Mad Max Fury Road Yada Yada

Mad Max: Fury Road is currently playing in theaters

Mad Max Fury Road

 

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Rated R

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.”

Well I suppose it is time to write about Mad Max: Fury Road. I saw this on opening weekend but put off writing about it because I read two near-perfect reviews of it (one on themarysue, one somewhere else) that already said what I wanted to say. Then all of a sudden it was everywhere that Fury Road was a feminist movie (somewhat ironic when you consider that noted misogynist Mel Gibson was the star of the original series).

I really enjoyed that Fury Road used one of my favorite plot devices, a story where the protagonist is not the hero. Here he isn’t even the main character. My other favorite plot device is the unreliable narrator but I digress. Max (Tom Hardy) has very little dialogue and most of that is used up in an initial voiceover to set our stage.

Fury Road goes quite a bit further than the Bechdel test. The women have almost all of the dialogue in the movie and the majority of the time they are speaking to each other. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is our actual hero though the women she is escorting to safety and freedom are heroes as well, with wonderful individual personalities.

The wives of Immortan Joe, our main villain, are all clearly victims of sexual abuse and slavery yet there are no rape or sexual assault scenes in the movie. This movie is how you handle this topic if it needs to be handled – I’m looking at you Game of Thrones. Immortan Joe is actually played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played the villainous Toecutter in the original Mad Max.

The stunts are jaw-dropping. I came out of the movie wondering how many people died making it. I then realized that I didn’t actually want that question answered. There is still quite a bit of supplemental CGI, especially the incredible sandstorm sequence, but the CGI supports the action and doesn’t detract from it.

I also appreciate that creator/writer/director George Miller did not compromise his vision. In a vast sea of carefully neutered PG-13 movies, Fury Road’s R-rating is a welcome sight. Yes, he probably could have trimmed each individual scene of violence down enough to get the coveted PG-13 rating but the vision of the film came before the compromise of the rating.

Fury Road does feature Miller’s fascination with grotesqueries so that may be a bit offputting for some. The prevalent violence and R-rating will deter others. The plot is also very simplistic, just a thin tissue to keep our characters on the move.

Fury Road is a very violent, feminist action movie where the chase scene lasts the entire two hours and I find nothing wrong with that.

Edge of a Million Maleficent Ways to Die Tomorrow in the West

I’ve had quite a banner summer at the theater. Here are just a few quick tidbits.

Maleficent

Maleficent (2014) – Rated PG

A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.”

I both look forward to and cringe with every non-animated re-imagining from Disney. Alice in Wonderland (2010) was a gorgeous confection.but ultimately shallow. Ditto for Oz the Great and Powerful (2013). Maleficent is much the same with CGI replacing plotting and character development. The story neuters the character of Maleficent, one of the great Disney villains.

Having said that, this is an enjoyable ride for the kids and Angelina Jolie IS Maleficent. Her performance at least partially redeems the movie.

A Million Ways to Die

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014) – Rated R

As a cowardly farmer begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gun-slinger, announces his arrival.”

The Good: It is way funnier than Neighbors and Neil Patrick Harris is always delightful.

The Bad: It is just okay. Ted was much funnier. Joke delivery could use some work – it is pretty laconic, much like the Old West.

The Ugly: While trying to be edgy, it tells endless penis and fart jokes. The western setting may be offputting for some, tired for others.

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) – Rated PG-13

An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy.”

Groundhog Day is a fantastic movie, heartwarming and funny. The concept is so beloved that many television series have produced their own version. The X-Files and Star Trek: TNG had time loop episodes, albeit played seriously. Xena had perhaps the funniest Groundhog Day episode. In spite of it being a tired concept, it has worked time and time again (forgive me).

My dear wife and I went to Edge of Tomorrow with little in the way of expectations. Tom Cruise’s science fiction thriller last year, Oblivion, was decent but a missed opportunity. Edge of Tomorrow is fantastic. Jenny and I couldn’t stop laughing through the first half of the movie as Cruise’s soldier character dies repeatedly.

Aliens Attack! Prometheus Edition

Prometheus infuriates me. The more I think about this movie, the madder I get.

Prometheus (2012) – Rated R

“A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race. “

First off let me state that I will keep most plot points as vague as possible since much of the enjoyment of this movie is from how it unfolds.

Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is the nominal star here as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. She does a fine job and has a good physicality as our Sigourney Weaver replacement.

She is overshadowed at every turn by the real star of the film. Michael Fassbender has an incredibly playful turn as our resident android, David. Every time I see Fassbender, his performance is completely different from the last movie and makes me look forward to his next gig. Equally impressive was Charlize Theron as corporate boss Meredith Vickers. She was tough, in charge, and yet made you question her motives.

The rest of the cast is good but largely wasted. Guy Pearce is Peter Weyland, the head of Weyland-Yutani, hidden under much age makeup. Idris Elba is Captain Yanek who has a small but integral role. Both actors clearly have scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor.

The acting is probably the only aspect of this film that I didn’t have quibbles with.

Ridley Scott directed two of the greatest science fiction films ever made: Alien and Blade Runner. Both created vibrant, realistic worlds where it was clear that the story being told was just one of many that could be told. He also recreated, to marvelous effect, the worlds of ancient Rome (Gladiator) and the Middle East during the Crusades (Kingdom of Heaven) as well as the greatest film ever made on modern combat, Black Hawk Down.

I was ecstatic when I heard that he was finally returning to the world of science fiction, and that it would be an Alien prequel no less. Next to Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, Prometheus was the film I was most looking forward to this year.

Prometheus has many great scenes but it has an equal number of clunky ones. The first hour is a fairly effective science fiction epic. Here are a number of things that bothered me to distraction:

* As Neil DeGrasse Tyson pointed out, Meredith Vickers (Theron) states in the film that they are a half billion miles from Earth, which would only put them just past Jupiter.

* A minor character comes to Dr. Shaw and has a major expository speech to sum up and move the plot forward. The problem with this is that that character not only has no knowledge of what he’s saying but also has no particular reason to be saying it to Dr. Shaw. More than one scene must have been cut.

* The first scene in the film is completely superfluous and doesn’t make sense in the larger narrative as the information is reused later. I can only think they used it because it looked cool.

* The final twenty seconds of film are absolutely shameless and again have no context within the narrative. It actually smacks of post-production tampering.

* Either the screenwriting was terrible or a heap of scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Never mind, the answer must actually be both. Characters act with knowledge that they don’t appear to have and then ignore really important information that is right in front of them.

* After a particularly devastating attack, there is no discussion among the remaining crew and no real handling of it. It seemed as if the scene was spliced in from another movie.

* Characters consistently make decisions dictated by the script rather than reality.

* Lots more but it would involve spoilers

In spite of all of the above, the movie is definitely worth seeing. It is just infuriating because it could easily have been a masterpiece. Acting is fine (Rapace, Elba) – great (Fassbender, Theron), the special effects and scenery are amazing, and the plot is pretty decent.

People Watch: Look for Patrick Wilson in a brief cameo as Dr. Shaw’s father.