Blu-ray Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

By , Contributor
George Miller, the visionary filmmaker behind the Mad Max franchise, finally resurrected his long-dormant signature series in the summer of 2015 with Mad Max: Fury Road. The long-gestating project, to which the original Max Rockatansky—Mel Gibson—was originally attached, turned out to be a fairly unqualified success on all levels for the 70-year-old Miller. Though not ridiculously successful at the U.S. box office, its $374 million worldwide take is indeed very strong for a franchise whose most-recent entry (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) hit theaters three decades ago. Perhaps more significantly, the film is comfortably near the top of the best-reviewed movies of the year.

However rapturously received by critics and fans alike, that so-so domestic box office of around $153 million must be at least slightly troubling to Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. They've issued Mad Max: Fury Road on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD with an unusually rapid turnaround (3.5 months after theatrical debut). In fact, it's one of the 2015 summer season’s first movies to hit home video. Strike while the iron is hot, I guess. With 98% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes declaring the film "Fresh," Fury Road seems like a guaranteed home video smash. Director Miller enlisted Tom Hardy to fill the shoes vacated by Gibson as the titular character. Together with a nearly-unrecognizable Charlize Theron as ultra-tough rogue soldier Imperator Furiosa, Max escapes the army led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). What ensues is essentially a sustained, two-hour action sequence.

mm3 (380x253).jpgFury Road continues the post-apocalyptic, dystopian atmosphere seen in the earlier films, albeit more spectacularly realized than ever before. Water and fuel are sparsely-available commodities in this future world. The rust-colored expanse of Earth looks more like the desolation of Mars. Miller keeps the adrenaline flowing freely as we watch Max and company evade Joe's forces. Max begins the film enslaved as a blood donor, forced to keep Joe's soldier Nux (Nicholas Hoult) alive. Furiosa attempts to rescue five women who've been designated "breeders," married off to Joe and basically treated like property. The pacing and overall staging of the action has received near-unanimous praise, but it all feels exceedingly empty, undeveloped, and mechanical.

So while Fury Road impresses from a purely technical standpoint, I found its value to be questionable in terms of giving a darn what is transpiring from a narrative standpoint. There are all kinds of cool visuals, massive dust storms, and punishing collisions as Max's vehicle (and those pursuing him) races along the way to the fabled Green Place. But the abundance of nonstop action and near-total lack of suspense combine for a movie that drifts into tedium during its second half.

mm7 (380x263).jpgWarner Bros. has nothing to hang its head about in terms of delivering a magnificent Blu-ray, as the cinematography by Oscar-winner John Seale (The English Patient) is beautifully rendered in this 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer. The bombastic, ever-busy audio mix is available in Dolby Atmos for those with the capability. The clanging hardware, revving engines, shouted dialogue, and score by Junkie XL create an impressively-defined din in Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless surround.

Fans will appreciate the approximately 80 minutes of featurettes included as supplemental material. "Maximizing Fury," at about 30 minutes, is the most substantial of the rather superficial roster. A further four featurettes offer a relatively well rounded look at the world created by George Miller and his production team. There's also a few deleted scenes (nothing really worth the time it takes to watch; a total of four minutes) and a few minutes of raw tests and other behind-the-scenes footage. The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a DVD and a Digital HD copy.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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