How MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Gave The Hype Machine Its Groove Back

This summer, George Miller proved that hype doesn't always have to end in disappointment.

Last year, following a rousing presentation at SDCC 2014, the first trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road arrived online. To say that I went apeshit over this trailer would be a massive understatement: I no-shit teared up with joy the first time I saw it, rewatched it dozens of times, and talked excitedly about it to anyone who'd listen...mainly my wife, who eventually decided that the time had come to voice a very real concern.

"Aren't you worried you're, y'know, setting yourself up for disappointment?", she asked me one day, after I'd pointed out some new, wholly insignificant detail I hadn't noticed the first 7,000 times I'd watched the Fury Road trailer.

"How so?"

"Well, you know how these things go. The trailer looks great, you get all hyped up about the movie, and then it sucks. How many times has that happened?"

"...many times," I admitted, sulkily.

She had a point. Yes, my years spent obsessing over the film industry have conditioned me to be suspicious of hype, but I am only human, which is another way of saying that - given the right combination of elements - I'm as likely to indulge in the same fanboy bullshit as the next nerd. In the case of Mad Max: Fury Road, it was a perfect storm: one of my all-time favorite film franchises, George Miller (!!!) returning to direct, years spent following the film's tortured journey through production, and of course...that trailer.

From where I was standing, Mad Max: Fury Road was a sure-thing, a bet I would make all day. But my wife was not wrong: she was playing the odds. And if the last two decades of entertainment have taught us anything, it's that the odds are stacked against heavily-hyped movies - particularly if the movie in question is a sequel, and particularly if it's a sequel within a long-dormant franchise. My wife knows how much I love Mad Max (one of our ongoing debates involves the picture of Lord Humungus I hung on our fridge, and whether or not it should remain on our fridge*), and while I believed with all my heart and soul that Fury Road would rule, I also knew there was a very real chance she would be proven correct. 

As we all know by now, Mad Max: Fury Road was not a disappointment. It was, in fact, the best film of the summer, and will very likely be named "Best Movie of 2015" on a slew of top ten lists at the end of next month (I know I haven't seen anything this year that's topped it). After what's often felt like an endless series of heavily-hyped disappointments - Interstellar, Man Of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, Star Trek Into Darkness, Anchorman 2 (look within yourself; you know it to be true), the Star Wars prequels, the fourth season of Arrested Development - this felt enormously satisfying: not only was Fury Road great, but it proved that getting hyped didn't always lead to soul-crushing disappointment! 

Put another way: Mad Max: Fury Road was literally excellent enough to make me hopeful about the future of blockbuster movies. 

I mean, let's be clear: one pleasant surprise does not equal a trend. Fury Road has made me hopeful for the future ("Hey, maybe Batman V Superman won't be an out-and-out disaster! Maybe The Force Awakens will absolutely kill it! Maybe Phil won't be right about Twin Peaks!"), but it hasn't erased all those other disappointments from my memory. In fact (he said, already backpedaling) maybe "hopeful" is overstating things. Maybe "substantially more cautiously-optimistic" is closer to the truth. 

Anyway, I'm thankful for Mad Max: Fury Road for mostly typical reasons - for its incredible sense of spectacle; for Charlize Theron's instantly-iconic performance as Imperator Furiosa; for George Miller having made a triumphant return to live-action filmmaking; for every jerk-off Men's Rights Activist who got pissed off about the movie; for the ease with which Tom Hardy stepped into a role once thought unplayable by anyone other than Mel Gibson; for the Doof Warrior; for the memorable 70th birthday it provided my mother-in-law with - but I am also thankful for Fury Road because it gave me the license to feel cautiously optimistic (OK, fine, let's call it what it is: "hopeful") again. I can't think of a higher level of praise to ascribe to such a film. 

So to George Miller and Warner Brothers and everyone else involved with making Mad Max: Fury Road happen, I say: "Thank you".

And: "More of this, please".


* = pictured below: our fridge, as of this writing.