How Much Do I Hate “Mad Max: Fury Road”? Let Me Count the Ways

Deal W. Hudson
May 24, 2015

I would never see a film such as “Mad Max: Fury Road,” but was persuaded by its ratings: 98% on Rotten Tomatoes89% on Metacritic, and 8.7 user rating on These useful guides have rarely misled me but in this case, must wonder how so many good critics could be so wrong.

Perhaps they were being nice to lead lady, Charlize Theron, who manages to retain her dignity in spite of being stuck with a leaden Tom Hardy, who needs to suck in his neck during profile shots, and about four pages of sophomoric dialogue.

Reams of dialogue pages, of course, are not necessary to make a good movie, but given the narrative mess and visual pandemonium of director George Miller’s return to “Mad Max” after 30 years, one hopes for an Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, or James Earl Jones to suddenly walk out of cave and say something intelligent.

The viewer, presumably, is supposed to get chill bumps when “Max” finally reveals his name to the badly wounded Imperator Furiosa (Theron), but by then I was grateful that Hardy had kept his mouth shut. Has there been a worse performance by a lead actor in a major motion picture recently? I counted two, maybe three expressions on Hardy’s face — fear, anger, and one insipid smile at the pre-Raphaelite nymphets he is helping to save from further impregnation by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).

Having lost his bevy of underage sex slaves, Immortan Joe leads his small army of reconstituted motor vehicles out of the “Citadel” into the desert to reclaim them, especially the one about to give birth. Imperator Furiosa, who was herself stolen as a child and brought to the Citadel, leaves him to note to the effect that the children will not grow up to be like Papa.


After a few scenes at home, we are off into the desert for rest of the movie which Miller, in stark contrast to David Lean, succeeds in making it appear like a vast sandbox, except for the few scenes allowing the distinguished Theron to look magical against its vast background.

Remembering the importance of pipes and drums to a marching army, Immortan Joe takes along a guitar player whose large — very large — guitar ejaculates fire. Though I experienced the ’60s as a teenager, I never embraced the electric guitar as an awe-inspiring, or desire-inducing, totem.

The guitar’s presence in the film did, however, remind me how pop conceits can win over even an old curmudgeon like me when deftly employed by romanticists like Ken Russell (“Tommy,” 1975) or Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet,” 1996).

Like all contemporary action films, this new “Mad Max” relies heavily on CGI, which challenges the writers and director to come up with new and unusual ways for supporting characters to die, vehicles to be destroyed, and for leading characters to survive anything that’s thrown or shot at them. This escalating choreography of violence of the CGI action genre, to my eyes, has become exhausted in a way that has yet to overtake other genres, for example, the Samurai film or the Western.

I’ve watched all 25 films in Criterion’s Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman series, never being less than charmed by the various ways Zatoichi vanquishes his often multitudinous rivals. Westerns, too, continue to be made without the good guy/bad guy choreography growing stale — “3:10 to Yuma” (2007), “Appaloosa,” 2008. “True Grit” (2010), “Meek’s Cutoff” (2010).

I suppose its post-apocalyptic premise is supposed to bestow meaning on the entire mess of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” This deserves mentioning because before being allowed to leave the theater, the audience is presented with a black screen containing a kind of benediction, a big thought to take away about “finding home.” The postscript bookends with Max’s voice-over at the film’s beginning, “As the world fell, each of us in our own way were broken.” The audience is expected to lap up this faux spirituality because we’ve presumably spent several hours in deep empathetic connection to the literally broken Imperator Furiosa — she’s missing part of one arm — who is seeking the “green place” where she was born.

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa.

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa.

When she finds the “green place” was the section of oily sand she already drove through, the viewer naturally is supposed to have hateful thoughts about capitalism, corporations, and “trickle-down economics,” all of which combined to destroy the planet.

My thoughts went elsewhere, such as what else could I have been doing with my time? I certainly won’t be going to the just-released Tomorrowland, another post-apocalyptic message movie, which the critics thankfully have warned us against.

The avoidance of bad movies, after all, is half of a film critic’s job. Why they joined in a chorus of praise for this regurgitated “Mad Max” will always be a mystery to me.


By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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