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How to make an action movie boring: Mad Max Fury Road

Okay, I have to take back some of my criticisms of The Road Warrior.  For all its flaws, that is a far better film than Mad Max Fury Road.

I approached this film with an open mind, but right from the start it set my teeth on edge.

Apparently, George Miller has the same problem as George Lucas: given an unlimited budget and three decades to think over an iconic series, both of them have no idea what actually made the things work.

Thus: Miller 'reimagines' Mad Max as a guy who is emotionally crippled but physically invulnerable.   What this means is that at crucial moments where Max can solve a problem, he will fail due to a flashback but that's okay because he's so unrealistically tough that he will get through it just fine.

This in turn destroys dramatic tension because nothing is at stake and so all one has left is to watch a very long special effects demo reel.

This brings us to the other problem: totally uninteresting characters.  I'm trying to think of any time where the cast has to make a decision about something, a moment where there's a non-event driven discussion (i.e. it isn't sandwiched in an F/X sequence).  I can't come up with one.

While the earlier movies have cool action scenes, they also feature actual drama, where the characters talk to each other and debate what they should do without driving or shooting or whatever.  These sequences give the audience a chance to get to know the cast and also serve to heighten the dramatic tension since we can now anticipate some action.

Fury Road has zero character development.  Charlize Theron's character is completely uninteresting.  She literally is reduced (like so many characters these days) into the standard-issue "diversity points" of being female and having a prosthetic hand.

That's it.  No personality to speak of because by 2015, checking the diversity boxes was considered enough.

Ironically, in 1985 that wasn't enough.  Tina Turner isn't just an "empowered black woman," she's fascinating to watch.  Her lair, her manner of speech and the fact that she has a court blues sax player - all of these make her much more interesting than Theron's character.

The other issue with the film is that it's just completely improbable in terms of the scale and type of facilities the bad guys use.  Where does the water come from?  How do they pump it up and out of those pipes with such pressure?  What do the bucket people do when it doesn't flow, just sit there and be thirsty?

Also: who maintains these roads in the middle of nowhere?  A big sandstorm would completely cover them and there are no markers so that they can be dug out afterwards.

Another sour note: they finally put religion into a Mad Max film and it's some oddball Norse crap that serves as the opiate of the masses.  So predictable.

These may seem pedantic complaints, but the more fantastic one makes a setting, the less investment people have in it - especially when the characters are so bland.

Finally, I have an issue with the whole Handmaid's Tale thing, which is supposed to empower women, except when it wants them wearing flimsy, transparent clothes that leave nothing to the imagination.  They are fleeing across the desert.  Maybe extra clothes could have been included?  Just throwing that out there.

Taken as a whole, I was pretty bored by the end.  Even the soundtrack was bland.

 

 

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