Tag Archives: Ben Hur

My review of “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Dear Lord, Charlize Theron is a fantastic actress.  It’s amazing what she can communicate with just her facial expressions and line delivery, even when her dialogue is sparing and simplistic.  She’s also a superb physical actress, has great scene presence and is stunningly beautiful.  Why not simply call this movie “Furiosa?”  It’s really that character’s story; the titular “Mad Max” says and does little that is plot-relevant.  He is a superfluous character who is here only to attract the fanbase for the original “Mad Max” movies.

Theron is one of two things that “Mad Max: Fury Road” has going for it.  The other is pure spectacle.  I don’t love this movie the way that everyone else seems to (I’d give it a 7 out of 10), but I really did enjoy the action, special effects, costume, prop and set design.  This is like a modern “Ben Hur” (1959) on acid — the characters, weapons, sets and vehicles look great.  This movie is like a really good heavy metal album cover made into a feature-length film.

My attention wandered, though.  The action is often difficult to follow, thanks to too much Michael Bay-type directing.  Tom Hardy is really just a one-note character as Max, despite efforts to render him in depth with cliche flashbacks of a lost family.  And I liked this guy a hell of a lot in “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012); I thought he made the masked Bane a great villain with physical acting that compensated well for an obscured face.

I submit that this is a somewhat brainless movie that barely qualifies as science fiction.  We have a sparse opening montage that tells us about world-ending wars for resources, and then the rest of the movie is really just an extended gladiator battle in the desert with baroquely costumed bad guys.  It’s like a monster truck rally.

It’s sometimes fun, but it doesn’t make a great film.  The good guys are too thinly drawn to engender viewer sympathy; the bad guys are too cartoonish to be scary.  You also need to turn your brain off, lest certain questions occur to you:

1)  Doesn’t gasoline degrade over time?  I don’t think it would be worth warring or bartering for after a year or so, unless there are oil rigs and complex refineries to seek and develop it.  We see evidence of neither.

2)  What do people eat, out here in the never-ending desert?  The disappearance of “green places” is a plot point; there is no arable land.

3)  How often does this dictator (“Big Joe” or something?) give his subjects water?  Once per day?  I thought dehydration killed or immobilized people fairly quickly.

4)  Where the heck are we?  I hear a lot of United Kingdom accents.

5)  I’m pretty sure that blood transfusions don’t work like that.  And even if they did, you’d see a hell of a lot of opportunistic infections in such unsterile conditions.

6)  Why does one young woman immediately fall in love with a sleeping barbarian whose teeth are spray-painted silver?

Whatever.  I’m not saying that this is a bad movie; I’m just suggesting that it’s a little overrated given its current accolades by fans.  It’s fun enough, if you’re in the mood for a “Mad Max” movie.

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