‘Mad Max’ is furiously overrated

By Matt Hlady

(Warner Bros. Pictures)
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Director George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” has been praised as a thrilling and borderline revolutionary film since its May 15 release date.

Its near-universal approval is perplexing, however, because the plot is simplistic, the character development is almost non-existent and the action is both obvious and absurd. The cast has some decent actors in it, yet the script gives them nothing to work with. Max, played by Tom Hardy, and Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, are flat characters, while Nux (Nicholas Hoult) is ridiculously inconsistent and the antagonist Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is an archetypal false prophet.

The film opens with Max alone on a ridge over a desert. He hears voices in his head and, while disturbed, races into the desert in a beat-up vehicle. The audience watches as he is chased across by Immortan Joe’s “War Boys,” half-naked, hollering, white-painted bandits. Max is captured and turned into a “blood bag,” an unwilling blood donor kept alive only because he is a universal donor. The nuclear fallout and resultant radiation poisoning that affects everyone puts medical supplies like transfusions in understandably high demand.

It’s then shown that the locals are so dependent upon fuel and water that a theocratic dictatorship has formed. Whoever controls these resources rules, and in this case, that person is Immortan Joe, who applies a corrupted Norse mythology to cement his reign. By les’ ignorance and hormone-driven hostility, turning them into zealot warriors, establishing himself as a prophet and emphasizing an afterlife in the paradise of Valhalla, he can exploit the teenage mas.

Immortan Joe imitates a system that has worked in the past to create his own religion and replaces warships with cars. The bandits’ car designs – a truck loaded with speakers and a fire-spewing electric guitar player is one notable example – embody Joe’s encouragement of young male aggression and exuberance. However, the film’s set design is its only positive attribute.

There has been endless praise of how the film’s nonstop action resembles some hype train of ecstasy crashing into everyone’s cerebral cortex. Well, yes, it is constant action. But there isn’t anything else. It becomes boring after 30 minutes and what seems like the 1,200th unlikely explosion. Max neither develops as a character nor does anything with much enthusiasm or panache.

Furiosa has possibilities when you hear mention of when she was kidnapped for sex slavery, yet this detail also doesn’t seem developed. When she discovers that she has risked everything for nothing when they reach their destination, her screaming feels annoying rather than wrenching.

Nux is one of Joe’s zealots who, after two mendable failures, decides to be a good guy when one of Immortan Joe’s wives chats with him. That sort of conversion never happens. Ever.

A zealot needs dozens of failures plus time with other perspectives to convert and even then, he will still be tempted to go back because a part of him wants to believe that his life and convictions were not a lie. Nux simply becomes a true-blue selfless guardian. That doesn’t happen with only one empathetic conversation as prompting.

The specific plot points themselves are silly. Nux, receiving a transfusion from Max, insists upon mounting Max to the front of a car in order to pursue Furiosa, who has stolen Joe’s harem. However, if Max is so valuable as a universal donor, then the various priests, administrators, and doctors apparent in the film would never allow such an asset to become endangered. Once the fight and a monstrous dust storm free Max in the middle of a desert, he happens to be near Furiosa’s vehicle, where she and the harem have stopped despite being pursued by hundreds of heavily armed men. Such coincidences feel contrived.

The film’s ending was unsatisfying and nonsensical and the entire film was a disgrace to the sci-fi genre. The genre is supposed to make the audience think, to consider how humans interact with technology or an environment changed by technology. “Mad Max” is instead an asinine festival of violence and explosions worthy of Michael Bay.

“Mad Max” has perplexed me with its critical and popular appeal more than any other film or trend I’ve witnessed. No one should think that “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a work of art.

Matt Hlady can be reached at [email protected]