Rave-gush reviews of Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros., 5.15) popped early this morning from five trade critics — The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy, Variety‘s Justin Chang, Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn, TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde and Hitfix‘s Drew McWeeny. The basic consensus is that George Miller‘s imaginative, single-minded ingenuity and relentlessness has resulted in a crafty, gold-standard action thriller. Get it, crank it, lap it up.
Mad Max: Fury Road poster on rue de Rivoli — Sunday, 5.10, 10:15 pm.
Will the wait-and-see schmoes turn Fury Road into the megahit it deserves to be? Maybe but who knows? The audience that swooned over Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron can be curiously averse to quality. They like what they like, want what they want and don’t wanna know from ivory-tower elites. They’re also just small enough in the cranium to say to themselves, “Hmmm, James Wan…crazy dude, one of us, gets the 2015 thing, likes to use close-ups of girls’ asses…but who the hell is this 70 year-old director named George Miller?”
I was told by Warner Bros. that the embargo would break on Tuesday, 5.12 at 12 noon Pacific. I was planning on writing my review on tomorrow’s Paris-to-Cannes train and posting at 9 pm sharp. That’s what I’m still planning to do. I’ll have to get up at 5 am (9 and 1/2 hours from now) to make the 7:19 am train, and between three laptops I’m figuring I’ll have enough battery time to bang something out.
For now I’m posting the first three graphs of McCarthy’s review with supplementary comments:
“Thirty years after surviving Thunderdome, the reluctant warrior of modern movies’ first and most memorable post-apocalyptic action fantasy series is finally back and ready for more in Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller has directed only five films in that time — three of which starred pigs and penguins — but it can safely be said that this madly entertaining new action extravaganza energetically kicks more ass, as well as all other parts of the anatomy, than any film ever made by a 70-year-old — and does so far more skillfully than those turned out by most young turks half his age.”
HE comment: Absolutely true. Miller stands heads and shoulders above most younger action directors because he lives for the kind of craft and exactitude and devotion to classic chops that has died out among the youngers. Miller seriously believes in realism and perfect rhythm and spatial relationships and all that old-farty stuff.
“Although the earlier entries were made before the target audience for this one was even born (its new leading man was just a baby when the first one was released), Mad Max has lingered in the zeitgeist through the years, and a fair portion of the international public that has just wound down from Furious 7 will be happy to suck in the fumes from this equally action-packed and infinitely superior film.”
HE comment: In predicting that “a fair portion” of Furious 7 fans will go for Fury Road, McCarthy is obviously implying that some of them won’t. A percentage might actually say “not wild enough…where’s the really crazy stuff?…and why isn’t there more CGI? You know, guys jumping off 150-foot cliffs and gliding like birds in the air and…you know, crazy shit like that. The kind of material we would’ve gotten from James Wan.”
“One could plausibly observe that Fury Road is basically The Road Warrior on a new generation of steroids, and no doubt some critics will leave it at that; like the second and best film in the series, this one is mostly devoted to maniacal anarchic goons chasing Max and his small group of rebels across a scenically parched desert and leaving some of the most spectacularly destroyed vehicles ever seen in their dust. The new film certainly boasts a higher percentage of flat-out amazing action than any of its predecessors, and that’s probably enough said for most of its potential audience.”
HE comment: Detecting the tone of condescension? Fury Road is a crazier, more pumped-up, faster-moving action flick than the Max films released in ’85, ’82 and ’79, and McCarthy is plainly wishing there was a bit more interior stuffing, a bit more down time, more character-driven drama, more post-apocalyptic gallows humor (“Remember lingerie?”). But he’s also thinking “this is what the mob wants these days or rather what Miller had to make in order to engage their appetites. He had to cut it faster, include faster action, keep it pumping and pounding….and he’s done that with great style and an immaculate sense of craft.”