. The last moments of this movie seems to want me to feel optimistic. But I have zero confidence that the new situation is likely to last more than a few minutes.

15. You can have all of these gripes with the movie, and still have enough crazy fun to give it 3.5 stars.

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