Sunday, May 08, 2016

Not so much furious as incredulous

That was my reaction at watching Fury Road last night.

Look, post apocalypse movies are not generally my thing; nor are movies based on car crashes and violence.  (Chases are OK, of course, but the Mad Max movies - I gather, as this is the first I have watched - are all about the revving engines and the grinding sound of metal upon metal, often with human flesh squished between it.)

So, it's not as if I was ever destined to like it.  But really, the utter, utter ridiculousness and perverse lack of thrills I was experiencing did mean I kept watching it.  It doesn't reach the "so bad it's good" level, although I strongly suspect that there must have been a substantial part of the cinema audience like me - incredulous at the inanity of what they were watching. Seeing it after knowing it was strongly reviewed, nominated for and had won several Oscars, and made a reasonable amount of money at the box office, only added to the incredulity level.

Let me be specific about a few points:

*  I did not consider it well directed at all.  Good action directing lets you know who (or what) is where in a scene; this quality seemed to me to be distinctly lacking in most of the action sequences.  How Miller got nominated for a directing Oscar indicates something quite worrying about the current crop of Hollywood directors: they don't know good action direction when they see it. 

*  The film was supposed to be one that used little CGI.  Yeah, sure.   I'm not sure how many bodies I saw face plant into sand at about 80kph - it seemed at least a few dozen - but every time one did, of course it was obvious CGI was involved.   It reminded me a bit of the publicity about the much maligned Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which also claimed low CGI in its action sequences, but clearly there was plenty.  (Not that I minded much.  Unlike Road, it was a movie with a plot, after all.)

*  Of what little dialogue there was, I still had trouble understanding some of it, both audibly and narratively.   Was I alone in that?

*  What an embarrassing enterprise for adults to be involved in making; Miller in particular.  As someone writes at IMDB (where there is a bit of a backlash underway in user reviews, it seems):
 So what is this film's targeted demographic? I'm not sure. I can imagine that if you are a 13-year old boy, really into cars/trucks/slipknot, pretty redneck, and probably a little slow, this movie may seem pretty cool. I mean it does have ridiculous cars/trucks outfitted with lots of weapons, spikes, flame-exhausts, (breast-milk?) and guys playing "cool" guitar riffs for no apparent reason. There's also lots of explosions and fighting. And scantily clad women. And tornadoes. And skulls.
Exactly.  I said something more particular to my son as we watched it:  it's like it was written by a 13 year old boy - one who has grown up with aging heavy metal parents, still into Iron Maiden, who took him to every demolition derby and monster truck show in town since he was a toddler.  That Miller made the first couple of Mad Max films when he was a relatively young man is one thing; that he should want to wallow in this world with ever greater improbable visuals, scale and scenarios I have difficulty interpreting other than as an embarrassing sign of immaturity at heart.

*  The one thing I found vaguely interesting:  there was one, not very major, character who I suspect bore a deliberate physical resemblance to Philip Adams.  Adams famously loathed Mad Max, and wrote scathingly of it as violence porn.  (I suspect his reaction was actually a bit overblown, but that it still bore some truth.)   I am curious whether I am right about this being a deliberate joke on Adams on Miller's part. 

In any event, I see now that the movie was not quite the box office smash that its critical reputation suggests.  In the US it made a respectable but far from outstanding $153 million, and $378 million world wide.  

As I'm guessing that 1/4 to 1/3 of the audience actually didn't think highly of the film, I think I can fairly call it not that big a success after all.  Good.


Paul Montgomery said...

Seeing as it cost $150 million to make, more than doubling its money seems like a financial win. He could be greenlit for another sequel very easily.

If you didn't like the Doof Warrior, I'm not sure we can continue to be friends, Steve. Doesn't everyone have an inner 13-year-old who needs to be let out to play every now and again?

Steve said...

Actually, the rough rule of thumb is that a movie needs to rake in double its production cost to start being profitable. (And DVD and online sales are a cherry on top of that.)

So, yeah, I did say it was not that big a success: meaning it was likely profitable, but not as much as I would have thought given the publicity it got. And, as I argued, there's a fair chance that quite a few in the audience did not like at all, but had been lured by the (puzzlingly) good reviews.

And no, my inner 13 year old was never enamoured of monster trucks, with or without spikes. I would not have liked this film at any age...