With Marvel films flowing out in larger quantities alongside the usual basket full of blockbuster action films coming out on a seasonal basis, we have been seeing a lot of action films. Avengers Age of Ultron, without surprise, received a great deal of praise striving in its jaw dropping action sequences and brilliant subtle social humor. With fan hype glowing after viewing, a less promoted franchise revival debuted a week or so later. While not many people gave the film much excitement beforehand, it quickly received massive praise and satisfaction, and now seems to be doing the impossible… overriding the social popularity of Avengers! Action film pitted against action film, I too felt much more satisfaction from Mad Max, and there are a few reasons why. While Avengers action and writing is top notch it didn’t do much to diverge from its predecessor or most current films in the genre of action. So here are 4 Key elements that make Mad Max more innovative or fresher in the current generation of action films.
A Unique Setting
You know what I’m really tired of… action movies in cities. It’s understandable that cluttered city settings are used as they are the ample location for layers upon layers of collateral damage to hype the audience. The thought to go to the city is understandable, but too many action movies do it and the location is getting stale.
Now let’s take a look at the world of Mad Max; it only takes a scene or two to realize you’re in a world overflowing with originality. This post apocalyptic world takes us away from a city setting to a very open desert, but okay they’re not the very first people to use deserts. Looking towards a living civilization we see a fair mass congregating under the tyrannical rule of Immortan Joe; a weathered monstrous looking man surrounded by strange deformity. Below is his army of desert bandits who like many other tribes combat and pursue with highly customized death vehicles armed from bumper to bumper with artillery and weaponry. Yeah… not your every day action movie. Sure other Mad Max movies follow the same suit, but when was the last Mad Max movie? All around the world of Mad Max is a very unique breath of fresh air that throws in awe inspiring characters and structures of hideous beauty.
Important Character Deaths (No Spoilers)
Why would the amount of deaths in a film effect how good the action is? The short answer is the stakes are raised. Watching a movie such as Avengers you have non-human or nameless background people getting killed alongside one semi-important character getting killed in for the sake of a feeling of depth to the film. However right from the get go, you can pull a handful that you know are untouchable.
The Mad Max film however is a whole other beast throwing every protagonist into the action. Compared to most films, there is little bias (in gender or age) as to who gets attacked, beaten, bloodied, and killed. On top of multiple valuable protagonists and powerful villains getting killed, the deaths are dispersed well throughout the film so you are always aware of the very real danger of the stunts and assaults each side is facing. Mad Max does have a journey element to it, and in my opinion in order to make a successful journey film or series, you have to have a very real fear for your protagonists survival. As we discussed in our Podcast: Are Marvel Films Too Safe? we explained that the seeming invincibility of the powers are a very real problem for Marvel Super Heroes, but in the world of Mad Max the danger feels very real.
You knew this was coming, but flaming guitar guy is so dang cool he gets a spot all for himself. More specifically I really enjoyed the concept of having the soundtrack for scenes integrated within the film itself. This is a really hard concept to pull off well, so I really don’t blame a lot of filmmakers not trying this technique, but when it is done right, the results are so rewarding. Instruments flying in a fight will rarely make sense in most plots but there are still actions I’d like to see attempted. In Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong films have a lot of rhythm in their fights. Another example could be certain actions or sounds creating beats of rising tension or matching emotional status of a character, which is a little more common. A difficult concept to grasp, but this avenue of environmental soundtracks has been touched so little I think there is much reward in experimentation for now.
Movies like Transformers and Avengers come to mind when you think of a lot of action. Despite the large amount of action in these titanic blockbusters, Mad Max destroys both of them in Action Quantity and duration. Now is this always good thing? No, in fact I would say it is rarely an optimal choice to fill your film to the brim with action. In most films, if there is too much action, it isn’t long till the viewers senses are numbed and all of the action you’re throwing out becomes nothing more than white noise. So how does the loud dirty explosive world of Mad Max retain our attention for two hours? Well, because all of the previous points we discussed were met with flying colors, Mad Max gains an exception. You meld a unique setting, a strong feeling of risk and desperation and maybe just one more crazy thing, like a flaming guitar player, you get an action movie that feels refreshing, unique, suspenseful and strong enough to tell so much of its story through action alone.
As always this is just one man’s thoughts, and if you have different opinions or things you would like to add, let us know in the comments. Let your voice be heard!