What verve, what style! Super-paranoid triple-agent action spy thriller starring all the best people, every scene awesome. Sure, a couple of dialogue clunkers and an overall feeling that, despite the constant life-or-death struggle, nothing really consequential is happening, but this movie is good, and I watched it at a good theater, sitting right up close.

Huge centerpiece showing in a single take how Charlize got beat to hell protecting Eddie Marsan. Poor Marsan – when you see him in a movie you just know things won’t turn out alright for him. John Goodman is CIA, Toby Jones is MI6, so who really was James McAvoy? Not a double agent, just a spy who got caught up in his own power? As Charlize runs into a movie theater playing Tarkovsky’s Stalker to hide from assassins, I lost track of the double-dealings and reveled in the self-conscious coolness.

The director is the Wachowskis’ stunt coordinator and did second-unit stuff on Jurassic World and the Ninja Turtles movies. It’s not the most promising looking resume, but damn. More evidence to check out John Wick, which Leitch codirected.

As many pop songs as Baby Driver, but used for different purposes, slinky mood music to fit the visual tone. The songs are vintage but their performances might not be – that wasn’t Ministry playing Stigmata, and some sounded like updated remixes.

Matt Singer: “Fury Road is an incredible achievement, one that strains so hard at the leash of the possible that it eventually breaks free and barrels headlong into the realm of insane genius. … They’ll keep making car chase movies after Fury Road, but there’s really no need.”

I loved the movie, but was maybe not as bowled-over by its lunatic intensity because was prepped by reviews. What I wasn’t prepared for was the plot twist when the movie’s first-two-thirds nonstop car chase finally stops, and with nothing but salt wasteland in front of them, Max proposes The Worst Idea Of All Time, to drive straight back through the armies that they’d just escaped and attack the citadel.

Tasha Robinson:

These are some preposterously tough people, and yet they’re perpetually at the end of their rope, and yet they perpetually keep going. That’s a very fine emotional place to keep a film pitched to for two straight hours, but the action is so well choreographed, so solid and visceral, that it works fine.

Charlize Theron stars as Furiosa, her team of escaped wives including Zoe Kravitz (Angel in X-Men 4). Max is Tom Hardy (Locke), constantly being threatened and/or helped by “albino maniac” Nicholas Hoult (Beast in X-Men 4). The main gas-masked villain played someone called Toecutter in the original Mad Max, which I should really watch sometime.

The movie was so beloved that even Cinema Scope gives it their breathless Tony Scott treatment, explaining Miller’s filmmaking techniques to keep his action scenes visceral and legible at once. “Advances in data processing and motion capture are rendered moot by Fury Road‘s proof that a basis in reality still adds a sense of weight to the proceedings impossible to recreate artificially.”

EDIT JUNE 2017:

Watched again at home,
in beautiful black and chrome.

“We are not to blame.”
“Then who killed the world?”

A fairy tale for today’s mob of Twilight-raised, grimly serious gothic youth who prefer the Christian Bale Batman to the Michael Keaton Batman. Pretty obvious movie, and no part is more obvious than James “Newt” Howard’s big, big score. Alternates between patient carefully-composed images and too-close, too-frantic action scenes. Overall pretty good, especially when Evil Queen Charlize Theron is around.

After Charlize takes over the kingdom and kills all flowers and happiness, the imprisoned princess grows up to be Twilight Stewart and realizes there might be trouble in the kingdom when her cellmate Lily Cole leaves to see the queen and returns as an old hag, so Twilight escapes by slashing Theron’s albino brother Sam Spruell in the face. She meets her reluctant protector Thor Hemsworth and they go adventuring, collecting the exiled Duke’s army and the all-important dwarfs to help.

Pity doomed Lily Cole:

First it’s into the dark forest, which is extremely menacing to Twilight until she passes out, then it leaves her alone. It doesn’t bug Thor at all, making me wonder if he’s the actual Chosen One who will defeat the Queen with his beauty, but that was a false lead, because soon they meet a bridge troll, whom the princess charms with her sleepy Twilight stare. Then they visit the city of scar-faced women, and get it burned down, oops. Now the dwarfs, who were played by digitally-shrunken full-size actors – and this is why movies should bring back opening credits. I’d have surely recognized Dwarf Bob Hoskins and Dwarf Toby Jones (and maybe Dwarf Ray Winstone) if I’d been looking for them, but unaccustomed to seeing them so short and beardy, we only figured out Dwarf Nick Frost (in about one second) and Dwarf Ian McShane. Then all nine venture into the Fairy Garden, where CG animals go to relax between Tim Burton and Brendan Fraser movies, and they meet a white moose made out of butterflies. Finally to the Duke’s palace, where Twilight meets her boyfriend from when she was seven, now grown into a dreamy archer.

Thor w/hammer:

Evil Queen Charlize tires of all this, makes herself into a Dreamy Archer Terminator and delivers the poison apple (via doomed CG crows, in the third scene of bird death in this movie. Snow White of the Huntsmen hates birds!). Real Dreamy Archer cannot wake Twilight with his kiss, and when all hope seems lost, Thor makes a successful attempt. Queen’s palace by the seaside, dwarves in the sewer, arrows and boiling oil, too-close/too-frantic sword fighting, and Charlize is done in by Twilight’s Pure Love & Light (actually a model rocket dagger).

Screamy Queen Charlize:

Sanders has made Nike and X-Box commercials. One writer was behind Drive, and the other writes/directs Dennis Quaid movies. Newt Howard scores every laughably over-serious movie of recent years (The Last Airbender, Water for Elephants, The Dark Knight, Breast Cancer: The Path of Wellness & Healing) and the Australian D.P. shot Spider and Bright Star.

A frustrating movie, because even while watching the two-hour theatrical version opening week, we knew that Ridley Scott has been talking up his extended director’s cut for blu-ray. But Ridley learned nothing from the Lord of the Rings model, cutting out really important stuff instead of fun but unnecessary scenes of hobbits singing, leaving the two-hour version full of plot holes, confusing explanations and out-of-character behavior. At least that’s what I generously assume to be the case, that the movie made perfect sense before the cuts, because otherwise how would a mega-expensive-looking star-studded major film arrive in theaters full of massive story problems that nobody noticed?

I admit the story problems and look forward to watching Ridley’s second (and third, and fourth) edit on my little laptop screen. But I still loved the theatrical version, unlike every single person I’ve heard mention it, because it’s simply the most amazing looking and sounding movie I’ve seen in theaters for a year or more. The picture (2D) is clear, with seamless effects, and I must’ve lucked out and got the only screen in Atlanta with properly calibrated surround sound. I’ve thought I was past the point of being impressed by massive explosions and outer-space action scenes, but I guess everyone else (looking at you, Michael Bay) has just been doing ’em wrong.

Two archaeologists (Noomi Rapace of the Swedish Dragon Tattoo trilogy and Logan Marshall-Green of Devil) discover star maps in prehistoric cave paintings, so a mega-rich old man (played by Guy Pearce in distracting old-age makeup) sends a space exhibition led by a sleek, evil Charlize Theron to check it out. Logan is given black-oil sickness by android Michael Fassbender, impregnates Noomi with an alien. Also on board are pilot Idris Elba, punk miner Sean Harris (Ian Curtis in 24 Hour Party People) and other guys who will be killed in interesting ways.

There’s some religious mumbo, with secret (but easily predicted) stowaway Pearce wanting to confront our creators, the giant, pale muscular men, and ask why they created us. But I could’ve sworn the scientists said at least twice that they’re an “exact genetic match” with us – so they didn’t create us, they are us. Right? And if I got this straight, the planet to which the map led the Earth explorers isn’t the home planet of any race, but an outpost where they were creating biological alien weapons. And when the one living pale guy awakens from cryo-sleep, he sets to destroying Earth, as if that was his plan all along. Anyway, lot of questions, but ultimately I enjoyed the spectacle and think the movie is interesting enough to find the unanswered questions tantalizing, looking forward to sequels or deleted scenes, not blowing off the movie as badly written.

dissenting opinion from R. Brody in the New Yorker:

Scott is the perfect former TV commercial director: he doesn’t invent images but decorates them and lights them to set a consistent mood, which he then maintains, without surprises. He tells you what to feel, or not even—he tells you to admire his ability to get you to feel one thing, whether it’s worth feeling or, in this case, not. As in a TV commercial, the amount of money spent on production design is a part of the movie’s import; the sets and the effects might as well have their price tags dangling from them … he took the same laborious pompier style as fell flat in Robin Hood and attempted to justify it with a ponderous subject. The movie lacks any joyful sense of discovery, such as emerges (intermittently) through the vainglorious bombast of Alien.

But then instead Brody praises the “exuberance” and lack of self-important seriousness of Benjamin Buttons. If he had more fun at The Ben Buttons than at Prometheus, we can learn nothing from each other.

June 2015:
Now that I’ve watched this again on 2D blu-ray, I don’t mind the plot problems as much – in fact, Lindelof convincingly explains in the commentary that character motivations are purposely unknowable – and the visuals hold up beautifully (though scenes like the spaceship crash don’t have the power they held in theaters). The writer commentary implies that it’s all overlit because of demands from the 3D process, but a sci-fi horror flick with great lighting and strong color is a nice change of pace.

The deleted scenes actually weren’t so interesting, especially after playing half the writers’ commentary, but the blu extra called The Weyland Files was nice – strange character bits, training and prep for the mission, research, unexplained anthropological stuff, an infomercial for android David, and a Ted Talk by Guy Pearce without his age makeup.

Based on the bestest-selling novel which everyone in the world has now read. I’d heard it would be relentlessly bleak, and so that’s what it was. Hillcoat and Nick Cave and Viggo Mortensen and Javier Aguirresarobe (also cinematographer of Talk To Her, The Dream of Light, the Twilight saga) and Charlize Theron and the boy all did terrific jobs, first-rate, award-deserving and everything else.

But it’s kinda like Polanski’s The Pianist… a perfectly-made film in service of the most depressing story ever. One person survives a (nuclear/nazi) holocaust, and while that’s somewhat encouraging, the movie spends its runtime rubbing your nose in the terrible enormity of said holocaust making for a mega-bummer experience. If a great movie makes you feel crappy for having seen it, is it still a great movie?

I suppose Theron is only alive in flashback. She doesn’t have the survival instinct of her husband, just wants to kill her son and herself peacefully before cannibals catch them or they starve to death. Viggo won’t agree, so she wanders out into the cold alone. Viggo goes from being the only honest man in the world, protective and generous to his son, ruthless in his survival, to seeming slightly savage, giving a thief a death sentence, unable to ever trust anyone. When he dies from cold & sickness, the son is immediately picked up by Guy Pearce and family, and you get the feeling that he’s better off. Robert Duvall is unrecognizable as a decrepit man who may not be as feeble as he lets on. Viggo gets shot by an arrow, discovers a hidden food bunker, avoids cannibal camps, shoots a guy in the head – it’s hardly Children of Men as far as slam-bang action but it’s creepier as far as apocalyptic atmosphere.