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10 Reasons Mad Max: Fury Road Is Far From a Modern Masterpiece

26 January 2016 | Features, Other Lists | by Chris Gilmore

mad max

Mad Max: Fury Road has a 97 on Rotten Tomatoes and an 89 on Metacritic. It has won 116 awards, according to IMDB, and has been nominated for 123 – including an Oscar for Best Picture. Enough is enough. Yes, Mad Max is a fun, stylish film. No one disputes its entertainment value. But is it the best film of the year? Is it even in the top ten? Evidently, most people would answer “YES!” as though to suggest otherwise would be the height of pretension. But there are reasons to remain skeptical. (Ten, to be precise.)


1. The Flat Characters

Mad Max Fury Road movie

For all its visual flair, this film is essentially a two-hour chase scene with eight – maybe nine – minutes devoted to character development. Here’s the plot summary from IMDB: “A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in post-apocalyptic Australia in search for her homeland with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.”

That sounds about right. Except we learn next to nothing about the woman, the tyrannical ruler, the group of female prisoners, the psychotic worshiper, and (perhaps most importantly, given the film’s title) the drifter named Max. In a sense, that’s the film’s greatest achievement: its ability to entertain using only the most basic pillars of storytelling. Bravo.

So what do we learn about these people? Max is mad because he couldn’t save his loved ones. Furiosa is furious because she was taken from her home and forced to drive a truck. (Presumably, she lost her arm during an oil change.) Nux, the “psychotic worshiper,” has some kind of blood disease, which magically improves after Max severs his transfusion line. And the tyrannical ruler (aptly named Joe) has some kind of skin condition, not to mention a serious asthma problem.

That’s not a bad start. But do these characters have a discernible inner life? Do they change in any meaningful way over the course of the film? Do we know more about them when the film ends than we did when it began? Well, yes. And no. By the two hour mark, Max is less mad; Furiosa, less furious. But that’s about it.


2. The Paper-Thin Plot


Truck takes girls, truck turns left, cars chase truck, cars go boom. Bikes chase truck, bikes go boom. Truck gets stuck, cars shoot truck, cars go boom. Truck finds home, truck leaves home, truck comes back.

(Oh. And Max tags along for the ride.)


3. The Waste of Tom Hardy

Mad Max Fury Road

Aside from a brief, cliché-ridden voiceover in the opening scene, Hardy has barely enough lines to fit on a napkin. In fact, he seems to be making up for his dialogue-driven role in the 2013 indie masterpiece Locke, which featured 90 minutes of car-bound phone conversations. In Mad Max, however, his eloquence is confined to grunts and gestures.

For much of the film, his mouth is covered, as it was when he played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and, like Bane, much of what Max says is incomprehensible. (Sorry, Tom. It’s probably the sound mixer’s fault.) Which begs the question: why do directors seem so intent on preventing one of our best actors from speaking?


4. The Unexamined Character Questions

mad max

For a film that doesn’t like to answer questions, it sure likes to raise them. We learn, for example, about Max’s losses, but who specifically did he lose? Does he think about anything else? Or is regret his full-time job? Are his flashbacks triggered by anything in particular, or do they only occur at inopportune times, for plot convenience?

Also: how would Furiosa know how to find her homeland? Did they give her a map in case she ever wanted to go back? The desert is big and disorienting – and did I mention big? – and she’s armed with nothing more than a foggy memory and a compass? Why would she assume things were any better there? Presumably, Joe knows it exists because it’s where he found her, and if it had any resources to plunder, wouldn’t he already have done so?

Lots of questions. Zero answers.


5. The Unexamined Social Questions


How exactly does this society (to call it that) function? If its patriarch is so physically weak (and thus dependant on others) how does he intimidate people into obeying his commands? Doesn’t anyone consider a mutiny? Why are Joe’s minions all white and bald? And why do they spray silver paint in their mouths to prepare for death? What would happen if they forgot their can of paint at home? Would they get kicked out of Valhalla by some kind of celestial bouncer?

Some things are just silly. (Yes, water distribution system, I’m looking at you.) How exactly does the plumbing work in that massive mountain fountain? And why would anyone design their water distribution system so impractically? Water isn’t just a scarcity for the oppressed; it’s in short supply for the oppressors. So why would Joe waste so much when he has so little to spare? Just to show off his power? The Joe giveth, and the Joe taketh away, I guess. (Sigh.)



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  • Wyatt W.B

    Aw fuck off! What’s happening to you taste of cinema? You’re turning into a new Watchmojo!

    • Torvendis

      I noticed that too. Between this list and the 15 Meta-Horror movies that aren’t scary… *eyeroll*

  • How did jabroni even get published let alone be involved in lists? What a joke.

  • Mrterrific9

    So salty

  • Lucas Arnandez

    the second you list The Doof Warrior as one of Fury Road flaws is the time when I dismissed all of your “opinion” regarding this movie.
    holy heck who is the writer of this article?
    rather than a “list” this is more like a salt mine.

    this must be the most nonsensical and preposterous list on ToC which I’ve ever seen…. yet.

  • sobbib

    What garbage. It’s like watching a Jacques Tati film and complaining about lack of character development, story and realism. Cartoonish Villains? It’s a chuck jones cartoon made real, that’s the point. The Director had other concerns beyond realistic character psychology and social issues, and that’s precisely why it was so refreshing… Cinema can be many things, and it’s a minor miracle this got made and distributed by a major studio, in 2015, without homogenising it into another three-act structured hero’s journey turd.

  • Jasper Huang

    Terrible article. Basically the author is complaining that parts of the Mad Max universe are left unclear or unexplained in the movie. As if 2001: Space Odyssey was a masterpiece because of its clear, detailed exposition for every single scene. Of course not! Or, to jump genres, how about Pulp Fiction? Not everything needs to be serialized and given a full backstory. Taste of Cinema should stick to introductory lists if the alternative are click-baits like these, which only show how shallow some of these writers can be. Try not to embarrass yourselves, please.

  • soufwans

    One of the reasons Mad Max: Fury Road is far from a masterpiece is…… the guitar guy. I’m assuming this list is a joke.

  • Isaiah Anton Rilles

    Wow, so many butthurts in this comment section yet none of them even elaborated or argued the many arguments this article has pointed out. Maybe you guys have watched Fury Road, saw this article and thought that this is bad but forgot to turn on your mind after turning it off before watching Fury Road. For all its worth, Fury Road is a great movie. Sure, its the kind of movie that everything we want to see ( which is roaring and spectacular action) is shown to us and rare it is to see a movie like that but the reasons shown here are very critical points. Its a two-hour chase movie (which for all of you it was fucking awesome and yes it was.) but where’s the story, characters, explanations to unanswered questions? Any of that? You know how stupid you sound when all of your reasons to its flaws “but the action was fucking epic! Action sequences are not enough of a reason to make this a modern masterpiece. This could have been a better movie if there were was a fleshed-out story, characters etc; the key ingredients for a great movie. To have so many people claim that this is a masterpiece but shuns those who criticize its obvious flaws is beyond me. I hope those who see Mad Max: Fury Road for what it is must not suffer this kind of treatment. And finally, can’t you guys can’t take a joke? The guitar guy is obviously a joke. I’ve heard that people who don’t understand sarcasm are not that smart.

  • Janko TheTank Gontarek

    the guitar guy is probably the best part of the movie!!!!

  • Carsten Nilsson

    You COMPLETELY misunderstood the movie.

  • Gorka Molero

    Haters gonna hate!

  • FornavnEtternavn

    Unnecessary. Who the hell (remotely serious about film) considers this a modern masterpiece? Entertaining, sure. Story, nowhere to be found.

  • Bizmu

    Lol, lotsa butthurt fanboys defending an average action movie.

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Articles with nothing but nerd-rage negativity has no place on a website that’s supposed to be about celebrating the art form.

  • The G*d D*mn John Petrie

    I wasn’t aware there was a checklist of points a movie had to mark to qualify it as a “masterpiece”.

    For all the points of “the movie didn’t…” or “the movie left out…” I’d simply ask: if the director is able to convey intent, emotion, backstory, motivation, even characters beyond simple archetypes… is it even necessary?

    The movie establishes a sandbox world, gives you easily understandable characters, and sets them off on a simple story narrative. Little of what the movie lacks is needed because the average viewer recognizes, understands & accepts the shorthand employed to tell the story.

    Simply put: the movie is about what the movie is about. It’s not what it isn’t. This list criticizes the movie for not doing or being what it doesn’t need to or try to be.

  • Gurney Halleck

    This is an opinion so bad and wrong it isn’t even worth a response lmao