Now, I enjoyed AVENGERS 2: GIVE DISNEY ANOTHER BILLION DOLLARS and it’s perfectly fine as another piece of the Marvel movie assault on the galaxy.
It’s just that I wouldn’t happily head to the theater tonight to watch it again, while I will go back to see MAD MAX: FURY ROAD with friends who’ve yet to see it.
And I’m not alone: critics are going nuts for MAD MAX, with 98 percent of them loving it on Rotten Tomatoes vs. 74 percent giving the thumbs up for AVENGERS 2.
The New York Flipping Times wrote a glowing review of MAD MAX. That’s nuts.
Why is the Australian underdog kicking the pants off the greatest collection of box-office superheroes ever assembled?
6) Beautiful cinematography
There’s nothing wrong about AVENGERS 2. It’s a big romp in the park, full of special effects and explosions.
Except that’s nothing new. There’s no new ground broken here. You’ve seen it before in IRON MAN, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA and the first Avengers movie. Good special effects are expected.
The only way to shock us with Avenger movies is to show us something really, really special.
MAD MAX is a different story. Hear me now and believe me later in the week: this film could should will win an Oscar for Best Cinematography.
I remember watching THE ENGLISH PATIENT and being blown away by the gorgeous shots of the desert. Hated the story. Wouldn’t see it again if you offered a suitcase stuffed with purple euros. However: that film is nothing compared to the shots in MAD MAX.
This is a gorgeous movie, start to finish. Just beautiful.
5) Killer action
Audiences today suffer from CGI fatigue. They know directors have entire server rooms of supercomputers churning out lightsabers, Iron Man suits, robot armies and enough explosions to make Michael Bay die of joy.
No matter how realistic the CGI gets, you still now it’s not real people flying around and blowing up half of Manhattan.
Real effects hit you harder.
MAD MAX feels real, even though I know they used CGI to give Charlize Theron a prosthetic arm. But if they used it in action shots, I couldn’t tell you where. It feels gritty and very, very real, probably because they built all those cars and motorcycles and actually ran them around the deserts of Australia.
4) Deadly suspense
I never truly worry about any of the Avengers dying. Nobody is ever really in danger.
That makes it a romp, and sure, romps are fun to watch. There’s simply no tension to them. You know exactly who’ll win. The only question is how they’ll dispatch Ultron: a smash from Thor’s hammer or dismemberment via Hulk?
With MAD MAX, I had no idea what would happen and who would die. Zero. There was suspense out the wazoo, which makes you pay more attention and care more, because every character was a risk to be gone the next minute.
3) A truly scary villain
Ultron was a bit of a clown with all of his one-liners. Not scary.
Despite his age and lack of superpowers, Immortan Joe is creepy, scary and vicious. He’s a true villain, one you’ll remember.
And unlike Ultron, who is destined to fail from the start, Immortan Joe is on top and looks to stay that way. It would be a victory for Mad Max and his rebels to simply escape Immortan Joe’s clutches.
2) Top-notch acting
Most action movies have some of the worst acting on the planet, because that’s the last thing you typically care about in this films. Do aliens get blown up? Great. Let’s go.
They also feature stunt casting, like putting a famous actor as the villain and a martial arts / MMA star as the lead, so when they kick butt, it looks more realistic than stunt doubles doing all the work.
EXPENDABLES takes this to the extreme and throws in every again action star Sylvester Stallone has ever met, which tends to make the storylines a mess.
When you go down the line on action movies, the acting gets worse and worse until you’ve got extras who act like they have no idea there’s a camera rolling at all. Oh, I’m a minion? Okay, me and the other 300 minions will wear karate gi’s and demonstrate to the world that we couldn’t punch or kick our way out of a wet paper bag.
MAD MAX is the exception. The acting is stellar, top to bottom. Tom Hardy does a killer job as Mad Max, while Charlize Theron nails Furiosa, the villain is perfectly creepy and every bit player turns their bit into something memorable.
If there is a god in Hollywood, somebody will at least win a Best Supporting Actor here.
1) Betrayal, the beating heart of thrillers
Where AVENGERS 2 fails is in forgetting that thrillers aren’t really about blowing things up. They’re about betrayal from within, which is why CAPTAIN AMERICA 2: THE WINTER SOLDIER HAS A SHINY ARM was so glorious.
That movie was full of juicy betrayal. The head of SHIELD turns out to be a Hydra agent and the entire organization has a messy civil war, while the Winter Soldier turns out to be Captain America’s old best friend from World War II, now brainwashed and working for Hydra.
Unlike Avengers 2, where the heroes never really suffer, the low point in WINTER SOLDIER is truly low. SHIELD is poisoned beyond repair and the heroes are in hiding with no resources. Captain America doesn’t even have a uniform. That’s pretty low.
MAD MAX has plenty of low points where things couldn’t get worse.
Yet what makes it far better is the betrayals. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is really the hero of the movie, and it’s not a stretch to call this maybe the first feminist action movie blockbuster, not because it has some politically correct message, but because Furiosa and other women are front-and-center, driving the action instead of being sidekicks and window dressing.
And the final two twists, which I won’t spoil, are truly unexpected.
Anyone walking into AVENGERS 2 knew Ultron was going down. Nobody walking into MAD MAX would predict the ending, which was perfect.