**CAUTION – SPOILERS**
“Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of our better selves.”
-The First History Man
George Miller’s Fury Road is the most progressive, thematically subversive, studio-funded blockbuster I’ve ever seen. Last weekend, upon first viewing, I was totally overwhelmed and gob-smacked by the intense physicality of the production; it felt as if my eye-balls were melting. Today’s second viewing has confirmed it: The is not only the best action movie of my lifetime, but it’s easily one of the best, most visually creative, and all together absorbing films – in any genre – that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Now that I knew what to expect from this beast on a narrative and physics-defying level, I was able to really sit back and allow the story, of which there’s plenty, to wash over me, along with those pulse-pounding visuals matched by the thoroughly amazing musical score, instead of just staring in slack-jawed amazement at the screen. This is the most disciplined summer movie that I can think of, not a hair over two hours, knowing exactly when to call it quits, ending on a narratively satisfying note that doesn’t require a sequel to be fully pleased with. It’s also, without question, one of the finest (and most overt) Anti-Religion statements to come out of Hollywood in a long while; Miller clearly shows a disdain for the notion of blind worship, and it’s exhilarating to see all of the pieces come crashing down around Immortan Joe, a brilliant creation that seems like a visual and sonic hybrid of Darth Vader and Bane with all sorts of psychological internal logic that’s gone greatly askew. This is the strangest movie ever to carry such a lofty price-tag, and when coupled with the decidedly adult R-rating, it’s a film that boldly changes the game for all other impending spectacles. I’ve grown increasingly tired of the Marvelization of action films, with the PG-13 rating blurring the line repeatedly between honesty and disservice – give me something that grabs me by the balls (and heart) like Fury Road any day of the week over the latest exploits of computer-crafted superheroes who constantly need to deliver a joke at the end of all the mayhem.
Miller shrewdly uses CGI only in spots that are absolutely necessary (the sand-storm, body replacement, crowds of extras), and even more so than the first time, the stunt work and assorted acts of bodily insanity are positively transfixing to behold. This movie is bonkers at all times, showing you sights that you’ve never seen before – and to be honest – why else should we be going to the movies other than to see something new and exciting and potentially unhinged from the cookie-cutter norm. And when Miller unleashes his big CGI money shot right at the close of the final action scene, it’s all the more impressive and allowable, because he’s gone out of his way NOT to bombard you with stuff that takes you out of the reality of the situation. Even during the big sand-storm set-piece, there’s a surreality to the visuals that cancels out any feelings of artificiality; it’s here that Miller embraces the pop-art aspects of comic-book-inspired filmmaking and takes it to the extreme, way past the next level, practically inventing new levels along the way. But Miller isn’t just content to slam us with insane action scenes – he demands that we pay attention to the kinky subtext and surreal flights of fancy. Those lactating obese women chained up to produce gallons upon gallons of “Mother’s Milk;” the Crazy Electric Guitar Guy who serves as a version of a Revolutionary War-era bugle boy who just so happens to be wearing a mask made from the facial skin of his dead mother (or so said an interview/article I just read…); the willowy and sad “stilt-people” who are glimpsed during that eerie mid-film sequence bathed in varying shades of desert nighttime blue, suggesting years of forgotten starvation; the extrication of a dead fetus from its recently slain mother, a woman who would rather have been killed (along with her unborn child) if it meant that she’d have to spend any more time under the power of Immortan Joe – this is a filmmaker who threw it ALL in there, and it all adds up to a wild explosion for the eyes, ears, and brain.
The final 30 minutes are tantamount to the best extended action scene ever devised, inviting a sense of awe and loony madcap into the proceedings which felt cut from the same exuberant cloth that Miller’s masterful Babe: Pig in the City originated from; the bad guys swaying back and forth on those long pogo-sticks are a dead ringer for Babe and all of his animal friends swinging from the rafters of the grand ball-room at during the wild climax of Pig in the City. The editing by Miller’s wife, Margaret Sixel, is beyond incredible to witness, as thousands of cuts rush before your eyes yet still retaining a coherent fluidity, not to mention an extreme emphasis being placed on geography and spatial distance between characters and objects. Exposition is close to non-existent, backstory is conveyed visually, hokey dialogue is kept to a minimum, and the primal, internal method-acting stylings of Tom Hardy brilliantly counterbalance the unleashed ferocity and fuck-it-all-attitude of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, who will go down in history as one of the greatest action heroes of all time. Sick and tired of seeing the five captured women being raped and humiliated (because, after all, that’s what these women are – rape victims), she says enough is enough, and kicks anyone’s ass who comes into contact with her. Nicholas Hoult is spectacular, even more so on second glimpse, as an alliance shifting Warboy, a slave to Immortan Joe, who really loves to spray that silver paint in his mouth to get that one last high right before he heads off to Valhalla. I fucking LOVED this movie on every single level. You have your head in the sand if you’re ignoring this monumental piece of cinema. As I said last weekend – cancel the rest of the summer movie season because nothing will be this show-stopping, this visceral, this in your face. Miller has bitched-slapped everyone. The contempt that he shows for the ideas of mass worship were bracing and awesome for a non-believer such as myself, and I loved how the unrelenting energy of the entire film extends from one scene to the next, even when the story is clearly trying to catch its breath, which is a nearly impossible task. John Seale’s radiant and eye-popping cinematography at times recalls the work of David Lean, shooting vistas with a master’s touch, and then getting up close and personal to the vehicular destruction and carnage that is so lovingly displayed in real-time with real stunt men and women and real explosions and real debris and real sand and real smoke by people who seemingly could have cared less for their safety. Make no mistake – I’ll see this film again for a third time in theaters.