Saturday, May 16, 2015
Miller is in his mid-70's, but you'd never guess watching Fury Road: it's one of the fastest-paced action movies in recent memory. After a start that left me wondering how much I was going to like the film (it takes a few minutes to get your bearings in this strange world), once the accelerator is slammed to the floor, it never lets up until the final credits roll. This time Max is portrayed by Tom Hardy (filling in for Mel Gibson's original role), and though he's clearly up-for-anything, most actors could have played the character--he has less than 30 lines of dialogue (minus grunting), and really ins't the star of this installment. The real star is Imperator Furiosa (a shaved-head, one-armed Charlize Theron), who drives the gasoline-collecting War Rig across the barren landscape.
Furiosa works for King Immortan Joe, who has a cult-like following of Powder lookalikes who are addicted to thoughts of the afterlife and act like crack addicts. At the beginning of the film, Max has been captured by these albino thugs, and he gets thrown in a cage and used as a blood bag for the sickly Nux (Nicholas Hoult, having plenty of fun). Eventually, our Max is strapped to the front of a desert dune buggy and the epic chase (and it is epic, as most of it is with real vehicles and real explosions without an overdose of special effects) begins.
Many film goers are speaking of the feminist aspects of Mad Max: Fury Road, due to the arc of Furiosa and the women that she is trying to help, but I'll stay away from that. The film doesn't delve far enough into that aspect to truly make a case for it. What Fury Road really is: an unrelenting action film that doesn't need a real plot to succeed. Other than Furiosa's plight, Fury Road exists for cars, trucks, buggies and motorcycles to drive incredibly fast, smash into each other and explode, all while racing from one end of the desert and then back again, with characters who are bizarre living in a post-society world created by Miller. And for that, it succeeds: Fury Road is incredibly interesting, and though its not quite completely mind-blowing, mind-blowing is what comes to mind when thinking of the movie studio giving Miller 150 Million dollars and sending him off to the African desert to create a summer blockbuster as funky as this one. (A-)
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Three Marvel movies, two of them solo projects since the last Avengers film, are better than Avengers: Age of Ultron: Iron Man 3, the 2nd Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy. The problem with having film versions of The Avengers is there is not nearly enough screen time for each of the characters--they are all battling for our time and laughs like the Royal Rumble of a WWE match. The great HBO show Game of Thrones for an example: with dozens of characters, we need 10 episode seasons (and sometimes that doesn't even feel like enough) to truly get involved in each character's plight. A two hour and twenty minute Avengers movie, when we get 3 new, significant characters added to the main ones, just isn't enough time. It's a collage of colors and metallic action with not enough new excitement to make much of a dent in the summer movie season.
Yet again, this Avengers at least somewhat focuses on Loki's staff and the power of the Infinity Stone that lies inside of it. Who will harness this power, the Avengers (Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye) or a new Artificial Intelligence known as Ultron that can take over the Internet and anything metal to build an army of Iron Man-esque steel to--you guessed it--try and destroy the world? I think we all know the world isn't going to be destroyed, and most of the tension lies within the characters that are jockeying for screen time.
Reading over this review, I feel like a grumpy old man. No doubt kids in their teens will love Avengers: Age of Ultron, with its bombastic special effects, its attempts at humor, its blasts of action. But damn it if Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn't feel like The Avengers with a new coat of fresh paint. And like a new coat of fresh paint, occasionally Ultron comes to close to the excitement of watching paint dry: a new unexciting villain, a plan to destroy the world, a plot that jumps between a dozen characters with scientific jargon that doesn't make a whole lot of sense: It's got a been-there-done-that feel. At one time, late in the movie, Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye states (I'm paraphrasing), "We're on a city rising into the sky, fighting an army of robots, and I'm using a bow and arrow--this doesn't make much sense". Agreed. (C+)