The much-delayed and long-awaited fourth movie in George Miller’s popular Mad Max series comes blazing into cinemas not only as a blinding apocalyptic masterpiece but also as a practical effects showcase to disgrace the twenty years of lazy, shoddy CGI that came before it… and, perhaps most surprisingly, as a sly feminist action movie.
Tom Hardy’s tough, gruff and reliable Max takes something of a back seat - when he’s not being used by the bad guys as a hood ornament as they race into sandstorms and dust clouds - to Charlize Theron’s band of sisters looking for the promised land somewhere on a scorched earth. The feminist commentary is there in spades without needing to be trumpeted: the sense of shame amid the ruins of a dead planet are highlighted visually through the hordes of cancerous, bellicose men and their leather-clad gimps withholding life-giving water from the masses, and indeed only a line or two is required to make the point that it wasn’t women who killed the planet: they are its clear salvation.
The action scenes - and let’s face it, this movie is one big action scene - both build on the practical effects of the gutsy 70s and 80s and put to shame a growing number of recent films that have leant heavily on the CGI maxim: "if we can imagine it, we can do it." Audiences have grown tired of bouncy, digital humans defying gravity and impossible vehicular moves created in a computer: action films like Die Hard 4.0 spring to mind, and for some years franchises like The Fast and The Furious and Tarantino’s Death Proof have extolled the virtue and the need for some real metal-crunching, tyre-popping practical effects to create, ironically, a reality that has been missing from this kind of escapism for too long. Fury Road is a place where you can tell it would be dangerous to find yourself, as the scores of missing limbs and eyes testify: each and every stunt looks like it would hurt. Even JJ Abrams is going all-out for as many real ships and sets as he can with the new Star Wars films, recognising that the prequel trilogy lumbered the space series with an uncomfortable, clinical artificiality.
Fury Road is the benchmark that all action movies now need to live up to: audaciously realised action sequences that look like the crew just went out into the desert with a bunch of souped-up cars (and for the most part they did: 90% of the effects in the film are practical); a sparing script of good versus evil - or rather total madness versus common sense - and beautiful, shocking, eye-popping scenes that leave you breathless and feeling like you’ve been bruised and battered.
Mad Max: Fury Road (cert 15) is screening at City Screen York at these times in 2D: Sunday 17 May at 15:45, 17:50 and 20:50 Monday 18 May at 13:15, 15:10, 18:00 and 21:00 Tuesday 19 May at 12:20, 15:25, 18:15 and 21:05 Wednesday 20 May at 12:50, 15:55 and 21:05 (also in 3D at 18:10) Thursday 21 May at 18:05 and 21:00 (also as a Silver Screen Over 60s showing at 12:35 and 15:20) Tickets are available ONLINE, at the box office on Coney Street or by calling 0871 902 5726