Friday, May 22, 2015

Spoiler Alert!


This is the poster for the upcoming summer blockbuster Terminator: Genisys. How about that eye-rolling spelling, eh? Why'd they stop there? Why not go all in and spell it Termynatyr Genisys?

Supposedly this film is a throwback to the very first one— Kyle Reese is sent back in time to 1984 to save Sarah Connor, but when he arrives he finds the timeline has been drastically altered.

Let's take a closer look at that poster, shall we? As is required these days, it's made from disparate images of the various actors, none of whom were in the studio at the same time, that have been crudely Photoshopped into something vaguely resembling a design.

See the figure in the center? That's actor Jason Clarke, who's playing John Connor in this film. It appears that his flesh is being burned away while he stoically strikes a dramatic pose. So I guess in this film, John Connor, the leader of the human rebellion against SkyNet, is actually one of the very same robots he's trying to destroy. 

I assume this is supposed to be the movie's brain-melting plot twist. So why the hell would they broadcast it on the goddamned poster? I don't get it. The various Terminator films have already traveled some pretty well-worn ground, so you think they'd jealously guard any surprises like they were precious jewels.

It's bad enough that modern trailers are basically two minute versions of their films and give everything away— now you have to avert your eyes in the lobby lest the posters spoil every surprise for you.

Thank Thor films like Psycho, Chinatown, The Empire Strikes Back, Fight Club or The Sixth Sense weren't filmed today, or their twists would no doubt be tag lines on their respective posters.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Happy Thirty Fifth Anniversary To The Empire Strikes Back

Happy Thirty Fifth (!) Anniversary to The Empire Strikes Back! Thirty five years! Can you believe it?

I've been a huge fan of Star Wars ever since I saw the first film in the theater way back in 1977. To say it had a huge influence on me would be a disservice to understatements. For months, make that years after seeing it I would sit around and draw the ships and characters, which eventually got me to try my hand and designing my own sci-fi hardware. I doubt I would be a designer and illustrator today if not for Star Wars.

When The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, it wowed me even more. In fact I consider it a better film than the original Star Wars (or A New Hope, as it's since been Lucasized). I've seen it more times that I can count, more than any of the other films, and still watch it regularly a couple times a year.

Empire outdoes A New Hope in just about every way. Everything is bigger, it expands on the old characters and introduces new ones, and it takes a dark turn that was unexpected at the time. Best of all— unlike most sequels, it continues the story, rather than simply rehashing what's gone before (Yeah, I'm lookin' at you, Revenge Of The Jedi and your Death Star II).

I don't think I blinked once during the AT-AT battle on Hoth. Believe me when I say no one in the audience had ever seen anything remotely like that before. And the asteroid chase! I was actually ducking space rocks during that sequence. Those scenes still wow me today, even in this age of CGI effects.

By the time Luke battled Vader I was squeezing the armrests in panic. And when Luke lost his hand, I practically fell out of my chair! Luke's the hero! Nothing's supposed to happen to the hero! For a few uneasy moments I actually thought they might kill him off (this was way before the internet and spoiler sites!)

When Vader revealed he was Luke's father— the entire audience audibly gasped. I've never experienced a reaction like that in a theater since. By the time the film was over, I was exhausted. I could barely make it back to the car.

A few Empire Facts:

• George Lucas had a contingency plan in case Star Wars wasn't a huge blockbuster. He commissioned sci-fi writer Alan Dean Foster, who wrote the Star Wars novelization, to come up with a treatment for a low budget sequel.

When Star Wars became a huge hit, Lucas scrapped Foster's bargain basement sequel and came up with a more ambitious script. Foster went on to publish his treatment in book form, as Splinter Of The Mind's Eye.

I've read it a couple of times, and... meh. It's OK, but it's no Empire.

• Leigh Brackett wrote the original draft of the Empire screenplay. She previously wrote the screenplays for The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, Rio Lobo, Hatari! and The Long Goodbye. Unfortunately she died shortly after turning in her first draft, and it was rewritten by Lawrence Kasdan. Her story was basically the same, but with a few differences. In her draft Han didn't get captured and put into carbonite, Luke doesn't lose his hand and he finds out he has a twin sister that may not be Leia.

The biggest difference was that Vader was not Luke's father. In Brackett's script, Luke actually meets the ghost of his father on Bog World, the original name for Dagobah.

Empire received mixed reviews at the time, but most fans, like myself, believe it to be superior to A New Hope. Credit for that has to go to Brackett, Kasdan and director Irvin Kershner.

Naturally since I like the film so much, George Lucas has stated it's his least favorite. No doubt because he didn't have obsessive, minute control over it as he did the others.

• Stanley Kubrick's The Shining premiered just two days after Empire. What a time that was to be a movie fan!

• Yoda was originally going to be called Bunden Debannen, Buffy (!) or Minch Yoda. He initially looked quite different as well, as production art depicts him as everything from a garden gnome to a Smurf-like thing.

Makeup artist Stuart Freeborn designed the Yoda puppet, modeling his eyes after those of Albert Einstein. Frank Oz of course voiced and operated the puppet.

Although Oz did a terrific job, kudos also have to go to actor Mark Hamill for Yoda's success. He really sells the idea that he's talking to a real, live alien being, which makes the audience believe it as well. If not for Hamill, Yoda would have been just another Muppet.

Yoda's line, "Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try" blew my little mind as I sat in the darkened theater, and was my introduction to the philosophies of Buddhism.

ALIEN star Yaphet Kotto was considered for the role of Lando Calrissian, but turned it down because he didn't want to become typecast.

Most fans agree that Lando was included in Empire after Star Wars was criticized for being awfully... not very diverse.

• Shortly before Empire was filmed, Mark Hamill was involved in a serious car crash, and had to have facial reconstruction surgery. For decades the story went that Lucas wrote the Wampa attack scene to explain Luke's facial scars and altered appearance.

Lucas has recently denied this, saying it's an urban legend and that he scripted the Wampa scene well before the accident. 

• Han Solo was frozen in carbonite because Harrison Ford wasn't crazy about starring in a third Star Wars film. If Ford hadn't returned, it's assumed that he'd have remained frozen and Lando would have taken his place.

These days studios have learned their lesson. Marvel regularly signs actors for multiple films, so there'll be no question as to whether they'll appear in a sequel or not.

• As most fans know by now, Han Solo's "I know" response to Princess Leia was ad-libbed. When Leia tells Solo she loves him, his original line was a heartfelt, but bland, "I love you too." Ford felt that Solo, ever the wisecracker, would have something wittier to say, and came up with the "I know" line. 

Naturally Lucas hated it, but the enthusiastic response from test audiences convinced him to reluctantly leave it in.

• Vader's big reveal was supposedly a secret even to Mark Hamill, who didn't learn about it until just before the scene was filmed. Only Lucas, director Irvin Kershner, Hamill and Vader voiceover artist James Earl Jones knew the secret before the film premiered.

It's unlikely something like that could ever happen today, with the advent of social media and cell phones.

Vader's mind-blowing revelation is one of those movie lines that are constantly misquoted. Everyone always says "Luke, I am your father." What he actually says is, "No, I am your father."

So Happy Thirty Fifth to The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe now that Disney owns Star Wars, we'll finally get the proper ORIGINAL editions of the film on blu ray.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Flash Season 1, Episode 23: Fast Enough

It's the season finale of The Flash!

The Flash has quickly (heh) become my new favorite show this year. It's not perfect, but it gets a lot more right than wrong, and most of all it's just plain fun. The producers seem to know they're making a comic book series, and are reveling in its insanity. For proof of that, look no further than the Gorilla Grodd episode. Let's hope they keep up the good work.

The TV producers are also building an impressive shared universe on The CW, something that the movie people can't seem to do to save their lives. Too bad the TV crew can't also be in charge of the films.

I have to say I wasn't particularly happy with this finale. It felt for all the world like they had about ten minutes worth of story and padded it with forty minutes of Barry navel gazing. He spends the majority of the episode wringing his hands and asking all the other characters whether he should go back in time and save his mother. The worst part is, no matter what anyone tells him, we KNOW he's going to end up doing it, so why make us sit through scene after scene of him debating the issue?

The entire episode seemed like a big tease. Heck, Ronnie and Professor Stein even showed up but didn't even get to turn into Firestorm. Wotta gyp!

All season long the show's been beating us about the head with the fact that Barry is a fundamentally good person; a hero in costume as well as out. For example, last week he was determined the save the lives of the metahumans imprisoned in Wells' Secret Super Jail even when no one else cared about them. Then suddenly in this episode he decides to prevent his mother's death, an action that could have dire consequences not just for himself, but for the entire world. Doesn't seem very heroic, does it?

I'm also not a fan of the non-ending we got. It wasn't even a proper cliffhanger— Barry runs into the air to stop the singularity and the credits roll. At least Commander Riker had the decency to dramatically give the order to fire on the Borgified Captain Picard at the end of their big cliffhanger episode.

Kudos to the effects team though, especially in the "singularity destroying Central City" scenes. Those couldn't be cheap, especially on a TV budget, but they looked top notch, comparable to The Avengers films. In fact this series regularly features some surprisingly good effects.

Lastly, since the very first episode, fans have wondered if and when Caitlin would become Killer Frost (her supervillain identity in the comics), and if she did, how'd they'd avoid destroying her  character forever. This episode offers us a clue. We get a glimpse of an alternate timeline in which we see Caitlin in all her Killer Frost glory. Next season Barry could simply encounter her in an alternate timeline, leaving the Caitlin we all know and love intact. Genius!


The Plot:
Barry visits Dr. Wells in STAR Labs Secret Super Jail. Wells does the supervillain monologue thing, explaining why he killed Barry's mom. At some point in the future, Barry and Wells were (Are? Will be?) locked in a never ending struggle. Wells discovers Barry's secret identity (HA!) and goes back in time to kill him before he can become the Flash. Unfortunately for Wells, he finds the adult Flash there waiting for him. So he does the next best thing— he kills Barry's mom, expecting the tragedy to traumatize him so badly that he'll never recover. Unfortunately for Wells, he expended all his Speed Force energy and was trapped in the past, so he had to create the Flash to help him get back to the future. Convoluted!

Wells says he needs Barry's help to create a stable wormhole in the particle accelerator. If he does so, Wells can go back to the future, and Barry can go back to the night his mother was murdered and prevent it from happening. This of course means if Barry changes the past, his present will be vastly different. Joe won't become his foster father, and he'll probably never meet Iris. He also most likely won't become the Flash. But on the plus side, his family will be intact!

Barry then spends a good part of the episode brooding and asking all the other cast members what they think he should do. Joe thinks he should go for it, even though it means he won't get to raise Barry. Henry Allen says he definitely should not do it, because he's proud of the man Barry's become. Iris pretty much says "Whatever."

Meanwhile, Eddie mopes to Professor Stein, saying he has no future. Stein tries to perk him up by saying Eddie's the only person present whose future isn't set in stone. Eddie then meets with Iris and says he doesn't care about the future Wells showed him, and wants to get back together with her. Ronnie and Caitlin decide to get married for some reason, and Stein performs the service.

There are other complications. Professor Stein says that if Barry goes through with the experiment, he'll have to control his speed precisely. If he miscalculates his speed even slightly he could be disintegrated. The wormhole could also collapse and form a singularity that will destroy the whole world.

Barry says "Screw it!" and decides to change the past anyway. Wells instructs him to begin running at top speed through the particle accelerator ring. As he does so, time begins opening up before him and he sees glimpses of the past and several possible futures. Cisco releases a hydrogen particle into the accelerator, and Barry collides with it, causing a stable wormhole to open. Barry appears at his house the night his mother died, and has one minute and fifty two seconds to save her.

He sees his future self battling the Reverse Flash as they circle his mother. He's about to zoom his mother to safety, when the Future Flash notices him and motions to him to not try and save her. Future Flash saves young Barry, and the Reverse Flash stabs Nora Allen, just like before. Barry then enters the room and spends a few precious seconds with his dying mother, telling her that he's fine. She dies in his arms.

Back in the present, Wells enters the Time Sphere and is about to fly it through the wormhole. Suddenly Barry speeds through it and destroys the Sphere, preventing Wells from leaving. Barry and the Reverse Flash battle again inside the accelerator. The Reverse Flash gets the upper hand, and just as he's about to kill Barry, Eddie shoots himself in the chest. As he's Eobard Thawne's ancestor, this causes him to be erased from existence. Somehow this radical act doesn't seem to change anything else, as Barry remains the Flash.

Just then the wormhole flares up again and becomes a full-blown singularity. It rises above Central City, sucking up cars and buildings. Barry runs toward it, somehow expecting his super speed to be able to shut it down. Annnnd roll credits.

• According to the Reverse Flash, he'll be born 136 years from now, which works out to 2151. I was expecting him to be from a lot farther in the future. In the comics he comes from the 25th Century.

• When the Reverse Flash is monologing, he says he finally discovered the secret to killing the Flash-- his secret identity. HAW HAW! It is to laugh! At this point there are very, very few people who don't know this so-called "secret."

• When Professor Stein infodumps how the particle accelerator works, he says something like, "And if you successfully travel through time, I might shout 'Euerka." Or perhaps 'Excelsior!" Apparently Stein is a big fan of Stan Lee.

• Professor Stein tells Barry that once inside the particle accelerator, he'll need to run at Mach 2 in order to go back into time. Mach 2 is around 1,520 miles per hour (it varies with air pressure and altitude). That doesn't seem like it's fast enough for time travel. NASA has an experimental plane that can fly at Mach 10, and I'm pretty sure it's never created a wormhole and traveled through time. Seems like "speed of light" would have been more apt here.

• Cisco tells Dr. Wells he remembers being killed by him in the alternate timeline. Wells says, "Well I'm sure I had a good reason." HAW!

Wells also apologizes to Cisco, saying he didn't realize he'd be able to remember past timelines. He tells Cisco he was also affected by the particle accelerator explosion, saying, "You're able to see through vibrations in the universe. A great and honorable destiny awaits you now."

Of course as we all know by now, in the comics Cisco Ramon is the superhero known as Vibe. Looks like this Cisco's going to do the same for sure.

• Caitlin and Ronnie Raymond suddenly decide they've got to get married in this episode, for no apparent reason other than to fill up another few minutes before the action finally starts. Maybe they wanted to hurry and marry before Barry destroyed the timeline.

• Caitlin gets to play the Cabbage Head (someone who asks a stupid question as a cheap expository device) this week. Professor Stein says that Barry's time travel experiment could possibly generate a singularity and destroy Central City. Caitlin says, "What's a singularity?"

Jesus Christ, Caitlin, you work in a goddamned particle accelerator! How can you not know what a singularity is? No wonder the thing exploded and your boyfriend turned into Firestorm. Heck, I'm by no means a scientist and even I know what the hell it means.

Wouldn't it have made a lot more sense if Joe or Eddie or someone without a background in theoretical science had asked that question? Maybe Caitlin was all giddy from her whirlwind marriage.

• Cisco's skills continue to impress. This week he whips up a slick and very impressive Time Sphere for Dr. Wells in a very short amount of time. You know, given Cisco's ability to whip up high-tech devices in what seems like minutes, you'd think he'd be Bill Gates or Tony Stark rich by now.

Wells takes a look at it and tells him that Rip Hunter would be impressed. Wells identifies Rip Hunter as the creator of the first successful time machine. Hunter will also be appearing on The CW's upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series.

• As Barry begins begins running through the accelerator, he breaks through the time barrier. He sees glimpses of the past, as well as possible future timelines. In order he sees:

His younger self being adopted by Joe.

A glimpse of a possible future or an alternate timeline, in which Caitlin is the supervillain Killer Frost.

The Flash Museum, which will presumably be built in Central City at some point in the future.

A "Darkest Timeline" in which Barry's the one in Iron Heights prison. Yikes! How'd that one happen? Did the police think he killed his mom when he was a child?

A couple of images from the upcoming Justice League, er, I mean Legends Of Tomorrow series, which will be showing up on The CW next year. We see a giant robot foot crashing through a roof, as well as a brief glimpse of the team.

• As Wells is preparing to go back to the future, a metal Mercury helmet flies out of the wormhole and lands on the floor. This was obviously a nod to Jay Garrick, the original Flash from the comics. Garrick wore such a helmet as the Golden Age Flash, and regularly fought Nazis in WWII.

It's a pretty good bet that we're going to see Garrick at some point next season, as well as Earth 2, where he lives. Or did live. I have no idea what's going on in the comics these days.

• As Cisco rightly points out, when Barry goes back to the night of the murder there'll be three of him there-- his younger self, the older Flash who fought the Reverse Flash, and his current self.

Let's hope Barry doesn't try to stop the murder again after this, or his house is going to be filled up with copies of him.

• Barry goes back in time to prevent his mother's death, but ultimately decides not to change history. Maybe now we can drop the whole "saving his mom" plot thread that's been running through the entire season, which frankly was getting a little old.

Of course by not altering history, he's pretty much sealed his dad's fate. Looks like Henry won't be getting out of prison any time soon now!

By the way, when Barry sees his future self, he's wearing a different version of his costume, one with white in the chest logo (which is much closer to the comic version).

• Welp, I totally called it. For a few weeks now I've been worried about what Eddie. He's been acting twitchy ever since Eobard Thawne told him he's his direct descendent and showed him proof that he doesn't end up with Iris. I was afraid he was going to try and kill himself to prevent Thawne from ever being born, and I was right.

You know, Eddie, you could have just gone to the doctor and got yourself a vasectomy. That would have taken care of things just as well, plus you'd still be alive. I guess that wouldn't have been as dramatic though.

I admit it looks bad, but I wouldn't count Eddie out just yet. If you'll notice his lifeless body was sucked into the singularity (or black hole, Caitlin). I would not be surprised if he comes back at some point.

• Time travel is a tricky thing to write. Eddie kills himself, which rightly so causes Eobard Thawne to disintegrate. But if Thawne no longer exists, then there was no one to go back in time and cause Barry to become the Flash. So why does Barry still have super speed? Why isn't he a normal CSI? Why isn't his mother still alive? Why do Joe, Iris, Caitlin and Cisco still know who he is? Why does the particle accelerator still exist? See? Complicated!

In a similar vein, after Eddie dies, the Reverse Flash no longer looks like Dr. Wells and reverts to his true form of Eobard Thawne. Does that mean that Harrison Wells is still alive? If there's no Eobard Thawne, then he can't have ever killed Dr. Wells, can he?

• Despite the fact that the wormhole collapsed, it opens up again for some reason a few minutes later. Before long it turns into a full blown singularity, as predicted. It rises above Central City for some reason, sucking up cars and buildings. 

Barry announces he can close it by running really fast around it in the opposite direction, just like he did the Weather Wizard's tornado back in the very first episode. Because of course a hole in the fabric of space/time is exactly like a tornado, dontcha know, and there's no problem that can't be solved by running.

• As the singularity hovers above the city, we get a few shots of various citizens looking worriedly up at the sky. First we see Captain Cold, and then an unidentified woman staring upwards.

That woman is Kendra Saunders, aka Hawkgirl from the upcoming Legends Of Tomorrow series.

We also got glimpses of Captain Singh and Henry Allen gaping at the singularity.

• Barry must have watched The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and saw Legolas running up a wall of falling bricks. He performs the exact same stunt at the end, running from one piece of flying debris to another to get close to the singularity.

• I noticed something about Barry's Flash mask in this episode. Every time he'd start to put it on, he'd grab it with both hands and sort of act like he was pulling it over his head, and then the camera would cut away. When it cut back to him the mask would be on.

I'm betting that in reality his molded mask is really, really tight and probably takes a team of suit wranglers five minutes to put it on his head.

• I still think that someone who calls themselves the "Reverse Flash" ought to move really, really slow. It's only logical. The Flash has super speed, so shouldn't someone who claims to be his "complete opposite" have super, er, slowness? Blame that one on the comic, I guess.

• Bring on Season 2 now!

Overheard At Work:

I work in a typical office, surrounded by many other workers in cubicles. Although I'm grateful to have a job I like, sometimes the vocal din from the surrounding coworkers is a bit overwhelming. Not to mention odd. Thank the gods old and new for headphones and Pandora.

The following is a 100% true actual conversation I Overheard At Work:

Woman: "Ha ha! Why do I feel like I'm in a Laurel and Hardy skit? 'Who's on first? What's on second?"
No doubt a serious student of classic comedy teams.

It Came From The Cineplex: Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road was written by George Miller, Doug Mitchell and P.J. Voeten. It was also directed by George Miller.

Mitchell previously produced Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, the third film in the series. Miller's had a very eclectic career, as he also directed The Witches Of Eastwick, Dead Calm, Lorenzo's Oil, Babe (!), Babe: Pig In The City (!!), Happy Feet (!!!) and Happy Feet Too (!!!!).

One wonders what the hell happened to cause the director of a series of high octane, Ozploitation action films to suddenly start churning out kiddy fare. According to Miller, he turned to directing children's movies after he had kids of his own. Now that they're all in college, he's decided to return to the action fold, thank Thor.

Fury Road is pretty much one long 120 minute action-packed chase scene, broken up by a few very brief intervals of character building. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that! It's a thrilling piece of cinema that knows exactly what it is, and delivers on its promise. It's also a very compact and focused film— under Miller's direction there's little or no fat, as every scene propels the action forward.

This is the first new Mad Max film in thirty years. It's had a long and tortuous journey to the screen, as Miller first had the idea for a sequel way back in 1998. Unfortunately numerous political and financial problems delayed the film for several years. Miller tried again in 2003, but the film was postponed due to the political situation in Namibia, where much of it was scheduled to be filmed. He tried once more in 2006, but the project was scrapped yet again. In 2009 Miller considered making an R-rated animated Mad Max before ultimately deciding to go ahead with a live action movie. Whew!

Mel Gibson was originally set to reprise his role as Max, but his nutsy cuckoo personal life, as well as his age, forced Miller to recast. Heath Ledger was briefly considered for the role before his untimely death in 2008. Eventually Tom Hardy was cast as Max.

When I first read there was going to be a new Mad Max movie, I audibly groaned. I just couldn't see a new one capturing the gritty feel of the originals, especially after three decades. The original films were famous for their amazing, death-defying and real stunt work. That was the main attraction of them— everyone looked like they were in real and constant danger.

I was afraid a new film would utilize digital stuntmen, ala Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull. I needn't have worried. Miller insisted on utilizing real stunts and practical effects whenever possible, and god bless him for that. The audience can always tell the difference between a real stuntman who's affected by gravity and a digital one who's seemingly immune to the laws of physics (Yeah, I'm lookin' at you, Fast & Furious franchise). Some of the action in the new film is downright jaw dropping.

Fury Road did use some CGI of course, but most sources claim that 80% of the stunts and effects were practical.

So just what is this film? Is it a prequel, sequel, remake or reboot? There's no easy answer. It's definitely not a prequel, and it's not a remake, but it's not exactly a sequel either. Miller himself calls it a "revisiting," saying that "the previous three films exist in no real clear chronology, because they were always conceived as different films." Whatever that means.

The film could have been a sequel except for one small detail— Max's family. In the original series he had a wife and son who were killed by outlaws, but here it's his wife and young daughter. Why Miller chose to change this, I have no idea. If not for that bit of gender-swapping this film could have easily fit into the original chronology.

In the end I suppose we should just stop worrying about it. It's a new Mad Max movie that's long overdue, and that's all we need to know.

Many are hailing Fury Road as a feminist film that subverts traditional movie sexism. Alright then. Personally I just thought it was a kick-ass action movie, but whatever helps you through the day. Whether Miller intentionally made a feminist movie or one that just happened to have a large number of strong female characters, I can't say. And I'm smart enough to not get into that debate.

Lastly, Miller just announced the name of the next film— Mad Max: The Wasteland. So I guess that means we're getting a sequel! Huzzah!


The Plot:
Sometime in the future, the world has become a desert wasteland, ruled by various isolated feudal societies. Max Rockatansky (played by Tom Hardy), a survivor wandering the Outback, is captured by the War Boys, soldiers of the cruel warlord, Immortan Joe.

Joe's the ruler of the Citadel, a small oasis in the middle of the vast Australian desert. He controls a natural spring and withholds it from his thirsty subjects. Max is brought to the Citadel and imprisoned. When it's discovered he's a universal blood donor, he's used as a "blood bag" for the weakened and ailing Nux (played by Nicholas Hoult), one of Joe's War Boys.

Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) is one of Joe's officers, and is chosen to drive her heavily-armored War Rig to the nearby Gas Town to pick up fuel. On the way she veers off course and heads for open desert. Seems she's stolen Joe's Five Wives— a harem of perfect, non-mutated female specimens he's using to repopulate the Citadel— and is taking them to the "Green Place," an idyllic spot she remembers from childhood.

Joe calls for aid from Gas Town and the nearby Bullet Farm to help him recover his Five Brides. Nux, who's now been rejuvenated by Max's blood, leads the pursuit. Unfortunately for Max, he's strapped to the front of a makeshift vehicle, with an I.V. line going from him directly into Nux.

Furiosa drives into a massive sand storm to escape. Many of her pursuers are killed by the violent winds and lightning inside the storm. Nux's pursuit vehicle is hit by the storm and crashes. Max wakes up some time later and sees Furiosa repairing the War Rig nearby. He and Nux join forces with Furiosa and the Wives, and flee Joe and his pursuing armies together as they search for the Green Place.

The War Rig gets stuck as they pass through a muddy desert bog. They're eventually able to free it and continue. When they reach a mountainous area, Furiosa recognizes it and shouts her clan affiliation. A group of hidden female cyclists, the Vulvani, appear and tell her they're the last remnants of her clan. When she tells them they're searching for the Green Place, they tell her she already passed through it. The inhospitable bog was the remnants of the once fertile oasis.

With few options left, Max suggests turning around and taking control of the Citadel from Immortan Joe. The group decides to do just that. They're confronted by Joe's mobile army, and Furiosa kills him. Nux sacrifices himself by destroying the War Rig, allowing the rest of them to escape. Furiosa is injured, but Max revives her with his blood.

Max, Furiosa and four of the Wives return to the Citadel, where they dump the lifeless body of Immortan Joe unto the ground. The citizens are overjoyed at his death, and welcome Furiosa as their new leader. She orders the spring to flow freely, providing water to all. Max slips away quietly, disappearing into the crowd, because he's a wandering kind of guy.

• Miller wisely chose to skip rehashing Max's origin story this time out, and thank the Maker for that. We don't need to see his origin story all over again. All we need to know is his wife and child were killed and he's been wondering the Outback ever since.

In fact Miller only gives us the briefest of outlines on any of the characters, including Furiosa, Imperator Joe and Nux. And you know what? It works! We don't need a ton of exposition about them. We get a sense of who they are through their actions and their minimal dialog, and that's enough in a film like this.

Other filmmakers could learn a thing or two from Miller (I'm looking at you, Spider-Man films, with your constant retelling of Peter Parker's origin story).

• It's a bit odd that Max practically takes a backseat in his own film. He goes a good twenty minutes before uttering so much as a word, and even spends the first half of the film with a metal grill covering his face.

Although it's set in the Australian outback, much of the movie was actually filmed in the vast deserts of Namibia, Africa.

• There are several references to previous Mad Max films.
In The Road Warrior, one of the characters headbutts another during a fight. Miller inserts one frame of pure white into the film to augment the force of the impact (to wincing effect). He does the same thing here as Nux headbutts one of his fellow War Boys. 
Max's car, which is briefly scene at the beginning of the film, is the same model (heavily modified) as the one he drove in Mad Max and The Road Warrior.
Max's costume is very similar to the one he had in The Road Warrior. He even wears a knee brace as Mel Gibson did in that film.
Furiosa's War Rig has a series of kill switches on it that prevent it from being stolen. Max had similar switches on his car in The Road Warrior.
One of the Five Wives idly plays with the innards of a music box during the film. Max gave the Feral Kid a similar gift in The Road Warrior.
• The main plot point concerns Immortan Joe and his quest to recover his Five Brides. The Brides are so valuable because they're perfectly healthy and are the only fertile women in the entire Citadel.

One has to wonder where the Brides came from. Why are they seemingly untouched by mutation and disease? Are they just lucky, or have the five of them been carefully cultured and cared for, like prize orchids?

Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe. Keays-Byrne also played the Toecutter way back in the very first Mad Max film. Obviously they're not the same character, since the Toecutter (thirty six year old spoiler alert!) died in the first film.

• One thing I've long wondered about these films: How is it that so many of these post-apocalyptic survivors have such ripped builds? Take Lord Hummongus from The Road Warrior, for example. He's built not unlike Dwayne Johnson, despite the fact that his diet probably consisted of dirt and cockroaches.

The same thing happens here in Fury Road. The War Boys are all riddled with tumors and are called Half-Lifers. In fact when we first meet Nux he's too weak to stand until he gets a transfusion of blood from Max. Yet somehow they've all got inexplicably shredded bodies. 

Seems like people as sick as they are would be too weak to hit the gym every day.

• Speaking of blood, just how much do you suppose Max lost to Nux while he was hooked up to him? Hopefully less than a pint, or he probably wouldn't have had the energy to do all that running and leaping he does throughout the film.

He even gives Furiosa a transfusion late in the film to save her, and is somehow still able to walk around.

Also, Max is labeled a universal blood donor by the War Boys. How do you suppose they determined that, especially in a primitive society such as theirs?

• Speaking of the War Boys, they're all willing to sacrifice themselves for Immortan Joe, who's brainwashed them into thinking they'll go to Valhalla after death and be reborn into his service.

Whenever a War Boy decides to sacrifice himself, he spray paints his mouth and teeth with chrome paint. It's an interesting image, but I have to wonder what they actually used in theses scenes in the film. Is there something that looks like chrome spray paint that wouldn't poison the actors?

• I have some doubts about the resilience and reliability of the engines in the War Rig and the various other homemade vehicles, especially in the harsh desert conditions. But without these magic engines (that can start even when full of dirt) there'd be no movie, so I'll let it slide.

• Kudos to the effects team who worked on Furiosa's bionic arm. It looked absolutely real, like a prosthetic a person could actually cobble together. Best of all it looked like her arm was actually missing, and not like she just slipped a bulky glove over her real hand. Let's see a cosplayer recreate that!

Same goes for her exposed CGI stump when she removed the bionic arm. If I didn't know better I'd swear Charlize Theron actually lost her arm.

• As mentioned earlier, Miller used practical effects whenever possible, and insisted that all the vehicles in the film be functional and drivable. 

My favorite was the "Doof Wagon," a portable stage festooned with hundreds of speakers and drums, topped by the Doof Warrior, a blind heavy metal musician with a flame spouting guitar. Crazy!

• Unlike most modern action films, the action in Fury Road is very easy to follow. Miller's a master of knowing what to include, and what not to. At one point Max walks off into the fog to take care of the Bullet Farmer. He returns a while later, bloodied and carrying a satchel full of weapons.

How many other filmmakers would film a scene that way, letting the audience simply imagine what horrible things Max must have done to the Bullet Farmer? Very few, I'm afraid.

There's one scene where Miller's direction fails though— the death of Immortan Joe. One minute he's alive and driving his car, the next Furiosa does... something to him, and then he's dead. What exactly she did to him I have no idea. It was very poorly filmed and downright anticlimactic. I expected Joe's death to be much more... epic.

• This film continues a trend of modern movie making that I hate— characters whose names are never mentioned, so you never know what to call them (or if they even have names). Immortan Joe's Five Wives are named The Splendid Angharad, Capable, Cheedo the Fragile, Toast the Knowing and the Dag. You'd never know that by watching the film though. I found that out by researching the movie online.

• Late in the film Max and Co. come upon a naked woman chained to a tower. Max rightly suspects it's a trap. Furiosa recognizes the woman, who chastely rappels down the tower, showing the least possible amount of bare skin possible. 

This is an R-rated movie, for Christ's sake! I guess violence and gore are fine, but a bare breast? Laws no, that would be going too far.

• When Furiosa realizes that the Green Place doesn't exist, she and the rest of her clan decide to ride across the salt flats, in the futile hope of finding a refuge. She says they plan to ride across the flats for 160 days. That's an awfully long time; over five months in fact. 

I realize that motorcycles get much higher gas mileage than cars, but still— how could they possibly carry that much fuel with them?

• Australian character actress Melissa Jaffer plays the Keeper of the Seeds, who, as you might guess, carries a satchel full of fruit, vegetable and tree seeds, hoping to one day find fertile land in which to plant them. 

Farscape fans will recognize Jaffer as Noranti, an alien witch with a third eye.

According to the 78 year old Jaffer, she and the other older actresses who played the Vulvani did their own stunts, despite reservations from the crew. Good for them!

Mad Max: Fury Road is a non-stop, relentless chase film that effortlessly revitalizes the franchise. Other filmmakers could learn a thing or three from George Miller's taught and economical direction. I give it a B+.
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