I recently rewatched Mad Max: Fury Road and was shocked by how much of it I remembered. I had only seen it once before and rewatching it a few months later made me really happy. I was hungover and felt a bit down so wanted something familiar that wasn’t too taxing. You can criticise Mad Max for lacking story or any quality writing but, firstly, that’s not true and secondly the film isn’t trying to do those things. I don’t want this post to turn into a review of sorts but aspects of that will be unavoidable because I wanted to explain why Mad Max: Fury Road is the best film to come out in recent memory, not so much because it was amazing, but because everything else is terrible.
I might as well get the “review” of Mad Max out of the way. The writing is actually very impressive, particularly since it didn’t have to be any good as that’s not why people wanted to see Mad Max. It has a whole lore behind it that is heavily based on Norse mythology that also wasn’t overbearing like people find in other fantasy or sci-fi films (in fact I highly recommend looking at this if you’re interested) You can’t talk about characters without also mentioning the design as a lot of information about each character can be gleaned from just looking at them. Max himself, for example, is a drifter that tries to stay out of the trouble the film is based around and people can see this in his protective and practical outfit and rugged appearance, but, because he was the protagonist, the designers were actually quite reserved with his design which is very obvious when you compare him with the other lead: Furiosa, or with the antagonists. Immortan Joe. Needless to say, everyone and everything is warlike and intended to look intimidating.
The actual story, one might claim, is boring but, just because it is straightforward, doesn’t mean that. This where comparisons come in because Mad Max, I think, has one of the best stories for a film in the last five years. I’m bored of seeing book adaptations, especially since many butcher the book’s originality and intelligence in the interest of selling tickets, and I’m bored of seeing “original” stories using The Hero’s Journey and not doing anything with it. It’s fine to have generic stories, cinema wouldn’t have gotten very far without them, but it’s gotten to the point in the last five years where they make up 80% of films released, and that’s being optimistic. Superhero films all follow the same plot, love stories all follow the same plot, comedies are lucky if they even have a plot. I think cinema is worried, really worried, by the rise of Youtube and online entertainment and so they are just producing crowd pleasers but, if someone has already seen 6 action films in the last 6 months then they might want something new from their cinema experience when they look around to going a 7th time. Cinema should be looking for things like this that appeal to lots of people but do something new.
I can’t explain the example without spending half an hour on it so I’ll just say that Southpaw is trying to be the new Rocky without understanding why Rocky was good and without understanding why it isn’t worth seeing. I’ll summarise the story with the phrase “revenge plot that involves boxers.” I thought that I was really going to enjoy that film, and it was a 7.8 on IMDB, which sparked my earlier “numerical opinions,” post, but it was just bland all the way through. Mad Max has better everything than Southpaw: characters, design, story, writing. I struggle to find an equivalent example.