Review: Mad Max: Fury Road and Avengers 2

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road and Avengers 2

Mad Max: Fury Road


4.5 out of 5 stars

Mad Max: Fury Road is some kind of movie magic trick. It manages to squeeze out an hour and fifty minutes of white-knuckle-tense thrills, in which we inexplicably care for its characters, after only 10 minutes of exposition. It’s the most economically built blockbuster I’ve ever seen, a two-hour balls-to-the-wall chase scene that builds the audience’s bond with the characters strictly through its insanely intricate and beautifully edited action set-pieces.

Much has been written about the film’s feminist leanings, and it would be a mistake not to note them—the hijacking of the protagonist spot by one-armed rebel Furiosa (an instantly iconic Charlize Theron) and its plot of smuggling out virginally dressed wives who are constantly called property and objects by their abusers clearly show that the blueprint pinning the movie together is a decidedly feminist one. But fear not, men’s rights champions (except maybe fear the public’s increasingly hostile attitude to your increasingly fringe beliefs), because this movie doesn’t preach so much as it proves its thesis through explosions, fist fights, motorcycles, grenades, electric guitars (with flamethrowers attached), and terse, purely practical dialogue. In an era when blockbusters constantly get bogged down with explaining their own convoluted mythologies (see below), Mad Max harkens back to movies like Bullitt and even the more recent The Raid: Redemption, in that the story is a vehicle to the choreography of the fights rather than the fights being a way to link the beats of a story together.

See this one in theaters, because a movie like this made on such a massive studio scale might not come around until director George Miller decides to come out of the woodwork again. And judging by his track record, that could be a long, long time. Until then, we have an endlessly inventive, wondrously choreographed movie disguised as a dumb, Rob Zombie-esque apocalypse picture. It may be dumb, but the people who made it are not, and they know how to make something dumb into something beautiful.

Avengers: Age of Ultron 


2.5 out of 5

As the second vaguely subtitled title of the week, Avengers: Age of Ultron works well in a double-feature to Mad Max, if only to underline that movie’s brilliance. It’s not that this new Avengers is bad, per se—it’s got a multitude of interesting scenes, a handful of engaging fights, and more injected humor than you could imagine crammed into its exhausting two and a half hour frame.

After an opening fight scene that sets up the new characters, who are so boring that I will not waste time outlining, Avengers whisks us away to the new Avengers headquarters, where several subplots are set up and explained endlessly. I don’t think 10 seconds goes by in this movie without someone explaining something.

The studio’s clashes with visionary blockbuster director Joss Whedon are well-documented, and that tension comes across in the movie, which seems to be two things at once—a bloated, boring link between the pre-Ultron Marvel marketing universe and the post-Ultron Marvel marketing universe, and also an interesting exploration on the ridiculousness of a bunch of guys dressed up fighting bad guys. The latter starts firing on all cylinders during a few fight scenes with some imaginative quips, and especially in the quieter scenes, where all of the Avengers are just, well, hanging out. It doesn’t bode well for the film that these scenes are few and far between, especially when large chunks of the film are clearly just setting up future installments.

I felt a little cheated on my way out from this movie. The superhero genre has reached its point of no return, having been so inundated into mainstream American culture that it could be called our national film genre. Whether or not it begins its dwindling process or reaches new heights will be decided by which of the two movies that Age of Ultron is trying to be takes over. Guardians of the Galaxy proved that people want more humor and heart than mythology and explanation—but tell that to Marvel Studios, who has a financial stake in making sure that people are well-oiled for the next trip to the theater. I don’t know about everyone else, but the thought of Thor 3 already has me yawning. Unfortunately, so does the thought of the next Avengers movie.

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