Mad Max: Fury Road is a 2015 post-apocalyptic action film directed by George Miller, the fourth film in his “Mad Max” series of films. Tom Hardy takes over for Mel Gibson as the titular hero, and also stars Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hault as main characters Imperator Furiosa and Nux. It is also my favorite movie of 2015 so far and the best action movie I have seen in years. And if you haven’t had a chance to see it and are apprehensive about doing so, I have compiled an organized argument of every major reason to see this awesome movie.
#12. George Miller Put 30 Years of Passion Into Making This Movie
Despite being the fourth movie in a series, Fury Road feels remarkably fresh because the last time audiences saw Max Rockatansky was three decades ago. Mad Max, The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome are more like cult favorites among action movie fans. My point is that this isn’t a rushed product put out to capitalize on a hot property; fifteen years passed before Miller even considered making another Mad Max story, and a series of problems kept this on the backburner for a long time. Miller had to find a new actor to replace an older (and less popular) Mel Gibson and get funding behind it. There is no reason anybody would go through that period of time without giving up unless it was an absolute passion project.
#11. Every Single Character Is Memorable
Whether it’s the excellent costuming and even better makeup that make an impression, or a memorable bit of dialogue or just a guy playing an electric guitar with flames shooting out of it, every single character has something about them that sticks with viewers. Many of these characters border on being savage monsters, yet still have moments where the audience is able to feel sympathy for them. That guy up there played by former pro wrestler Nathan Jones? He has a heartbreaking scene lamenting the loss of his sibling. He’s a horrible villain the rest of the movie, but I still felt bad for him here. There are no boring, bland faces to be seen in this film. When every moment of a movie can stick with you, no matter how small, it’s something special.
#10. It’s a Post-Apocalyptic Western/Action Blockbuster/Art Film
This movie has elements of several different genres, most heavily classic Westerns. We’ve got a hardened hero in a harsh environment that we know very little about. The plot focuses on him helping innocent civilians transport precious cargo on a road where everyone is trying to steal it; a post-apocalyptic caravan heist. It also is unafraid to be “B Movie”, an action film that is certainly indulgent that runs on “Rule of Cool”: it assaults your senses in the best way possible. And surprisingly, it actually is an “art film”, a movie that is made to appeal to serious movie analysts. It doesn’t spoon feed plot details to the audience, it lets the scenery and lighting tell the emotions of the characters. It’s not Under The Skin by any stretch but it’s definitely a film made for students of the art form.
#9. Immortan Joe Is A Spectacular Villain
I love this guy. I am a huge fan of villains in general and love really strong antagonists; Immortan Joe is the best new bad guy I’ve seen in a movie since Calvin Candie in Django Unchained. He has a great introduction where he is shown to be vulnerable yet feared and even worshiped by the people he is leading; it’s like Darth Vader without any of the redeeming qualities. This mask is a brilliant prop, and Hugh Keyes-Byrne is able to do a lot of acting with just his voice and his eyes. He has spectacular one-liners and is just utterly unlikable and for that I love him.
#8. George Miller and John Seale Know How to Shoot Action
If you’re one of those people who is tired of seeing poorly choreographed and terribly shot action scenes in movies, you will adore this film. The cinematography in this film is absolutely incredible; wide shots clearly capture all of the action, all of the characters are visually distinct so we can tell what is going on, and the action is creative and exciting throughout. Most of it is also practical stunt work; there are real people doing these insane action scenes with real props on real sets and that just makes the film work so much better than CGI does. George Miller’s direction is key here, but John Seale’s cinematography cannot be downplayed either.
#7. It’s the Brightest, Most Colorful Post-Apocalyptic Setting Ever
Post-apocalyptic films and TV shows are nothing new, and they are usually appropriately bleak and harsh. Mad Max: Fury Road is no exception, but George Miller understands that you don’t need a dark, muted color palette to have a harsh, gritty atmosphere. The blue sky and yellow deserts work perfectly well in getting across the idea that this world is hostile, and allow the greys, browns, whites and blacks of the characters and vehicles to stand out. When some other color like the occasional green of vegetation or the orange-red flames from explosions show up, they stick out brilliantly. The film just looks gorgeous.
#6. Dialogue is Both Minimal and Memorable
Another key element borrowed from Westerns is the way dialogue is handled in this movie. There are long stretches where nothing is spoken, allowing for the action scenes to tell the story or for the actors to use their body language to show what our characters are going through. One of my favorite scenes is when Max and Furiosa first meet each other; it’s an incredibly tense situation as they don’t know if they can trust each other but are desperate to survive. There is very little dialogue between the characters in this set and yet there is a lot told to the audience by how they silently interact with each other. Another key element in the script is that the villains are more talkative and loudly scream their lines; they are more like savage beasts than humans. Conversely, the heroes have a more restrained, weary quality to their voice, as they are victims of the world. It’s a brilliant but subtle way of helping distinguish the characters.
#5. Two Hours of Adrenaline-Fueled Action
This movie is just an incredible ride from beginning to end. The action scenes are plentiful but varied; they are filled with nail-biting tension and insanely cool ideas. I can’t recall the last time I had so much fun watching a movie, or having the kind of urgency to go back to the theater to see the same movie again as I do now. Movies like this are why people go to a movie; to lose themselves in a world for two hours and be absolutely enthralled the entire time. If you want to go to the theater to have a good time, see this movie.
#4. Max Rockatansky is a Vulnerable Hero
The worst thing an action film can do to the audience is have a character who is invincible. Yes, an action hero has to be capable of pulling off incredible feats and be able to deal with pain. But they have to feel pain in order for us to empathize with them and believe in their physical and mental toughness. Max Rockatansky is extremely vulnerable in this film, getting captured in the opening scene, being tortured and then enslaved. He also is emotionally vulnerable, haunted by survivor’s guilt and clearly having problems with trusting people or even empathizing with them. Not because he’s a bad person, but because he’s trying to survive and has to look out for himself. Max suffers, but he also triumphs; he is a perfect action hero.
#3. Charlize Theron is Brilliant as Imperator Furiosa
While the title is Mad Max: Fury Road and Tom Hardy is excellent as the titular lead, Charlize Theron is the one who steals the show. Imperator Furiosa is the one driving the plot; she orchestrates a plan to rescue Immortan Joe’s slave wives from their life of servitude and carries it out to the best of her ability. She shows savvy and determination, toughness and passion; she’s just a great character all around. Theron gives a restrained performance that pulls the viewer in, and that only makes the moments where she breaks down even more powerful. She is one of the absolute best female protagonists in any action movie I can recall, which brings me to another key point about this movie.
#2. Women Are Treated With Respect By The Filmmakers
Mad Max: Fury Road is a violent, gritty action film designed to appeal to a predominantly male audience. It is set in a world where women have absolutely no freedom or rights, and are treated more like cattle than people. Older women have their breast milk harvested to feed Immortan Joe’s war boys. The younger woman are slave wives, called “Breeders” explicitly throughout the film to emphasize this point; these women are forced to have sex and produce children by Immortan Joe. One would think that a world so hostile to women would be the last movie that one could describe as “feminist”. Yet while the world treats women as objects, the script, the director, and the camera work does not. There are at least eight major female characters in this movie, each with a distinct personality. While they don’t always agree with each other, they are all trying to help each other.
And despite the fact that five of them are in very minimal clothing and one of them has a scene where she is fully naked, the women are never shot in a way that seems exploitative. There is a scene with five half-naked women and a water hose and it doesn’t feel pornographic in the least. That’s a tremendous feat and a tribute to the script and the way these women are shot. George Miller is not trying to titillate the male audience with sexual objectification; this is a movie about women who are treated as property fighting for their freedom. It’s refreshing to see a movie that is so obviously designed for a male audience also be respectful of female characters and promote a message of gender equality. And it’s a smart business move too; women are far more likely to enjoy a movie where they don’t see women treated as toys for the men. As the girls say on more than one occasion, “We are not things!”
#1. The Themes Of Survival, Moral Decay, Freedom and Redemption
Despite being an over-the-top, often campy, explosion and violence filled movie, Fury Road has a surprising amount of thematic depth to it. The core theme is survival; the world has ended and everyone has limited resources, so they have to fight just to live another day. This situation has led to moral decay; Immortan Joe and the War Boys are little more than beasts, violent and cruel and only out for themselves. The worst of humanity is on full display, and not even our heroes are immune to it. Max and Furiosa are at each other’s throats until it becomes clear they have to work together to survive, and they still struggle to make that decision. The film also explores the difference between merely surviving and finding more to life than surviving. The women are slaves who desire freedom and will forsake safety to have it. Joe’s War Boys blindly follow him as an act of faith, hoping to go into Valhalla, a better place than the world they live in. Max and Furiosa want to find a place to call home, something they have had stolen from them. And they are also looking for redemption; they’ve both failed themselves and others, but perhaps they can find redemption in their actions on this day.
These are powerful, universal themes that anybody can relate to. You may not notice them because the film is so in your face with the action, but this allows those ideas to sneak in under your skin and stick with you after the shock and awe wears off. There are a lot of ideas worth discussing in this film, and that depth is what makes it more than just one of the best action films of all time. It’s just a great movie, period.