Mad Max: Fury Road is like much summer fare and looks to be a reboot of an old franchise. The first “Mad Max” movie was made in 1979.
Many summer movies are just that: an old movie, an old story, done up with new special effects and new stars.
This movie is different. It is directed by the original director, George Miller, who also co-wrote the movie. Miller gives a movie seemingly short on exposition but long on action. You will find no more action-packed movie this summer than this one. You also will be hard pressed to find a movie with less dialogue.
But there is more. Much more.
Miller presents a world where the rich dominate the poor and the poor have no real hope. It is a world where crazed religious zealots long for opportunities to die in an honorable way to go to Valhalla. There are people looking for hope. In one scene a women taken away from the despot, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), is seen with her hands together in prayer. When asked what she is doing she replies, “Praying.” The next question is, “To who?” Her reply is, “Anyone who’s listening.”
At the beginning of the movie we meet Max Rocatansky (Tom Hardy). He tells us in the narration he was once a police officer: “I was a cop searching for a righteous course.” Max is a fallen man.
He ends up literally as a blood bag for Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of the warboys, the zealots of Immortan Joe. Max is tied to the front of Nux’s car as the zealots race to overcome Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Furiosa has stolen Immortan Joe’s breeding women and is taking them to safety. All of Immortan Joe’s forces roar out after her.
Max frees himself and joins Furiosa. What follows is a ride into the waste land of scorched earth after the Apocalypse. And in that journey we learn the only thing these women want is the hope of a new life. All except for Furiosa.
Furiosa declares that what she wants is redemption. Max is offered his chance but in the end does not take it. He is the kind of man who redemption does not seem to fit well.
Mad Max: Fury Road has all the motifs and archetypes of a classic Western. There is the loner who is going through life looking for something worthwhile to give himself to. He meets a woman who is trying to find a better life for herself and her fellows. There is a range boss, a man of power who wields it to maintain control. And there is a young man who needs to learn lessons of life that only come by the hard ride into the places where life exists past the liminal margins.
For those of us in the church, this movie opens a conversation with those who do not believe. It speaks of the desire for hope and redemption. Where does one find that? Is it behind the wheel of some cobbled together super-powered vehicle? Or is it found in making the journey of servanthood and service to people, like the women Furiosa ferries through the desert, who are looking for the same thing?
The character of Max reminds me of that song by U2. He has gone through the journey, but there is something still missing. He still has not found what he is looking for.
George Miller crafts one of the finest movies done this year. It crackles with life and the desire of all humans to find something more than just “this petty pace from day to day.” The movie asks us to think of something greater than the desire to have more and more of life’s stores. It asks us if we have a hope and if we have found redemption.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
Directed by George Miller
Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris
With: Tom Hardy (Max Rocktansky), Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa), Nicholas Hoult (Nux), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Immortan Joe), Zoe Kravitz (Toast the Knowing), Rosie Huntington-Whitely (Splendid), Riley Keough (Capable), Abbey Lee (The Dag)