I am fighting back tears as I write this. Tears of joy, you ask? Or tears of wonder and amazement? Sadly, sadly, no.
You all know I love post-apocalyptic sci-fi as much as anyone (as long as there are no zombies). And Mad Max: Fury Road certainly has a post-apocalyptic sci-fi feel to it. The atmosphere is great. Tom Hardy, my favourite actor of 2014? Also great. Charlize Theron, one of my all-time favourite actresses? Also great. The score? Perfect for the story. The ride? As wild as one could hope for. The special effects? Unobtrusive and adding nicely to the atmosphere.
So why the tears, Vic? You have a wild and amazing ride through a beautifully-rendered sci-fi desert landscape, with hardly a moment to catch your breath, and you have two heroes played by favourite actors fighting against all odds to bring hope and redemption to humanity. And you have a particularly sympathetic character (unexpectedly so) played by Nicholas Hoult. Surely you can’t ask for more than that! So what’s with the tears?
I suppose they are tears of loneliness as well as sadness. Every one of my favourite film critics, including Gareth Higgins, loves Mad Max: Fury Road. Based on what I’ve read, I believe the critics were blown away by the awesome and endlessly-exciting spectacle, and by the brilliant filmmaking that was no doubt required to create such a spectacle. I get that.
But here’s the thing: While I found the action in Fury Road much less boring than the action in Age of Ultron, I still find action boring. And Fury Road is at least 90% action. And it’s very violent action. And very repetitive action: I can only handle so many exploding cars and trucks in one film, not to mention the bodies flying all over the place. I was not only bored, I was repeatedly disgusted. Any positive messages (and I’m willing to admit there were some) got lost in the endless violent spectacle before me. I call it a failure of the imagination, but others will challenge that.
Is Fury Road a feminist version of the Mad Max story? Perhaps. But, if so, it’s not a type of feminism I can support. The turning point in the film, for me (spoiler alert!), was when our heroes meet up with Furiosa’s people. At that point in the film, one of the characters, when talking about killing, says: “I thought somehow you girls were above all that.” If that were true, it would represent a feminism I could support (though the use of the word ‘girls’ is hardly feminist). Unfortunately, it is not true, and the women in the film are ultimately persuaded by a man to undertake a course of action which leads to what was, for me, the worst part of the film (the last half hour or so).
And then there’s the way the 3D (I watched the 2D version) botched what could have been exquisite cinematography (some moments still shone through), especially early in the film. But then, I believe 3D poisons virtually everything it touches, so what can you do? Sigh.
So: I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Gareth. I’m sorry, Jeremy. I’m sorry, Kenneth. I’m sorry, Paul. I’m sorry, Rachel. I did not like Mad Max: Fury Road and would never want to see it again. **+ for the acting and the atmosphere. My mug is down.