Troubled Loner Max Rockatansky and accomplished warrior Imperator Furiosa find themselves thrown together in a breakneck chase through a post-apocalyptic world, pursued by maniacal despot Immortan Joe and his army of War Boys as they seek the fabled Green Place, and each takes one last shot at personal redemption.
After a thirty year gap from Thunderdome, Fury Road – a production which lasted several years and a change of actor for the main actor – arrived in cinemas this summer with a whole heap of expectations. Pleasantly, it exceeded all of them for fans. Though not the biggest commercial success with a modest box office take of £360 million worldwide, Fury Road garnered almost universal critical praise, with many suggesting this to be the best feminist action movie ever made.
Of course, it’s the bones of the story itself which hint at the last part, as well as the performance of Theron. Furiosa is escaping Joe with all five of his wives, termed in the movie’s lexicon as ‘breeders’ – young, beautiful and healthy women whose job is to provide the aging and increasingly infirm warlord with a healthy male heir. It’s a story as old as time itself, but given sufficient attention that it avoids falling into cliché. Max isn’t the heroic man wandering along to save the damsels in distress here, nor Furiosa the tough, feisty woman with a vulnerable side and a heart of gold who just needs the right man to come along. Instead, after a violent and unwanted meeting, the two leads are forced into mutual co-operation by circumstance, the challenges which they face enabling a grudging but genuine sense of respect – but crucially never romance – to grow between them.
Best of all, Miller’s minimalistic approach to dialogue, consistent with the first two Mad Max outings, means that it is left to the visuals to tell the viewer the story. Like Cuaron’s Gravity, this feels like a director who truly appreciates the opportunities that the cinematic format affords to construct a narrative, using every sense of the viewer and avoiding the need for expository dialogue along the way. A look or small physical gesture here is worth a couple of pages of dialogue, making Hardy – an actor who is quickly becoming renowned for the physicality of his performances – an ideal choice for Max. Make no mistake, this may well be Theron’s movie (her character shines from her first appearance on screen, and is undoubtedly the central hero of the piece) but Hardy is far from a bit player, his performance as the troubled Rockatansky raw and brilliant in its brooding silence, minimalist grunting and physical presence.
This Blu Ray release feels like the only way to watch Fury Road. Such is the obsessive love in Miller’s post-apocalyptic vision, the astonishing level of passion and craft in each and every stunt, that you need the high definition format to drink in every last detail.
And drink it in you most certainly will. This is visual storytelling at its finest – a visually arresting smorgasbord which captures the eye and holds its attention from the first moment to the last. Two hours will pass in an eyeblink, and you’ll be wanting to watch again to see what you missed the last time around.
Extras wise, the Blu Ray delivers fairly well. We have the standard ‘making of’ half hour, which touches on many areas as it describes the epic journey from initial visual storyboard (3,500 comic book style panels) to finished product.
Other features cover the movie’s extensive fleet of weird and wonderful vehicles, the central pairing of Max and Furiosa and the experiences of Hardy and Theron in portraying them, the Wives themselves and what should be the dullest feature ever – five minutes of raw stunt and driving footage, with no added CGI at all.
This last serves to reinforce a common theme mentioned in all the other features – that this was a movie where CGI was used sparingly, adding to the background rather than creating the stunts themselves. From explosions to crashes involving flipping an entire war rig and its trailer, every stunt was done for real, and this raw footage will leave you almost as stunned as the finished article.
Finally we have three deleted scenes, none of which are particularly long, nor add anything of note to the movie. It’s easy to see why they went, though disappointing not to see more. All three seem polished and ‘final cut’ standard, and it might have been nice to see more of the rougher stuff that adorned the cutting room floor – after 8 months of filming and 3,500 storyboards, I’m sure there was more there.
Altogether, the feeling one leaves the extras with is that the movie was as much of an adventure/endurance trial for its cast and crew as the story is for the characters. Cast talk of future movies seeming easy by comparison, a stunt man talks lovingly of being proud of this being his final project and everyone is full of praise for the vision and talent of Miller himself.
It isn’t the best or most extensive set of special features to grace a home movie release, but it’s a nice mix, and it gives a good feel for the process without being exhaustingly forensic. Like the movie itself, it feels stripped down to a perfect, lean beast.
Verdict: Visual action-storytelling at its very best. A feast for the eyes and ears and a joy for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. 9/10
Greg D. Smith