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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Mad Max: Fury Road movie review: warlords is hell

Mad Max Fury Road green light

Astonishing. Achieves its grotesque, magnificent brutality in an old-fashioned way that serves as a smackdown to bloated, sterile CGI monstrosities.
I’m “biast” (pro): big sci-fi fan; love Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Bubbling up in conversations I’ve had with other critics and film fans recently has been a recurring debate: What is the future of the action movie? Where can the genre go from the bloated, calculated CGI monstrosities it has been vomiting up lately? (Even the mostly enjoyable ones seem to culminate in frenetic cartoons of stuff whizzing around banging into other stuff in ways that barely even register with the eye, and which seems deliberately designed to be incoherent.) Actually, it’s not even a debate, really: no one seems to have any idea where action might move, and most likely, whatever the next step is will hit us out of the blue, like how Lethal Weapon and Die Hard made us realize we didn’t know we required comedy with our action in the late 80, and how The Matrix blindsided us with the possibilities of CGI in 1999.

So: If the genre requires a refreshening every dozen years or so, we’re overdue. Mad Max: Fury Road might not be that refreshening, but if it isn’t, it’s most definitely a reminder than the refreshening is desperately needed, and a hint of what that refreshening might feel like. (It feels good!) Fury Road is astonishing in a way that makes you feel like you haven’t seen a true action movie in a while, by underscoring how sterile and cold what has passed for the genre has been. If it doesn’t represent a refreshening, it’s only because it achieves its grotesque, magnificent brutality in an old-fashioned way: with a simple, straightforward good-versus-evil story set in a carefully conceived imaginary world brought to visceral plausibility through the sheer physicality of capturing on film real people doing real things in the real world.

Even the most lovingly produced and technically accurate CGI could not have replicated the dusty authenticity of putting actors and stunt performers in actual vehicles and racing — and crashing! — them in a genuine desert. (The film was shot in New South Wales and Namibia.) Which is what Australian cinematic maestro George Miller (Happy Feet Two, Babe: Pig in the City) has done for his return to the postapocalyptic, water- and gas-thirsty future he created in 1979’s Mad Max. There are no green screens here, and CGI is used so sparingly that it’s barely noticeable as FX even when your head tells you it must be so, like how it lets an able-bodied actor play a character who has lost the left arm below the elbow. The bulk of the film consists of vehicular warfare carried out across sandblasted landscapes, and it is an assault on the senses in a good way, in the way that action movies used to be before they were disconnected from the physics of how the real world operates, and the sweat and the fear of how the human body responds to danger. (Turns out we feel it more, too, safe in our cinema seats, when the danger human bodies are in onscreen is this palpable.)

And unlike with many of its genre brethren, the story here is not beside the point. It ends up being the actual point along many different and unlikely vectors. Warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) thinks he’s sending his trusted Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron: A Million Ways to Die in the West, Prometheus) on a mission to bring back fuel from Gas Town to the Citadel he rules with an iron fist (he controls the water), but she’s got a secret mission of her own: to free the enslaved “breeders” of Joe’s genetically pure children and bring them to the “Green Place” far away she remembers from her own childhood. (The radiation still hanging around from the time when the world was killed is causing many mutations.) The battles pit Joe’s army against Furiosa, who is more than a match in her “War Rig,” plus she has some previously enlisted allies for her journey. She hadn’t planned on loner Max (Tom Hardy: Child 44, The Drop) being part of her crew, but that happens accidentally when–

Well, I’ll leave that you to find out. When I say that Fury Road is grotesque, I don’t mean only that it’s jam-packed with the sort of nasty postapocalyptic production design that Miller invented. It is that, crammed with biological trophies, spiky armor, and other horrors that Miller has now reinvented so that his film does not feel as if it’s full of easy shorthand clichés like most of the other movies that have borrowed it. No, I also mean that Miller’s vision of this cruel future is monstrous in some almost unthinkable ways, one of which is how Max comes to be caught up in events. (Max, by the way, is not the hero here. This is all Furiosa’s story, and that of the women she is helping. At best, he becomes her sidekick.) Miller’s world employs tropes of sci-fi and particularly of postapocalyptic stories in ways that smack them down, that insist that whatever horrors of human nature that the end of civilization may bring out, those horrors will not go unrebelled against. Immortan Joe, among his many other crimes against humanity, has reduced women to beasts, to farm animals… but that doesn’t mean they like it or accept it. There are no damsels in distress here: there are angry women fighting back and rescuing themselves. (The “wives” of Joe are played by Zoë Kravitz [Insurgent, X-Men: First Class], Rosie Huntington-Whiteley [Transformers: Dark of the Moon], Riley Keough [Magic Mike, The Runaways], Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton.) Miller depicts warlordism as something truly shocking and degenerate, and whatever signifiers of “cool” he may deploy in his massive conflagrations of cars and men — such as the battle “piper” on what could be called an Amplifier Rig playing an electric guitar that shoots fire to egg on Joe’s troops as they swarm to war — will later get a smackdown, a reminder that Joe is the villain here, and that he is not cool.

Shorter Fury Road: Women are not going to be your sexbots in the afterscape, assholes. I fear this is going to upset some fans of the genre. They deserve upsetting.

Miller’s critique of warlordism could be said to extend to the sorts of filmmakers who try to control every aspect of their films down the tiniest detail — the sort of control that CGI allows — instead of letting unpredictable reality rule. The religious worship Joe inspires, by calculated plan, in his young soldiers, such as fervently devoted Nux (Nicholas Hoult: X-Men: Days of Future Past, Jack the Giant Slayer), is of course destined only for disillusionment and disappointment when its absurd promises go unfulfilled. The promises of warlord directors, tweaking every drop of rain onscreen, every splatter of blood, every screech of tires, can tend toward much the same disillusionment. Freedom and surprise are better, and more fun.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Mad Max: Fury Road for its representation of girls and women.

green light 5 stars

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
US/Can release: May 15 2015
UK/Ire release: May 14 2015

MPAA: rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, threat)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Enjoi1991

    “Shorter Fury Road: Women are not going to be your sexbots in the afterscape, assholes. I fear this is going to upset some fans of the genre. They deserve upsetting.”
    The hell is that supposed to mean? You think fans of this genre want women to be “sexbots”?
    Anyways I’m pretty surprised you liked a film like this.

  • LaSargenta

    Note, the reviewer used the word “some”, you wrote a sentence that conflates all action film fans with the “some” she referenced.

  • You think fans of this genre want women to be “sexbots”?

    I know it: http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/2015/05/12/furious-about-furiosa-misogynists-are-losing-it-over-charlize-therons-starring-role-in-mad-max-fury-road/

    Anyways I’m pretty surprised you liked a film like this.


  • I think the movie is getting a little too much credit re its feminist stance. After all, Theron rescues the hot young girls yet does nothing to help the older obese women being used as human dairy farms. The film critiques the male gaze while at the same time indulging in it. Very enjoyable movie though and hopefully will spark a return to old school coherent action set pieces.


    I think we can presume some major changes will be happening at the Citadel for everyone who was under Joe’s thumb.

  • G-Man

    Just another reviewer conforming to what those in this Politically Correct era want to hear. “Yeah, suck it *men*, we ain’t gonna be your slaves in the future!!” An extension of the retarded modern-era belief that being a complete woman requires being anti-male.

    Looked at objectively, if the world really becomes this desperate, of course women will become the chattel of men. Or do you think the sex slaves of Boko Haram are currently achieving their freedom by somersaulting through the air in slow motion, grabbing their captor’s ak-47s, and mowing them down in hail of righteous gunfire while striking an Angelina Jolie pose?

    Absurd and lame. Also if the previews are any indication, the film is chock full of CGI and excessive color correction.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Some background to explain the influx of terrified little boys: http://t.co/VBKXBgdSzF

    Probably best to pat their little heads, assure them there are no feminist monsters in their closets, and send them back outside to play.

  • Not wanting to be a sex slave = anti-male? You’re saying wanting sex slaves is a normal guy thing, and *I’m* the one who hates men?

    And you obviously didn’t read my review if you think the film is chock full of CGI.

  • Danielm80

    I love this quote:

    Misogynists might be the first people to dismiss complaints about representation with time-honored comments like “she’s ‘just’ a character” or “it’s ‘just’ a movie/book/video game,” but by admitting they’re threatened by Charlize Theron and Emilia Clarke’s bad-assery, Clarey and his commenters are also agreeing that the media we consume and the stories we tell are hugely important.

  • G-Man

    No, saying things like: “Shorter Fury Road: Women are not going to be your sexbots in the afterscape, assholes. I fear this is going to upset some fans of the genre. They deserve upsetting” is anti-male. It is assuming the fanbase of such a film are sexist pigs, which is an assumption that in itself is sexist.

    The film IS chock full of CGI. The trailer is made up almost entirely of CGI enhanced shots. But you haven’t the first idea of what CGI is or isn’t, which is why you’re so willing to follow the press packet.

  • MisterBongwater

    I’m going to consider the last bit of that article some dark satire so I can get to sleep at night.

  • Danielm80

    She’s not speaking out against men, or against Mad Max fans. She’s speaking out against sexist pigs. Even a quick glance at this discussion thread, and the linked articles, shows there are way too many of those in the world.

  • Marshall Myers

    “What a lovely review!”

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Poe’s Law appears to be a factor there.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    *pats* There there, it’ll be ok. We won’t let the mean nasty woman-things come and get you.

  • LaSargenta

    After checking times and theaters, I need to know if this is something that is worth seeing in 3D. Was it shot in it? Did Miller make excellent use of it? Or is regular projection good?


  • G-Man

    You really don’t get it, do you? But keep parroting those Social Justice Warrior talking points, I’m sure you feel you are making a difference.

  • G-Man

    I don’t blame you for being uninformed, but you should at least be less smug about it. You’re embarrassing yourself.

  • G-Man

    I love how people endlessly project and strawman, rather than honestly investigating the facts. It’s quite possible, you know, that rather than being intimidated, many modern men are simply tired of the intellectual straitjacket that requires all modern female protagonists to be only a certain kind of “badass” and “strong”. Those who are even more intelligent and perceptive will realize this is as restrictive as previous restrictive gender roles. In fact, if said intelligent and perceptive people were also well-educated, they might know how and why this modern mental thought-slavery originated and spread across the US.

  • intellectual straitjacket that requires all modern female protagonists to be only a certain kind of “badass” and “strong”

    It’s like you don’t even watch movies.

  • I didn’t see it in 3D, but almost no films are worth the 3D premium. I doubt this one breaks that rule (it was NOT shot in 3D, for one). It looks amazing in 2D, so go for 2D.

  • There’s someone embarrassing himself here, and it ain’t Dr. Rocketscience.

    You are going to find NO sympathy for your MRA nonsense here, so you might as well quit now.

  • G-Man

    I had to look up MRA, I had no idea what you were on about. I’m not representing any viewpoint other than my own.

  • G-Man

    Are you saying there hasn’t been a general trend to typecast women in roles that require them to be “no-nonsense, sassy, independent gals who are self-actualized, quick with the one-liners, and don’t-need-no-man? That trope has even started becoming predominant in animated films as well, see Frozen for example.

    In fact I’m having trouble thinking of the last time I saw a nice, tender, Romance with more traditional gender roles. It’s been quite a while.

  • LaSargenta

    Thanks. And I agree that almost nothing is worth the 3D premium.

  • Fuck traditional gender roles.

    Are you saying there hasn’t been a general trend to typecast women


  • LaSargenta

    Traditional gender roles? You mean man-as-walking-wallet and physically invincible and never sad and woman as either silent slave or parasite?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Oh please spare us. You tried to bandy about “social justice warrior” as a pejorative. I doubt you’ve had an original thought this century. You certainly haven’t expressed one since arriving here.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I disagree. I think absolutely nothing is worth the 3D premium.

  • LaSargenta

    Well, we saw How to Train Your Dragon in 3D in the theater at the bargain matinee ($11.50 ea instead of $6.75 each). As that was slightly less than the normal 2D ticket and the animation was great and worked well in 3D, we thought that was worth it. We saw it again in 2D on DVD and even allowing for the smaller screen, we could tell when we would have been saying “OoooHHHHooo” in the theater.

    Otherwise, yes, I’d agree.

  • Avatar was worth it.

  • Bluejay

    I thought Hugo was worth seeing in 3D, particularly since the story was largely about the magic of film as a new experience; just as
    the first audiences were wowed (and maybe even ducked) when the train
    rushed right toward the camera, so Hugo’s actual audience is (hopefully)
    wowed by the new(er) magic of 3D. I thought it was employed well.

    But yeah, it’s a rare exception.

  • Danielm80

    I can think of a whole list of films that were improved by 3D. Pina, for example, is an entirely different film in three dimensions. Hugo also used the technology really well (but the book is still better).
    However, none of the 3D films about Marvel super-heroes are actually in 3D.

  • LaSargenta

    Sorry, a PS to my previous post. Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams was completely worth the cost of the 3D. In fact, I paid for me and my son twice, the second time paying for Loverman to come as well.

    But, Herzog is awesome.

    I just remembered (thanks to Daniel’s triggering my memory of seeing Pina at the same theater).

  • Jonathan Roth

    I LOVE 3d animated CG cartoons in 3d. Aside from Avatar, I can’t remember any points were the 3d adds to the live action experience meaningfully.

    That said, watching the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer in 3d made me giddy all over again.

  • Man, I want to see this! But my wife has no interest, and my son, at 14, is a tad too young. I have no friends to go with, and can’t stand seeing movies alone. I guess I’ll have to wait 4 months to watch it at home. Damn.

  • Oh yes! Cave of Forgotten Dreams must be seen in 3D.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’ve seen Avatar 4 times, twice in 3D, trying to figure it out. That’s half a day of my life I’d like back. :P

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    HTTYD is the closest anything I’ve seen come to being worth it in 3D. But’ y’know what, I’ve seen it a dozen times since then in 2D, and it never lost anything except the headache.

  • Bea Harper

    Brilliant review! So many beautiful subversions of type and this is definitely Furiosa and the Wives’ tale of survival. Amazing beast of a movie.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I stand by my statement. :)

  • G-Man

    “Fuck traditional gender roles”. I guess that says it all really. I don’t suppose you’ve ever paused to reflect how, possibly without exception, all of the feminist thinkers who rose to prominence in the postwar period were Jewish? A bit curious given Jews make up only 2% of the population…

  • G-Man

    In your black & white world I don’t suppose there’s any room for women as nurturers and caregivers, and men as providers and defenders? It’s only the stable, monogamous family structure that has been working for Europeans for eons…

    It seems you have bought into the propaganda hook line and sinker, my friend…

  • G-Man

    Ad hom. Saying a message is “unoriginal” without refuting it, is insufficient.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Oh, look, another one who think this is a debate. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, they’re so cute when they’re little. Now run along and play outside, junior, the grownup are talking.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Antisemitic MRA fuckery? Huh, I wonder* what cesspit corner of the internet that’s coming from?

    *Spoiler alert: I don’t actually wonder.

  • G-Man

    It’s not antisemitic if it happens to be true. After universal suffrage (a *good* thing), feminism, under the influence of Jewish feminists, morphed into an attempt to undermine and destroy the Christian nuclear family. Don’t take my word for it: “The white race is the cancer of human history” – Susan Sontag.

    Feminism, in regards to women and men having equal rights, is great. Feminism that turns women against men is not. The inability to distinguish between these two stances persists to this day.

  • bronxbee

    oh, i see what happened here. okay, people, we have to be nice to G-Man. it is obvious that he has been in a 60 year coma and is just waking up to the strange new world of the 21st century…. he can’t get his 50s head around the new world order.

  • G-Man

    more ad homs, but can’t counter my argument, apparently.

  • LaSargenta

    Aaaaaaany minute now he’s gonna post Kinder, Küche, Kirche.


  • LaSargenta

    Eew, headache.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    First off, it’s not a debate, chuckles. You’re worse than full of shit, you’re full of someone else’s shit (I’m not even going to contemplate how it got there), so any kind of argument would involve us talking to ourselves while you type out whatever your cue next card says.

    Second, ad hominem is if I say “You’re an asshole, therefore you’re wrong.” I’m saying, “You’re wrong, and you’re an asshole.” It’s a subtle distinction, I know, but you’ll get it.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Dudebro, check the numbers on the back of your cards. You’ve got them all out of order. This one doesn’t come till way later, right before the comically un-ironic accusation of Nazism.

  • Mike

    I hate the tone of people on this forum

  • Mike

    Thanks for your very cool and popular opinion! I bet you love film over digital as well. And anything other than color and sound is purely a gimmick.

  • Mike

    Dredd 3D and Life of Pi are also fantastic in 3D. I have never experienced the headaches that others have described so I love these movies on 3D Bly Ray at home. Pixar has done really well also.

  • G-Man

    If your powers of sarcasm and condescension were, you know, matched by any actual content, it might be breathtaking. Unfortunately, you’re just being a windbag with no substance whatsoever.

  • G-Man

    You clearly don’t know what ad hominem means, so your last attempt at a jab was truly pathetic. It’s only a google away, you know…

  • Comments from anti-semitic MRA spouter-of-hate deleted, as well as comments responding to him. He is now blocked.

  • I do my best to police the assholes.

  • You just complained about the “tone” of the comments here, and then you post this?

    You’re not helping.

  • a

    Serious question: If I expect Gravity (I know they’re different, shhh) will I be disappointed. To clarify, Gravity was heart-stopping, emotional and, the last 10 minutes was the most intense moment I’ve had at the movies in recent memory — will I get this thrill out of Mad Max?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    *shrug* You’re welcome to like anything you like. I stand by my statement: I’ve never had a movie experience enhanced by watching it through a ViewMaster. Most 3D is still post-process, where everything appears to be projected on it’s own 2D plane – the so-called “cardboard cut-out effect”. Audiences uncritically paying the 3d premium is what has wrought that, and it will continue as long as the cost to revenue ratio favors studios.

    The two-camera process (what some call “3D done right”) isn’t that much better. It can only 3D-ify what the cameras can see. And what I end up seeing, at best, is objects kind of poking out of their 2D planes a little bit. CGI animation does slightly better, since the rendering process can place every pair of pixels into a precise location on the screen. But the effect there is like taking a sphere, slicing it in half, and placing the flat side on the screen. It’s not convincingly three dimensional.

    The headache issue is a personal one, but it’s not an uncommon one. It’s cause by the 3D process trying to trick the eyes into focusing on depths that aren’t actually there. It’s inherent to the illusion, and not something fixed by multiple cameras.

    And then there’s the issue of presentation. Both the IMAX LCD shutter system and the Dolby chromatic shifting system are very expensive for the theaters, compared the the Real3D polarized system. So most theaters go with Real3D. But polarized systems cut the light that gets to the eyes, reducing the brightness of the presentation, and worsening the muddiness that most 3D movies already suffer from. The shift to digital projection means we’re finally seeing movies at full brightness again (though now I occasionally run into frame rate issues FML.)

    tl:dr version – it’s not a hipster affectation, it’s that 3D process can only do so much, introduces other problems, and doesn’t enhance anything anyway.

  • MisterAntrobus

    We can’t be bothered to pay attention to sentence structure when there’s a feminist on the loose, having opinions and stuff!

  • MisterAntrobus

    Have you watched a romantic comedy in the last, I dunno, 20 years? They’re almost all about reinforcing traditional gender roles, showing that all women really want is a man to marry.

    Anyway, if you are really tired of movies presenting less “traditional” gender relationships, there’s an abundance of old films on DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, etc. that should satisfy you.

  • MisterAntrobus

    Avatar was certainly the only one I recall being worth it, because Cameron clearly spent the time and mental energy necessary to compose it for that medium. Unfortunately, it has so little else going for it that it’s hardly worth it to watch in any other form but massive-screen 3D.

  • Not quite the same sort of thrill, no.

  • MisterAntrobus

    “It is assuming the fanbase of such a film are sexist pigs . . . ”

    No, you’re assuming that MaryAnn’s statement that *some* fans who are sexist pigs equals all fans of the action genre. Which is clearly not the case, or she would not have used the word some, as indeed LaSargenta pointed out up the thread.

    In fact, even if all fans of the action genre *were* sexist pigs, that still wouldn’t make her statement anti-male, as there are plenty of males who are not fans of action movies.

  • Beowulf

    I am SO awaiting the re-release of CITIZEN KANE and CASABLANCA in 3-D!

  • Danielm80

    Every time The Shining pops up on BBC America, I think: This would work really well in 3D.

  • LaSargenta

    I vote for Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill, Kill. But, John Waters films would rock in 3D

  • I’ve banned this guy, so don’t expect him to reply to you.

  • Damian Barajas

    Don’t you? I mean, Think you’re making a difference.

    Would you just say what you mean and let your argument stand or fall on its own merits? What do you think of the movie?

  • Damian Barajas

    Have you ever used the phrase: “bunch of alpha males”?

  • with regards to the CGI, the only blatant CGI elements are the massive sandstorm the first half of the movie delves into, and the use of 3D at-ya shots of projectiles coming out of the screen. The use of CGI to make Charlize one-armed was actually very subtle. Everything else – the cars smashing into each other, fire effects, flying bodies – was done with practical stunt work. Compared to the Star Wars prequels, Fury Road is old-school.

    And with regards to the political statements about the objectification / enslavement of women, movies have been used to warn us/enlighten us about social injustices ALL THE TIME. (I Was a Fugitive from a Chain Gang springs to mind as an early example)

    When I went to see this movie tonight, most of the attendees were guys like me. NONE OF US quailed or turned away from the sight of women being awesome in the face of male oppression.

  • I’ve seen people post on twitter and facebook that the 3D is for the most part awesome.

  • I seriously want to see Fury Road win Best Cinematography. This movie is f-cking gorgeous.

  • This guy has been banned, so don’t expect a reply.

  • This guy has been banned, so don’t expect a reply.

  • I would really like to see it in IMAX (which is also in 3D, at least here in London). If I do, I’ll report on it.

  • well, if he replied back I would have just added “I said what needed to be said” and then throw in a “neener neener” or two… so it’s all good. :)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    OMG yes!!!

  • Dr. Rocketscience


    Wow wow wow wow.

    I haven’t felt the need to go see a movie again like this in a while.
    This isn’t “trilling” or “exciting” kind of movie, it’s a steady, relentless build of intensity that you can’t tear your eyes from. It tells its story through it imagery better than anything I’ve seen in a while.

    I don’t think it will be transformative, because it’s not a formula easily aped (like “Die Hard on a …”) nor does it introduce a specific visual trick (like Bullet Time). This feels like George Miller was using new toys to go back to his roots, and in doing he found something amazing.

    I’m worried that it won’t be widely seen, that word-of-mouth will call it “weird” and “confusing”, that it “doesn’t make sense”.

    But I for one will be watching this movie for the rest of my life.

  • LaSargenta

    OK. So that was facing awesome.

    I think that was what Miller wanted to do with the cameras back in ’77/’78 filming the first time.

  • LaSargenta

    I agree.

  • LaSargenta

    I think you should find a way to see it on a big screen. I took my 13 y.o. and he was ok. But, everyone’s different.

    What about grabbing someone from work who likes movies?

  • Enjoi1991

    Wow. Thats is straight up ridiculous (the “fans” that are upset about Fury Road having a leading bad ass female). I didn’t realize “fans” were upset about that.
    As for the second part, Idk I just thought you wouldn’t of liked the style/tone of it. Not complaining though, its a damn good film.

  • Enjoi1991

    Yeah, I really just didn’t hear about the people that were mad about it. Its a little ridiculous that will upset them.

  • Enjoi1991

    I saw the “some” in the sentence. I just didn’t hear about anyone being upset about the female aspects of Fury Road until recently.

  • RogerBW

    When an author returns to a book series that was over and done with thirty years ago, it’s pretty much never a good sign. Usually it means they’ve run out of ideas.

    I’m hugely impressed not only that this film is worth watching but that it seems to outdo the typical modern action film.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    The difference, I think, is a technological one. The technology of writing doesn’t necessarily affect the craft of writing. Whereas the technology of filmmaking is intrinsic to the craft.

    I’ve been watching clips from “The Road Warrior”, which I think is the “Mad Max” film Miller is basically remaking in “Fury Road”.
    What I think Miller has done here, is applied modern filmmaking technology to the ideas he was trying to commit to film 33 years ago.

    “Fury Road” is one of the best examples I’ve seen of a film satisfying my two criteria for re-making a movie*: 1) is the original version not a great film itself, but one that suffered in the execution; and 2) does the remake have something new and/or interesting to say with the material.

    Most remakes fail the first criterion, getting greenlit because it was a great film, and so has a built in audience. “The Road Warrior”, I think, is marred by technical problems and limitations. It’s color palate is just drab. It’s settings are post-apocalyptic only if you squint. Hell, Miller famously couldn’t even get the Dolby sound mix to work. “Beyond Thunderdome” was Miller’s first attempt to address these problems, but that film is frankly a bit of a mess. “Fury Road” is a technical tour de force.

    Regarding the second, most try to do this, but most stumble badly. This, I think, comes from a failure with the first criterion: They’re remaking a great film, which already worked. There’s not much more to say there.** Miller, on the other hand, found something (and not just in making the film look and sound they way he wanted). He explores how not only will things like water and fuel become scarce after the fall of civilization, but so too will people become a rare and valuable resource.

    *The former I credit to Gene Siskel. The latter I’m not sure where it came from.

    **For an example, see the remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”.

  • RogerBW

    That makes a lot of sense. It’s often seemed to me that people talked about the memory of The Road Warrior more than they talked about the film itself.

  • LaSargenta

    Mad Max and The Road Warrior both were movies I saw because I was fascinated by post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories. (So much so that my mother pressed on me the only science fiction she had ever read: A Canticle for Leibowitz.) The movies as artifacts were frankly crap, although they both stayed vivid because i could see someone had a vision. (MM was riddled with continuity problems, for starters.) Seeing this, like I wrote yesterday, was like getting to see what Miller was seeing in his head 40 years ago.

  • Kathy_A

    I so agree with your assessment of the first three films–in rewatching them, there are many weaknesses, but the vision remains true throughout and is what one remembers after seeing the films, even sticking in your head thirty years later.
    (And, I have to add–A Canticle for Leibowitz is sooo freakin’ good!! Love that book.)

  • Beowulf

    Great comments from you and from Dr. Rocketscience. Thanks for keeping this site worth visiting.

  • Bloomquist

    MaryAnn, I appreciate your reviews even when I don’t agree with them (and in this case, I do agree, what a wonderful film!). I’m sorry to know you need to spend time dealing with that kind of crap in your comment section. You have a great space here, otherwise.

  • Ah, thank you for that. You saved me the extra expense and annoying glasses.

  • CB

    Well that settles it. When MaryAnn Johanson and RedLetterMedia both agree that a movie is really good, and a refreshing example of what Hollywood has forgotten about making great action movies, then that tells me it’s a movie worth seeing.

    Which is definitely not what I’d thought from watching the trailers. Not only is it already starting in a hole by being a 30-year-on remake of movies I don’t have much nostalgia for anyway, the trailer looked just awful. And I don’t just mean that it looked like the frantic, pointless, numbing action-for-actions-sake mess that has become practically synonymous with Hollywood action flicks, though of course I do mean that. I mean it was visually unappealing. It looked like everything was put through a filter that gave everything a “sharp” look — I lack the vocabulary to describe it properly, but the point is it was like they were deliberately going for the look of a console game instead of a live action movie. Combine with the video-game-esque action and…

    But geeze, even if the way it looks on screen is the same as the trailer and unappealing to me, I’d still watch it for great, practical action done in service to a story.

  • amanohyo

    You may be slightly disappointed. The action is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not really done in service to a story so much as vice versa. There is a sharp, videogame look to the film; however, it still feels gritty and visceral because of the comparatively subtle use of CG, and the reliance for the most part on stuntmen and practical effects. The action scene in which Max first meets Furiosa in particular is brilliantly choreographed and shot.

    It’s kind of the anti-Avengers 2. Whereas that film felt like a complicated, meticulously engineered shell encasing a stale, listless core, this is crude and loud on the outside, but the symbolism at the center feels more substantial. One feels that there is some genuine imagination and passion under the hood. Like Max, it doesn’t have a lot to say, but says it well.

    Also, I finally understand why some of the MRAs and their ilk are upset. This is the first action movie I’ve seen in which the male and female main characters were treated equally by the script, by the camera, and by wardrobe/makeup, without a forced romantic subplot. Try to keep track of what perspective or gaze the camera is assuming – remarkably, it’s split almost exactly down the middle between Max and Furiosa. That’s a rare balancing act even for an indie romantic comedy, much less a big budget action blockbuster.

    The Seven Samurai homage to Seiji Miyaguchi’s badassery was a nice nod of respect to the grandfather of gritty action movies too. My dad hates all the other Mad Max movies, and even he had a good time.

  • CB

    What lies! Why just the other day Camille Paglia burst out of my closet and assaulted me with a lecture on the indoctrination of the patriarchy!

  • Harold Hill

    MaryAnn, I don’t understand why you banned this person.

  • CB

    Yeah, I didn’t even mean it in the sense that the story comes first. I meant that (according to the RLM review anyway) the action simply *advances* the plot and even the characters. Rather than the recent typical way it works where the plot happens in dialogue scenes and then action happens in between and oh hey how about some characters so plonk down a dialogue scene then oh noes more action! Making it feel disconnected and unengaging.

    That’s how low my standards are at this point. :P

  • LaSargenta

    There’s some comments that have been removed. Those are the reasons. She left the ones that were cogent and less bigoted.

  • Bluejay

    Dear god, this was a magnificent film. Somehow I’ve missed all the previous Mad Max movies, but this one blew me away. Miller’s vision feels extravagant yet stripped down, unhinged yet disciplined, all at the same time. I can’t think of a single thing wrong with it. (And that awesome music!)

    I have to admit, the idea of driving a big rig with a guitarist strapped to its hood and blasting rock riffs is mightily appealing to me.

    And anyone who can’t stand the fact that this film belongs to Furiosa (without taking anything away from Max or Nicholas Hoult’s War Boy) deserves nothing but laughter and pity.

  • LaSargenta

    You know, he really had drummers playing the Taiko on the back of that rig. I read in one article how they had to deal with constant sand in their faces keeping the beat.

  • Jurgan

    Kane has more than enough depth without gimmicks.

  • He went on an anti-semitic rant that wasn’t only offensive but also off-topic.

  • Bluejay

    I’ll amend my statement: I don’t want to drive the big rig with the guitarist. I want to BE the guitarist.


    This movie is INSANE.

  • LaSargenta

    Saw it a second time. Got so caught up in it I forgot to look for continuity errors. (Sorry, that’s a hobby of mine.)

    Came across a trailer that Miller issued in B&W. He apparently has insisted that the Blu-Ray release include a special all B&W version because he prefers it that way compared to the super-saturated color he used for the desert. The trailer does look wonderful. It reiterates what so many are thinking about the cinematography. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMaA2RWducg

  • Maybe they were done with drones?

  • LaSargenta

    Ah. Maybe. I didn’t notice a “drone handler” in the credits either, though.

    What do you think of the effect on the trailer of Black and White?

  • RogerBW

    “Drone wrangler”? :-)

    I agree, I’d expect an RPV operator to get credit.

  • LaSargenta

    Right. I suppose it is a stupid thing to chase, but I’ve been puzzling over which bits are not CGI. Plenty are obvious. This one, not so much.

  • The B&W is interesting. Not sure it’s a vitally important change to the film.

  • Jonathan Roth

    Saw it last night, there one single shot that I remember being in 3D, and it was a cheesy 3D cliche that “worked” as the climax.

  • LaSargenta

    Yeah, I know which shot you’re talking about. Did you see it in 3D? I saw it in 2D and it worked there, too.

  • Jonathan Roth

    Yep. It’s one of the lazier cliches in 3d movies to just throw stuff at the audience, so I doubt they’re missing anything in 2d.

  • Just some additional observations after having seen this for a third time in the theaters (something I haven’t done since The Incredibles):

    * This movie owes a lot to the John Ford Westerns in terms of the use of vast landscapes as battlefields, and of well-staged chase scenes.

    * The movie doesn’t really relegate Max to the role of sidekick: it merely disregards the need to tell more of his story because we’ve already seen most of it in the first three films. As a result, it appears as though Furiosa dominates the story: in truth she is merely presenting herself as Heroine of her own story, overlapped with Max’s own quest for sanity and redemption in the desert. It’s really a Dual Protagonist movie.

    * The scene where Furiosa uses Max to steady the sniper rifle has multiple layers to it, but above all it’s the moment where Max utterly trusts her – and she him – to get the job done. There’s an even more subtle moment early on when Furiosa decides to tell Max the sequence for the rig’s control panel. Max has had a gun on her and the wives up until then: the second she entrusts him with the secret, he wordlessly clicks the hammer of the gun into rest mode (essentially putting the gun on safety). It happens so quietly and understated I think people may have missed the meaning of it.

  • Riley Keough is Elvis’ GRANDDAUGHTER?!

  • It’s really a Dual Protagonist movie.

    It really isn’t. His actions to not set the plot in motion, nor do they drive the plot. He is a bystander to Furiosa’s story who gets caught up in it. By the time he does anything that impacts the action in a significant way — when he makes a suggestion to Furiosa that makes her change her mind about what she’s doing — it’s far into Furiosa’s story, and her accepting his suggestion doesn’t change that.

    Think of it this way: Could someone else have made that suggestion and not have that alteration make any real difference? Absolutely. Any of the other characters could have made that suggestion. But only Furiosa could have done the things she has done.

    It’s okay that Max isn’t a protagonist. He’s still an interesting character, and he still gets a bit of growth and change. This is the sort of thing women have to cling to, typically, when we watch movies like this: We console ourselves by saying, Yeah, it’s all about the guy, but at least the sidekick woman got to do a little bit of something interesting, at least she had a little bit of a personal journey.

  • LaSargenta

    I’m thinking of going to see it a third time myself. Maybe tomorrow morning.

    I agree with MAJ about the dual protagonist theory, and yes, I agree with you about the moments where the trust is made manifest.

    Personally, I see the Mad Max character as always stumbling into others’ stories. He becomes the vehicle for their tales. His own tale was to me only a part of the first movie. Goose had a story there and Nightrider, too.

  • Bluejay
  • Bluejay

    and Nightrider, too.

    A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man… who does not exist?

    But seriously: These Mad Max names are all fantastic. We should all have one.

  • LaSargenta

    What would be yours?

  • Bluejay

    Vox Imperium.

    Or Urban Putty Speckle.

    Or… La Sargenta. That’s a cool Mad Max name in and of itself AND I’M TAKING IT. >:-D

  • Danielm80

    I searched Google for “Mad Max name generator.” There are at least three. According to this one


    I am Johnny Amazon. I like that.

    One of the other websites suggested Ballpeen Headhunter. I like that, too, because it reminds me of a Jane Yolen quote. When religious people called her names, she said: If I’m going to be a tool of Satan, I want to be a ballpeen hammer.

    One of these days, I’ll actually see Fury Road.

  • LaSargenta

    Ballpeen Headhunter rules.

  • LaSargenta

    Fuck you.

    I’m renaming myself Pesadilla Monoxide. So there.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I hope the B&W version on the Blu-Ray is better than this. The contrast is way to muddy. You can’t just turn the color setting all the way down on full color video and expect it to look good.

    (I’m sure George Miller knows this. That trailer is probably some due with iMovie.)

  • LaSargenta

    Damn! Did I post the wrong trailer? I saw a beautiful trailer embedded in an article, lost track of it, went to YouTube and found this, but (oops) didn’t watch before posting.

    The one I saw had really nice chiaroscuro in the chase through the Citadel sequence.

  • Bluejay

    This video shows how some of the camerawork was done. Maybe the camera rig in the first clip is what you’re thinking of?


    It’s amazing to see just how REAL a lot of the action is (those motorcycle stunts!). And I suppose it’s logical that they would film a lot of the on-vehicle fights on vehicles that weren’t actually moving, so I find it really impressive that it all looks like it’s happening at 100 mph.

  • Bluejay

    Damn, that’s a badass name. You can keep LaSargenta too, though. :-)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I noticed the same thing (about the shots with Tom Hardy on the back of the “moving” War Rig). One of those little-heralded boons of CGI: the ability to do the stunt work with all the safety gear and precautions in place.

  • LaSargenta

    Yes, that is probably the camera rig that created most of the shots I was noticing. There still is the distance wide shots of the rig with pursuit and vehicles coming from lower right of screen with the ridge between that either is from and airplane or a model. No? If would have had to be a really tall cliff otherwise.

  • Someone very wise on the Internet suggested that *all* the Max movies are urban legends about the encounters that people in this afterscape have had with him. I like that.

  • I would like this a thousand times if I could!

  • LaSargenta

    SHAAAAAAAANE! Come Back!!

  • thomskis

    3D Beowulf was fun.

  • LaSargenta

    Uh…yeah…third time this morning. Took another friend. She loves movies, especially action movies and horror/suspense.

    Goddamn!! that’s a fantastic movie.

    You’re right about the “John Ford western”, but it does transition into Lawrence of Arabia territory once they escape the bullet farmer.

    I’ve been trying to remember the last time I have seen a movie this many times in the theater at its first release (which eliminates Citizen Kane…which I’ve seen loads of times). I seriously think it was Cousin, Cousine back in freakin’ 1976. The Clay Theater was close to home on Fillmore Street and I saw it many times there.

    This is quite a different movie. but just as good.

  • Miguel Gonzalez

    Charlize Theron is SUBLIME in this role. What a range! It’s a shame that she doesn’t get too many meaty roles like this one, and is wasted on MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST and the like.

  • Miguel Gonzalez

    Also, she needed to pick her battles, and choose the women most likely to survive, the younger and physically stronger ones. It’s in no way an indication that ‘Furiosa’ (or the writer) doesn’t care about the older women.

  • LaSargenta

    I so wanted to leave my desk and disappear into a nearby theater and see this for the fourth time.

  • LaSargenta

    As a record-keeping location for interesting Mad Max:Fury road links, this seems appropriate.

    MAJ tweeted this link: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/2015/06/mad-max-fury-road-makes-rape-arguments-invalid/ (Of course, it maybe should be cross-referenced to GOT.)

    A Page 6 sort of post that’s pretty fun: http://jezebel.com/mad-max-stunt-doubles-for-charlize-theron-and-tom-hardy-1711436224 (Except I’m philosophically opposed to contracts of this sort…still, if it makes them happy, I’m for it. Thanks to Danielm80.)

    This is on my shopping list: http://www.buzzfeed.com/kmallikarjuna/theres-going-to-be-a-kick-ass-comic-about-imperator-furiosa#.fd0R1qM4l (Thanks to Bluejay.)

  • Bluejay

    You’re welcome!

    I liked the first link. On the topic of using storytelling options OTHER than rape to motivate or define characters, there’s also this:


    Smart Bitches’ movie review/discussion proper is worth a read as well:


    I’ve seen this film three times already. (Have you gone for your fourth, LaSargenta?) I don’t remember the last time I saw a film three times. I might go for a fourth just to get the taste of Jurassic World’s sexism out of my mouth.

  • Danielm80

    There are several sentences in that review that, by themselves, justify the existence of the movie. I have longtime friends I’m less passionate about than those reviewers are about Fury Road.

  • People meet at work. It happens a lot. :-)

    And Theron probably had more than one stunt double…

  • Bluejay

    As does Tom Hardy. The stunt double who got married isn’t the same one that everyone’s swooning over.

  • LaSargenta

    I have not yet gone for the fourth. I want to. I refuse to see Jurraassic World.

    But, Spy looks fun.

  • Shiraz

    Thank god.

  • Shiraz

    You don’t? I do.

  • Shiraz

    “Nice” and “tender”? Yep. That’s a woman’s job to soothe men. Wait, no it’s not.
    Your post has an Old Time Religion feel that’s really gross to me. I’m surprised you post online. Since you like tradition and all. If your woman folk does the same, do you call them harlots?
    Sassy and intelligent females characters bum you out? WTF? Are you Amish?

  • LaSargenta

    Well, this movie is not the same as everything else. It isn’t even the same as Miller’s earlier Mad Max movies.

    IE: it isn’t dull.

    It is amazing how dull so much has been and how refreshing it is not to see dull things.

  • LaSargenta


    The tattoo on Max’s back has (among other stuff) “Day 12045”.

    Divide that by days in a year and you get about 33 years. Can we assume that is from the founding of the Citadel?

    When Furiosa says 7000 days, that’s about 19 years, about 14 years after whatever the event was that the Citadel people started counting from.

    Yes, I’m still thinking about this movie.

  • Bluejay

    I can’t wait until this comes in from the library.


  • Danielm80

    Unfortunately, there are no Pop Vinyl figures based on the movie.

    Otherwise, we could act out the story the next time we get together. We wouldn’t even need a script, because LaSargenta has it memorized.

  • LaSargenta


  • Bluejay

    Just wanted to add this piece by Kameron Hurley because I think it’s really good.


  • Danielm80

    I wish Hurley had mentioned one detail: The people almost literally turn themselves into objects, by adding machine parts and silver paint to their bodies so they look like motor vehicles. Furiosa, Max, Nux, and their allies eventually reverse the process. Nux’s truck blows up, very dramatically, and—if I remember correctly—Furiosa even loses her robotic arm.

  • Furiosa’s arm is different from the Warboys spraying themselves chrome, though. (Unless we want to believe that she deliberately chopped off her arm so that she could use a prostheses, and there’s no support for that.) The soldiers spraying themselves is part and parcel of how they are used by Immortan Joe, part of the religion that makes them pliable and willing to die for him.

  • Bluejay

    Regarding protagonists: Honest Trailers gets it. :-)


  • Danielm80

    If they’d put that in the theatres, instead of the actual trailer, I would have seen the movie weeks earlier.

  • Bluejay

    Linking to this here as well:

    LoveloveLOVE how this was done, and especially how Furiosa is depicted. It’s astonishing how much fan creativity this film has inspired. It feels like a movie a lot of people really, really needed to see.

  • Wow! Amazing.

    Yes, the response to this movie *clearly* demonstrates that audiences are hungry for stories that are actually *about* women, and that deal with bullshit that women are tired of *as* bullshit.

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