What I Loved About… Mad Max: Fury Road

Believe the hype. This is a staggering film. If it didn’t have the heavy label of “summer blockbuster” weighing it down, it could easily be in the Oscar race this year. It still might.  District 9 was a similarly popular action thriller that found itself with an Oscar nomination, so it doesn’t seem so impossible. Awards speculation aside, it must be said — MadMaxWell acted and exceptionally visually creative, Mad Max: Fury Road is a carefully crafted vision come to life, handled with the kind of careful guidance that most popcorn movies don’t take the time for these days. Much has been said about the big blockbuster-CGI–action-parties, of which I am a fan, no doubt. But, one thing most agree on is that at times it is easy to zone out amid the high speed races and crashes of most films. Even seeing a hero fly through the air has lost its charm. Maybe we’re just over-saturated, modern action films  assuming the audience will remain invested so long as there are explosions on the screen, but like a Fourth of July fireworks show that’s gone on five minutes too long, it’s easy for films to rely so heavily on visual tricks that we drift out of focus, away from caring, and more importantly — disconnecting from the stakes of the plot.

Perhaps, for the sake of not diluting the film arts, it’s time for the pendulum to swing back in the favor of smaller stories and smaller budgets. That’s fair. But, George Miller seems to ask, “why not simply make the big movies better? Then, he achieves just that, like one of the film’s death-defying War Boys, asking the audience to “witness” him as he pulls off a truly grand stunt — breathing new life into an exhausted genre.

This is a gratuitous blockbuster, downright unapologetic in its absurdity at times, as much as any “suspend your disbelief” Superhero Movie. Yet, it was made with care in every frame. With Fury Road, you really aren’t allowed to disconnect from the action — with so little dialogue between the characters, the story is moved through it. You have to keep up, and more importantly – you want to. The audience’s attention is rewarded with visually stunning moments. Yes, explosions and crashing, but sometimes it’s just the glittering sand through light, and it’s just as gratifying.

One particular moment has our “heroes” driving into a wild windstorm that could be their doom, the twisters and fiery hell looms down on them with full force, and it is incredible. When I see a film, all I want is this — show me something I’ve never seen before, even if it’s something we’ve all seen before. Show it in a new way, a creative way. CGI exists for this reason – to help the imagination to its full potential, not replace it.

Fury Road a movie of experience. Experienced directors, actors, cameramen, stunt men, choreographed into a grand, absurd, violent spectacle that doesn’t allow for audience passivity. You’re along for the ride, and you’re lucky to be. Mad Max: Fury Road is the kind of thing that can reignite the beauty of  going to the movies, a rare gift of a film.

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