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Mad Max: Fury Road Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) movie poster Mad Max: Fury Road

Theatrical Release: May 15, 2015 / Running Time: 120 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: George Miller / Writers: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris

Cast: Tom Hardy (Max Rockatansky), Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa), Nicholas Hoult (Nux), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Immortan Joe), Josh Helman (Slit), Nathan Jones (Rictus Erectus), Zoë Kravitz (Toast the Knowing), Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (The Splendid Angharad), Riley Keough (Capable), Abbey Lee (The Dag), Courtney Eaton (Cheedo the Fragile), John Howard (The People Eater), Richard Carter (The Bullet Farmer), iOTA (The Doof Warrior), Angus Sampson (The Organic Mechanic), Jennifer Hagan (Miss Giddy), Megan Gale (The Valkyrie), Melissa Jaffer (Keeper of the Seeds), Melita Jurisic (Vuvalini), Gillian Jones (Vuvalini), Joy Smithers (Vuvalini), Antoinette Kellerman (Vuvalini), Christina Koch (Vuvalini)

Buy Mad Max: Fury Road from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray Combo Pack • Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack • 4-Film Blu-ray Anthology • 2-Disc Special Edition DVD • Instant Video

Of the forty-seven films released to 600 or more theaters that comprise this year's Rotten Tomatoes Summer Movie Scorecard, Mad Max: Fury Road holds the second highest ranking.
Outside of the little-seen animated film Shaun the Sheep, Fury Road boasts the season's greatest critical acclaim with a 98% approval rating from both top critics and all critics plus average ratings close to 9 out of 10. While that nigh-unanimous praise might have set my expectations too high, I regretfully cannot side with the majority of my colleagues who have celebrated Fury Road as a new masterpiece.

Fury Road is the fourth installment in this franchise, though since it arrives thirty years after the threequel Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, it is understandably a reboot. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. Following nuclear holocaust, mankind has grown savage, fighting to survive amidst limited natural resources. There is a hierarchy to this universe, whose aging ruler Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) lords over the hungry, thirsty masses.

Our titular hero, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), spends the first forty-five minutes of the film with a metal mask over his face chained to a car like a large human hood ornament. His back tattooed to indicate he is a universal donor, Max has been enslaved as a "blood bag" for the ghastly, skeletal Nux (Nicholas Hoult). The two of them get mixed up with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who uses a gasoline run to run off with Joe's five "breeders", young women chosen to carry his offspring.

Chained and masked Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) functions like a hood ornament in "Mad Max: Fury Road."

The setting of Mad Max is grotesque, absurd, and over the top. There is little in this world for us to relate to, even in the relatively mild-mannered protagonists with whom our sympathies are meant to lie. This universe is nothing at all like the other ones we typically encounter in new mainstream movies and that much is easy to appreciate. Beyond that, it is tough to see much allure in this filthy place of motorcycle gangs, two-headed lizards, and a double-necked guitar that shoots out fire.

For someone who follows the industry, the most interesting thing about this reboot is that it comes from George Miller, who directed and co-wrote all three of the previous movies in the series originally released between 1979 and 1985. Miller turned 70 this year, but he has clearly not grown soft and mellow with age. Fury Road provides the aggression and adrenaline its title suggests.

While it'd be unusual for any filmmaker to return to a property they developed nearly forty years earlier, it's especially bizarre for Miller, given the trajectory of his career. The original Mad Max, which starred a very young Mel Gibson in the title role, was the feature debut of Miller. During the years he made that trilogy, his only work outside of it was directing one of the segments of Twilight Zone: The Movie, an anthology that had Miller working alongside Steven Spielberg. The years following Thunderdome were relatively uneventful, with Miller making the 1987 horror comedy The Witches of Eastwick and 1992's Oscar-contending true drama Lorenzo's Oil, while taking a handful of producer credits in between them.

Miller's career changed gears with Babe, the critical darling and Best Picture nominee he co-wrote and produced. Miller directed as well as co-wrote and produced the 1998 sequel Babe: Pig in the City, which was lauded by Siskel and Ebert but few others. In the seventeen years since, Miller took just two narrative credits as a writer, director, and producer of both Happy Feet movies, the Oscar-winning 2006 original and its curiously toxic sequel.

Crew-cutted amputee Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) emerges as a heroine for her defiance of Immortan Joe.

How does an Australian who hasn't directed a non family-oriented film in over twenty years get tasked to revive his dormant, not quite beloved franchise with a choice release date, significant star power, and a $150 million production budget?! I haven't figured that one out, but it's a question that the deafening critical acclaim put to rest.
I am at a loss to understand those rave reviews. Their sentiment is echoed in the movie's quick ascent to 106th place in the IMDb's all-time top 250 determined by public vote. Commercially, the film was not the powerhouse its reception suggests. Its $153 million domestic gross, more than four times as much as previous high Thunderdome grossed in '85 and still a series best after adjusting for inflation, is short of studio hopes and obvious profitability. But $221 million from foreign markets helps at a time when North America continues to be a shrinking piece of the bigger global picture.

Although it's impossible not to acknowledge that Fury Road is different from the superhero movies and like-minded tentpoles moviegoers are given on a near-weekly basis in summer, I struggle to translate "different" into "brilliant" or even "good." The movie is wall-to-wall action. We're almost always moving and dodging, which is good news for adrenaline junkies but less so for those like me who value story and characters above all else. The diagonally billed two lead actors who are usually quite good are not given much acting to do. Theron breaks out her badass side with a buzz cut and an amputation. Hardy, meanwhile, is unusually passive, denying us the screen presence that has given him a slightly late boost to stardom. This international production admirably even saves some substantial roles for aging, relatively unknown actors, affording rare opportunities to Keays-Byrne, the antagonist in the original Mad Max, and 78-year-old Melissa Jaffer ("Farscape").

Despite his three decades away from the genre, Miller displays no hesitance, timidity, or old-fashionedness in the action department. Fury Road presents its thrills with the zeal of a young filmmaker trying to make a name for themselves. Visually, the movie is bold and daring, as it alternates between orange and blue palettes, creating a kind of fire and ice effect. The film does pick up quite a bit in its final act as it starts to treat its story imperatively. It is not enough to forgive the high-octane at all costs approach of the preceding 90 minutes, but it does help to understand how others could leave as satisfied as they did.

One of the first movies to open the summer movie season, Mad Max: Fury Road returns to close it with this week's Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD releases. This review covers the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack.

Mad Max: Fury Road Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English DVS, French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Service, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 11, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack ($44.95 SRP), 2-Disc Special Edition DVD ($29.98 SRP), in 4-Film Blu-ray Anthology ($89.98 SRP), and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

You expect a $150 million movie to look flawless on Blu-ray and, fortunately, Mad Max: Fury Road does. I've already detailed how this action movie takes its visuals seriously. The 2.40:1 transfer bounces between fire and ice (sometimes at seizure-inducing breakneck speed) without a single hiccup. The creative compositions stay sharp, vibrant, and detailed throughout. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack also commands notice, with its potent yet steady distribution mix of (first and foremost) effects, score, and (finally) dialogue.

"Maximum Fury" provides copious behind-the-scenes looks at the dusty desert shoot. Costume designer Jenny Beavan shows off the unusual outfit of Immortan Joe.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with "Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road" (28:38), a general making-of featurette that reveals all that went into this dusty, ambitious, action-packed Namibian desert shoot full of practical effects and daring stunts.

"Mad Max: Fury on Four Wheels" (22:37) focuses on the vehicles that drive the film. An interest in cars and bikes will make this easier to enjoy.

"The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa" (11:18) explores our two protagonists and the stars portraying them.

"The Tools of the Wasteland" (14:26) turns our attention to the film's production design and costumes, two fields in which it has an outside shot of competing for awards.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley discusses her experiences as one of "The Five Wives." Max (Tom Hardy) looks at the horizon in this deleted scene.

"The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome" (11:11) discusses Joe's women.

The actresses playing them share their thoughts on the experience, which are complimented by still more behind-the-scenes footage.

"Fury Road: Crash & Smash" (4:02) provides behind-the-scenes looks at pre-production tests, which it proudly declares have not been enhanced by CGI in any way.

Finally, we get three short deleted scenes involving a "milker" (0:32), an old woman (1:49), and Max and Furiosa (0:59). They are hindered by unfinished effects.

Since Fury Road's DVD is a two-disc set and only the first of those discs makes it to this combo pack, all extras in this set are only found on the Blu-ray.

The Blu-ray opens with the trailer for Black Mass followed by a Digital HD promo. The DVD opens with a Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer, followed by ads for Black Mass, San Andreas, Entourage, In the Heart of the Sea, and Digital HD.

Warner applies no aesthetical flourishes to Mad Max: Fury Road. The Blu-ray attaches score to a static menu adapted from the poster art that is adapted for both the slipcover and keepcase front. The only insert is a sheet supplying Digital HD with UltraViolet code and instructions.

Chief antagonist Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is a frightening old man in charge of the thirsty masses.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Although adored by critics and appreciated by moviegoers, Mad Max: Fury Road failed to win me over. This ambitious production admirably departs from tentpole conventions, but all the action and bold scenery in the world can't make me overlook the relatively thin and unappealing story. Warner's Blu-ray combo pack deserves top marks in picture and sound, while its extras should satisfy most craving some making-of material.

Buy Mad Max: Fury Road from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray Combo / Blu-ray 3D Combo / 4-Film Blu-ray Anthology / 2-Disc DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Tom Hardy: The Dark Knight Rises • Lawless • This Means War • The Drop
Charlize Theron: Young Adult • Hancock • The Road • Trapped | Nicholas Hoult: Warm Bodies • X-Men: First Class • Jack the Giant Slayer
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley: Transformers: Dark of the Moon | Zoe Kravitz: X-Men: First Class • Divergent • After Earth
300: Rise of an Empire • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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Reviewed September 3, 2015.



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