Long time readers of this site will probably recognize how I feel about re-makes. In the right cases and in the right hands, I’m ok with them. I guess my personal philosophy is that if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. Having been a casual fan of the original Mad Max trilogy, I won’t say that the franchise was in need of a reboot or a new installment or whatever this movie is supposed to represent. But when I learned that the original director, George Miller, would once again helm the production then I was instantly ok with it. Yes, my life has several double standards like that. It’s bliss. The original put a young actor by the name of Mel Gibson on the map and though Gibson has had his troubles in recent years, it’s hard to deny that he made his mark on Hollywood. Jumping forward three decades, we’ve got a new slew of actors though in the mix is a Best Actress winner and a man who needs no introduction to action films. Nevertheless, we’re once again going back to post apocalyptic Australia and the endless search for water. That sound you hear is the motor revving up and the road ahead is the two hour surge of adrenaline you’ll get along the way.
The plot isn’t exactly difficult to understand as we meet Max (Tom Hardy), a loner wandering through the wasteland who is haunted by his turbulent past. He becomes swept up with a group fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by an elite Imperator, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who, along with some precious cargo, are escaping a Citadel tyrannized by the Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Max and Furiosa form an uneasy alliance to unite against their common enemy and trying to save their respective necks along the way. Of course, it’s not always as easy as it might seem as they’ve got to deal with Nux (Nicholas Hoult), someone trying to earn the favor of Immortan Joe, but who also might see the error of his ways. Will Max and Furiosa be able to escape the army that pursues them or are they destined to a most unsavory death?
Never let it be said that a movie needs to be complicated (needlessly so) to be good. This is probably one of the easiest movies to decipher in terms of a plot line, but it works on several levels. What could be construed as paper thin characters by some are very interesting and dynamic ones here. No doubt Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult and Charlize Theron are all capable performers, and that shows in what we see on screen. The film is among the best reviewed of the year and with good reason – it delivers everything that we would expect it to. When so many films out there are mindless remakes or endless superhero movies, its a refreshing change of pace to see something like this. Granted, this won’t be for everyone, but it’s the icing on the cake that George Miller came back to helm yet another Mad Max film. What’s really got me scratching my head is that this same gentleman also directed 2006’s Happy Feet. Now tell me how that makes any sense?
Video: How’s it look?
This new set gives us two different versions of the movie, the standard Blu-ray version is the same as we’ve seen. And if ever there was a movie (or movie franchise) that epitomized “earthy tones” more so than the Mad Max films, I’d like to see it. Set in the vast wasteland that is Australia, we’re treated to more brownish tones than I think I’ve ever seen in a film. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image oozes with detail and immerses the viewer in a top notch HD image. Detail is, as expected, amazing, we can see the fine delineation in the tattoos, the grime on Charlize Theron’s forehead and everything in between. One thing that really made the movie stand out was the seamless integration of the CGI effects (the film was intentionally shot with as few as possible) meshed in with the live action film. This creates a stunning effect that brings the movie to life (if you will).
The second disc contains a black and white version of the movie. It’s the same movie, mind you, just minus the color of the first disc. Admittedly it’s a pretty different experience watching this in black and white. And I hesitate to use “black and white” as much as I am, since this is a much more polarized version with much more contrast. I suppose that’s why they settled on “black and chrome” for the official title. As Miller states in his introduction, some scenes benefit from this and others don’t. I will say that it gives the movie a much more unique look and feel, though the colorized version is pretty stylized. With the loss of color, I felt I wasn’t “distracted” as much by some of what was going on in some scenes. I was able to focus on the faces more, the subtle nuances and it brought me a bit more into the movie. Granted everyone’s opinion will differ, so if this is your thing it’s nice to have a black and white version there and if not – you’ve got a color version on the other disc.
Audio: How’s it sound?
For a while, DTS HD Master Audio had a run on the market when it came to Blu-ray soundtracks just as Dolby Digital did with DVD’s. It would appear that the tide is starting, ever so slightly, to turn. As more and more titles start to feature a Dolby Atmos track, Mad Max: Fury Road is the latest in the mix (pardon the pun). Granted, for those that don’t have a receiver that can decode this track, it defaults down to a “lowly” Dolby TrueHD mix. Whatever way you listen to this film, I can assure you that you won’t go wrong. The action begins just after the Warner logo and really doesn’t stop until the ending credits. Yes, this is a two hour action movie that rarely stops to take a breath. Gunfire, car chases, bombs blowing up and everything in between – this has them all. Vocals are rich and pure, even pushing aside Tom Hardy’s lines which sound kind of muzzled though, to his character’s credit, he is wearing a muzzle through most of the film. Like the video presentation, this is simply a definitive example of what a HD soundtrack should sound like.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road – As the title entails, this is a pretty robust look at the production of the film with some emphasis on the visual elements. Stunt work (of which there was a LOT) is also profiled as well as the aforementioned use of as little CGI as possible. It’s a step above the usual talking heads with some behind the scenes footage featurette – this one really seems to work.
Mad Max: Fury on Four Wheels – This twenty minute segment focuses on the cars and trucks, if you can call them that, used in the film. We get a look at how some of the automobiles were conceived, designed and built and their use in the final product.
The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa – The two leads, played by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, give us their take on the work they did for the film, getting into their respective characters and the direction of George Miller. Both seem pretty humbled to have been a part of the movie and thought the shoot sounded grueling, both seem to think it was well worth it.
The Tools of the Wasteland – Not all of the focus was on the cars in the film, but rather some of the unique weapons and other assorted materials used in the film. This might be the first time I’ve seen a guitar player perched on the front of a car with flames coming out of the end. Credit that to the art department which certainly made its mark on the film with some of their rather unique and obscure creations.
The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome – About the only characters in the movie that we can construe as “good looking” the five wives are profiled here. There’s not a lot to report, each tell of their respective characters as well as some of the things they did to get into the story and made the most of their respective roles.
Fury Road: Crash & Smash – If you liked the destruction in the movie, then this is it on the most basic level. Contained in this short segment are some raw, pre-production test crashes. It’s nothing fancy, but you can really get a sense as to how much post production can add to a scene.
Deleted Scenes – Three total, all in fairly rough format and none of which really added anything of note to the film (I’d say that’s why they were cut).
Introduction by George Miller – The only new supplements comes on the second disc in the form of an introduction. Director George Miller tells us how, when shooting Mad Max 2 back in the early 80’s, he saw a version of it in black and white (while working with composer Brian May) and how he’d always wanted to see Mad Max in black and white. Cut to the new film and his vision is finally realized and he freely admits that some scenes look better and others…not so much, but ultimately leaves it to the viewer to decide which version they like better.
The Bottom Line
Touting a near perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, Mad Max: Fury Road is essentially non-stop action for most of its 120 minute running time. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are in top form and the disc sports reference-quality audio and video. There are no shortages of this movie on any format. We’ve got the standard Blu-ray version, a 3D version an Ultra HD version and now this “Black and Chrome” version. Pick your poison.