A few weeks ago we went to see Mad Max: Fury Road with a friend. I loved it; he hated it. It seems to be the Marmite of movies. So here are three reasons why I loved Mad Max (but you might not).
1) It’s all action, all the time. I really, really love action movies, and I particularly love the ones that are basically five minutes of setup and then slam-bang action sequences straight through to the end, like The Raid. However, if your love of things going boom and people punching each other and big trucks isn’t quite as overwhelming as it is for me, this can become boring. And once you start finding it boring, the whole thing will seem like a stupid waste of time.
2) It looks fantastic. The film has undergone a lot of post processing; night scenes were shot in the day, colours were changed, skies were substituted for something more exciting. To me, this was just part of the style of the film. Possibly this is because I watch a lot of movies from the period 1920-1960. These often have painted sets which don’t look strictly realistic but help create the atmosphere, as long as you can accept them as such. On the other hand, I find certain types of CGI effects very distracting. Anything which looks like people are moving incorrectly relative to the foreground looks very wrong to me. Since the vast majority of the stunts here were carried out actually on the trucks/cars, that wasn’t an issue. I agree that the flames/explosions did not necessarily look realistic, but my brain tends to elide over these since they’re fake in every film. No director seems to be prepared to risk killing their lead actors to get an amazing action sequence. Oh, for the days of Buster Keaton.
3) It had actual women who did things other than scream and get taken hostage. A lot has been written about this, particularly by those who lurk in the dark corners of the internet longing for the Good Old Days. The amount of girl cooties that George Miller got all over the film annoyed them no end. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love plenty of action/superhero movies that have mostly male casts. The problem is they all have the same casting pattern. There’s the standard lead guy (or guys, in the case of the Avengers), the big hulking guy, the guys with interesting powers (or male trees or raccoons in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy), and the woman. I realise, coming from a background in physics, that for some men women really are as rare and bizarre as talking raccoons. But I would hope we could manage more than one kickass action movie every 30 years (last one I could think of was Aliens) that has more than a token woman in it.
And I think, if you want to understand why the film got positive reviews from 98% of film critics, that third point is really important. I used to read film reviews in the paper regularly, and when a new film reviewer came in they were always pretty enthusiastic about standard silly action movies. As time passed, their enthusiasm would wane, and they would give higher ratings for indie movies, which I sometimes found quite dull or depressing. But the key thing is, those movies were different. And I’ve started to feel that drag of repetitiveness, particularly for movies in the Marvel universe. They’re all pretty good, but I find them all quite self-similar, like they were cut from a template. Changing the cast away from the standard is one way to avoid this, another is changing the tone (which I thought Guardians of the Galaxy managed to do), and of course you can always come up with a plot so exciting that I’m not going to care (Live Free or Die Hard). For me, now, an action movie has to do something more than follow the standard beats (sorry Dwayne, I’m not going to see San Andreas).
Such as, for example, give you dinosaurs. Today I’m off to see Jurassic World. I’m hoping the mosasaur eats everyone and lives happily ever after, because aquatic dinosaurs are the best.