A Brief Hiatus

Hello there, dear readers. I will be taking a brief hiatus from my blog, as I will be on a trip. I know it may seem a bit odd to take a break, while this blog is still young and waiting for potential readers to discover it. However, I thank those of you who have been taking the time out to read this blog. There are many things on the internet which can take up your time. I thank you for being willing to spare a little of it to read the entries I write. I promise not to give up on this. I am just factoring in a little time for what life has to offer during this trip and making the time to soak that in.

Expect my next entry to arrive on September 22nd.

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EarthBound: A Strange Journey in a Cult Classic

Nintendo is a video game company that has many beloved franchises to its name. These franchises are ones that have grabbed the attention of gamers throughout the years thanks to fun gameplay and memorable characters. Who hasn’t enjoyed the fun platforming with Mario and Luigi in the Super Mario Bros. franchise, or the adventure and exploration undertaken by Link in the Legend of Zelda series? Even newer games have already gained their followers, such as with Pokemon. However, while Nintendo games are pretty well-known, they do have certain titles that slip through the cracks. A variety of circumstances may cause this, but such games can still be worth checking out. In fact, there is one such title from the Super Nintendo that has gained a cult following over the years, even if it may not have been a financial success during its original release. This title is the always fun if definitely odd RPG known as EarthBound.

Set in the present-day world of Eagleland, the game is centered around Ness, a young boy who wanders from home one night when he discovers a meteorite crashed in a nearby mountain. Going to investigate, he finds a bee-like traveler from the future, who warns him that the world will plunge into chaos at the hands of a vile force known as Giygas. Entrusted with this goal, Ness sets out with his mother’s blessing and a little pocket money to journey on and destroy Giygas before he can reach his full power. Along the way, he is joined by the kind-hearted psychic Paula, the mechanically-gifted inventor Jeff, and the mysterious Prince Poo. Together, they must use their gifts to take down Giygas and all those beings who have become twisted by his evil. The style of game is a turn-based RPG, with your team battling all sorts of bizarre baddies as you journey around the world and collect the tools necessary for preventing a horrible future at the hands of Giygas. This turn-based combat does offer an interesting mechanic in that health is represented with an odometer-like meter which can tick away even as you go through your choices for actions. That means that, if you’re quick enough, you can use a healing item to save yourself if you’re hit by a particularly powerful attack. The gameplay is very much in the style of classic JRPGs, so expect a certain degree of grinding to raise your levels. However, it is not simply gameplay that has gotten this title its cult following. That comes more from the fascinating world, characters, and perspective developed by creator Shigesato Itoi.

Most RPGs tend to be set in some fantasy realm that is very distinct and separate from our own. EarthBound is not such an RPG. Though it may have countries with such names as Eagleland and Winters or cities known as Onett or Fourside, this is a world that is firmly rooted in our own. To go along with that, the enemies faced here are not just fantastical monsters. Though there are a few of that type, they are also plenty of foes along the lines of new age retro hippies, mad taxis, and skateboard-riding punks. The result is an odd and interesting juxtaposition, of psychic powers and futuristic aliens clashing against real-world setting and characters. Such an odd combination also serves as Shigesato’s viewing point for satire, offering a fun-house reflection of things from our world. A lot of the major areas and villains tend to showcase their ill will packaged within greed, a lust for power, or even apathy. For example, the town of Twoson is plagued by a cult that follows a religion known as Happy-Happyism, which preaches world peace and betterment through the color blue. As a result, there are families broken up as people fall under the cult sway of its founder, Mr. Carpainter, and all of his ardent worshippers who seek to paint everything blue. Over in the city of Fourside, it finds itself under the thumb of new mayor Geldegarde Monotoli. Rich and powerful, his influence has even made the local police swear to protect him over any other citizens. Though the game was released in the United States back in 1995, such ideas still feel fresh in our world. Another thing worth noting is a villain who has become one of my favorite video game villains: Pokey Minch.

Appearing early on in the game, Pokey is a boy who lives next door to Ness. He is cruel and mean-spirited, considering himself superior to Ness. He is a rather rotten boy, one who has been raised by parents who treat him callously and are very mean and vain themselves. However, over the course of the game, Pokey gains more and more power. At one point, he gets his first taste of power as a major assistant in the Happy-Happy cult. At another, he receives wealth and influence when he manages to become a business consultant to Mr. Monotoli. Through such encounters, Pokey grows more steadily twisted and cruel, even as Ness prepares for his battle against Giygas. In a way, Pokey serves as an encapsulation of human vice. He starts out selfish, then steadily grows more cruel as he gains a taste for power through society and institutions that put him on a level above others. Such an evolution makes him a natural foil against Ness, who gains more power as the game goes on but uses it to help better the world around him. It makes him a fascinating villain to watch, as he starts out as a rotten neighbor next door and grows into a powerful threat.

Sadly, such an interesting RPG didn’t prove to be such a hit when it had originally come out. The marketing for the game seemed to high-light a gross-out sense of humor that is not really in the game, along with a higher price tag due to the game being packaged with a strategy guide. Along with that, its 16-bit graphics seemed basic next to the then-recent release of Donkey Kong Country, which used computer graphics to create sumptuous visuals. However, time has been kind to this game and people have come to recognize the sharp writing and offbeat sensibility that makes this game stand out. If you’d like to give EarthBound a try, it is currently available for the Nintendo Wii U thanks to its Virtual Console component and sold in the Nintendo eShop.

Cinderella: Courage and Kindness in a Traditional Fairy Tale

In recent years, Disney seems to have found a new source of material for their live-action films: namely, their animated ones. It looks to be that Disney has not only made a few films based upon their animated works, they have plans for several adaptations along the way. Personally, I think that this is an idea that Disney should handle with care, based upon their first few tries. The live-action Alice in Wonderland film, for example, took what was a fun capturing of Lewis Carroll’s humor and instead made a dull and generic fantasy action film. Maleficent, while having a few interesting ideas and a good performance by Angelina Jolie, felt ultimately too odd and unsettled by both trying to be a revisionist “take that” to the original fairy tale and by trying to be a goofy family film. Both films are examples of missteps in trying to translate these works to a live-action form. However, Disney did release a film that serves as a good example of taking one of their animated classics and making a strong live-action feature from it. In this case, the film was Cinderella.

Based upon the fairy tale and Disney’s 1950 adaptation of said fairy tale, Cinderella tells the story of Ella (played by Lily James), a young girl who is raised by kind and loving parents. However, the death of her mother (who leaves her the parting wish to “have courage and be kind”) leads Ella to gaining new family in the form of the cold stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and her selfish stepsisters. Once her father passes, Ella becomes little more than a servant, forced to take on all of the tasks of the house and even called Cinderella as a mocking insult for her soot-covered appearance. However, she tries to cling to her mother’s words and not give in to the cruelty around here. It is that attitude which hooks the attention of Prince Kit (Richard Madden), who is taken by her kindness in their brief encounter. From there, the story becomes about how Prince Kit tries to bring them together, even as the cruel actions of Lady Tremaine and the schemes of the Grand Duke seek to drive them apart.

Now, while there is plenty that I like about this film, what is most notable is the approach they had went with for adapting it. Namely, they stuck to keeping it as a traditional fairy tale. Now, there are a lot of adaptations of fairy tales that try to deconstruct its subject, offer a revisionist take, or simply indulge in irony. Most of these attempts vary in terms of quality. They did not go with that for this movie. They instead chose to stay faithful to the story, which they accomplish with complete heart and sincerity. It was honestly refreshing to see a fairy tale retelling that chose to go for heart rather than try to tell it with snark or irony. It simply embraced what it was and did so without a shred of worry. Also, by not trying to twist or overly change the events of the story, they instead focused on adding depths to the characters. For example, Cinderella is normally a passive character, with much of the story’s events happening to and around her rather than her directly pushing the plot forward. While that same dynamic may be here, they jump that hurdle by showing how the cruel treatment from Lady Tremaine and her stepsisters is getting to her, but that she is fighting to maintain a hopeful outlook and to treat others with kindness. The result is that they have taken a passive quality and instead turned it into a strength, showing a resolve in Cinderella to not give in to the sadness and cruelty that faces her now. Even Lady Tremaine is given depth, offering an understanding to her cold and cruel demeanor. That is much more interesting for a story, rather than trying to sell it on just a gimmick or some new revision.

The rest of the film is handled with the same skill and care. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, he leads a cast and crew who are game for this sincere adaptation. The performances are fun and heartfelt, from the lead actors to its supporting cast. The shots are beautiful, with striking sets and costumes that feel like a natural counterpoint to the animated version’s Technicolor visuals. The score is lush and lovely, capturing the sweeping feels of the emotions. My apologies if it seems like I am over-selling this movie, but it was a wonderful example of how to handle translating one of Disney’s animated classics to a live-action form. Namely, they kept its fairy tale heart intact, but offered their own approach by offering greater depth to its characters. To me, it was an excellent choice to take in adapting the 1950 film to live-action form. Hopefully, if they can keep the hearts intact for these other works while finding a new route to offer for their live-action forms, then Disney might have something magical to offer.

If you’re interested to see if Cinderella lives up to the praise I have for it, it will be released on Blu Ray and DVD on September 15th (which means, as of the time of this post, tomorrow).

The Visit: Not a Comeback, But a Brief Return Trip

It is understandable to hate those bad artists who create bad work. More frustrating, however, is watching as good artists create bad work. It can be painful, watching as someone who does possess talent digs themselves down further and further into a hole of terrible stories. You want to see them turn it back, bring themselves back to the realm of exceptional work they had started with, but instead they sink into the abyss. One filmmaker who serves as an example of such a situation is M. Night Shyamalan. M. Night Shyamalan first took to the scene with the powerful The Sixth Sense, grabbing our attentions with the tale of a boy who could see ghosts. He then followed that up with Unbreakable, which tells of the beginnings of a super-strong superhero. Both are terrific thrillers that high-light the skill that Shyamalan does have in crafting a narrative. However, his work took a sharp plunge after that, his work becoming known for horrible plots, terrible acting, and ridiculous twists. It is as if he’s become more known for his flaws such as The Happening rather than for his first two features. That’s why it is refreshing to see him come out with a film like The Visit. Well, sort of.

Done in a “found footage” style, The Visit is centered around young teenagers Rebecca and Tyler Jamison. When their grandparents (whom they have never met) send a message to their mom about wanting to see their grandkids, Rebecca and Tyler insist on going despite their mother’s reluctance. For Rebecca, she sees this as the chance to make a documentary that could help mend the wounds left between their mom and their grandparents from a bad incident in their past. At the start, they seem like a nice couple who care for them and love this chance to finally see their grandchildren. However, as the week progresses, they begin to exhibit odd behavior. Despite them brushing off any questions about it with explanations of how they’re old and people begin to fall apart as they age, it becomes clear to Rebecca and Tyler that they may be in grave danger at the hands of their grandparents if they stick around for much longer.

Now, there are glimpses of the Shyamalan we once remember in this film. Though it starts a little rough, he manages to rack up the tension as the story unfolds. He plays the horror within this story well, capturing a sense of the fear that can come from watching our elders exhibit dangerous behavior as they fall apart. After all, who hasn’t been at least a little afraid when around an elderly person whose mind is beginning to slip from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? It can be a little scary, watching as someone you know has begun to lose the sense of who they are and may react severely because of it. Shyamalan also shows that he can handle good character development. Throughout the film, Rebecca’s efforts to shoot this documentary lead to several sequences where she and her brother perform interviews. During one poignant sequence of interviews, both are forced to examine their own issues, stemming from a father who had left them. It’s a quiet sequence, but one that offers a keen insight for them. It also helps that Shyamalan also decided to have some purposeful comedy in the film, offering a slight pressure valve that both offers a counterpoint from the horror and a reprieve from recent films where he played things far too serious all of the time. However, there is a reason that I said glimpses rather than a full return.

Though the comedy does offer a good pressure valve, there are times when it can be cringe-inducing. Mostly, this seems to be in how Shyamalan has written the teenagers themselves. Tyler is depicted as an aspiring rapper, taking time to spout out improvised raps that sound about as well as you might expect from someone writing a teenage boy without any clue of how they are. Rebecca herself is constantly spouting out five dollar words as she speaks in cinematic jargon on how to best frame or capture a shot. Both personalities are grating and it feels like an older person’s attempt to write youth. The result is that it feels out of place and not natural for characters their age. The more grating parts of their personalities at least subside for the most part as the story goes on, but it can rub some people the wrong way early on. Another issue that I have is how Shyamalan uses the “found footage” approach. Namely, it feels rather loose in actually sticking to it. Instead of going for a natural feel like most attempts at the “found footage” style, the cinematography feels very constructed with some establishing shots that leave me wondering how they were gotten within the confines of the narrative. In a way, Rebecca’s interest in making this documentary feels like a way to give Shyamalan an easy out for both shooting something with the easier approach of “found footage” while still sticking to conventional shots. It is like he wants to have his cake and eat it too, but the result feels a bit lax on fully achieving either. Still, I wouldn’t completely write this film off.

Yes, the film is plagued by issues. A lot of it feels like it comes from familiar problems that people have had with M. Night Shyamalan. However, there is still good work that is on display here, glinting alongside the darkness of his flaws. The result is a movie that is alright. It is not the abyss of awful with works like The Happening, nor is it a great piece of filmmaking like The Sixth Sense. It is firmly alright. In a way, that’s perfectly fine. It means that there is still some talent in Shyamalan. Perhaps making more films on a small budget with a simple story and bare bones cast might help steer him back to where he once was.

Darkest Dungeon: The Roguelike in Darkness

Last week, I had posted an entry that discussed Kickstarter and its potential for opening doors to prjects and ideas that might not normally be supported otherwise. Now, I don’t intend to just rehash my sentiment from before, but I feel that it is at least worth discussing other projects that had gained life from Kickstarter. In this case, it’s to discuss a particular game within the genre of the roguelike. For those unfamiliar, a roguelike is a genre of video game that is most associated with turn-based combat and procedurally-generated levels. This means that it’s a game where you do not have the same paths or levels every time you play. The term comes from the game Rogue, released back in 1980 and featuring such a play-style. However, I will not be discussing that game. Instead, I shall be discussing a game that takes that play-style, but infuses it with the horror and madness of H.P. Lovecraft. In this case, it is a game known as Darkest Dungeon.

The game stars you as the heir of a rich relative, one who has called for your aid. Having grown bored with all forms of the standard vices, he sought something more intoxicating. He sought a way to gain power from eldritch forces, summoning them from a portal in the depths of his illustrious manor. However, he had lost control of the abominations he had brought forth, his sanity shattered by what he had found. Now seeking to atone for his deeds, he has called for you to clear out what lurks in the shadows and depths of the ancestral home. To do that, you assemble a team of various warriors to journey into the mansion. The team can be formed from all sorts of characters, from highwaymen to plague doctors to even jesters. Once this team is formed and you have taken care of any needs in the town, you journey on into the mansion. Each level has you walking through the halls of the mansion, investigating all sorts of curios for any hidden items and battling monsters and bandits lurking within the darkness. Placement for your team members is key, because different characters have different ranges for who they can target. Those core elements sound familiar, but where Darkest Dungeon waves its flag with pride is with its feature of resolve.

In this game, all characters possess resolve. This is a bar that represents the sanity of your character, which can be depleted if you encounter things that freak your team members out or they watch their teammates take damage or even die. Depending on the events that unfold in a stage, your teammates can gain new attributes that affect them in a variety of ways. Some are positive, such as the Lurker attribute which gives you a buff to damage whenever you’re in a darkened space. However, there are also plenty of negative attributes. They can range from the general, like the Clumsy attribute which gives a -5 buff to your dodge stat, to the specific, like the Plutomania attribute which forces the character to investigate any money-related curios. These attributes aren’t the only thing affected by resolve. If your character loses all of their resolve in a level, then they go insane. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from hurting teammates to refusing health items to even hurting themselves. The only way to treat those who are insane are to send them off to be treated, forcing them out of play for a while. The result offers an engrossing element to the gameplay, with characters changing and being affected by their actions as you journey into the darkness. It gives the feeling of your actions having an effect on the characters, their experiences shaping who they become. In fact, it helps in capturing the feel of H.P. Lovecraft, who is clearly a major influence on the game.

For those unfamiliar with H.P. Lovecraft, he was a writer from the early 20th century. Though he is probably known to most as the creator of the alien monster Cthulhu, Lovecraft’s greatest strength as a horror writer came through certain themes that reoccurred throughout his work. Among those themes was the fear of the unknown. Many of Lovecraft’s stories explore those seeking to gain knowledge or power, reaching and grasping into the darkness for some unknown key. It is what lurks in the darkness, however, that irrevocably changes them. Those who reach into that darkness find themselves facing unknown terrors, most frequently alien beings beyond our conventional description. Such encounters frequently bring death and madness to those poor souls. Lovecraft’s work has left an indelible mark on the horror genre, and Darkest Dungeon serves as a strong example of that influence. It captures the feeling of his stories, of the growing dread and the threat of eldritch abominations. It does so not only through the visual style, which looks like a mixture of the Gothic and the unearthly, but also through the resolve system. The resolve system gives the feel of change as your teammates face these creatures, their sanity challenged as they fight. No matter if they come out alive or wind up dead or insane, they are forever changed by these experiences.

Sometimes, the ideas or influences of another can help to bring the spark to the great idea. Darkest Dungeon is an example of how well such a mixture can turn out. By bringing together the procedurally-generated approach of a roguelike with the madness and horror of H.P. Lovecraft, it has offered a game that captures the feeling of madness when faced with grave monsters from horrible misdeeds. Perhaps a trip to these dungeons may be what you need if you’re looking for something off the beaten path.

If Darkest Dungeon sounds like a game that might fill your need for a modern dash of Lovecraft, it is currently available on Steam Early Access. Though it achieved its funding on Kickstarter, it’s in Early Access so the developers (Red Hook Studios) can currently make tweaks and changes to the game while receiving input from players on it.

Gravity Falls: Mysteries, the Supernatural, and Waddles

When it comes to Disney and animation, it is not only their films for which they are known. Over the years, they have gained many fans and followers from their numerous animates show for television. Some have been hooked from the adventure and laughs from series like DuckTales or Darkwing Duck. Some are among the devoted fan cult that sprung up from the dark and gripping Gargoyles. Others were hooked through the teen action and thrills of Kim Possible. Certainly, Disney has offered plenty of animated shows that cover a variety of styles and presentations. However, in recent years, they ended up becoming an outlet for a brilliant new series they have released. It is a show that offers some of the sharpest writing I have seen for a Western animated series, yet it is one which seems to be plagued by a non-steady release schedule. Created by Alex Hirsch, this new show is Gravity Falls.

Set over the course of one summer, the show is centered around Dipper and Mabel Pines. One is an intelligent and nerdy boy, the other is a fun-loving and cheerful girl, but both are twin siblings who have been sent by their parents to spend the summer in the small town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. There, they find themselves under the care of their great-uncle (which they shorten to grunkle) Stan Pines, a schemer and con-man who has turned his home into a tourist trap known as the Mystery Shack. However, what should be a fairly routine summer changes when Dipper discovers a mysterious journal in the woods surrounding the Shack. It depicts a six-fingered hand on its cover with the number 3, and its pages tell of all sorts of monsters and mysteries that seem to be lurking beneath the surface of Gravity Falls. Realizing the impact of this journal, Dipper sets out to reveal the truth of just what exactly is happening around this town and why there seems to be so much weird activity.

This show is an example of superb writing and shows off that strength in a multitude of ways. Firstly, the world of Gravity Falls is well-developed. All of its characters feel fleshed out and lived in, from major characters like Mabel Pines and her big heart mixed with her quirky sense of style to minor folks like the burly lumberjack Manly Dan and the forever put-upon journalist Toby Determined. As a result, the world feels alive as the mystery unravels. Along with that, the humor on the show is top-notch. It comes from all forms, from character-based humor such as the schemes that Stan uses in his pursuit of greed, or ridiculous concepts for monsters or mysteries such as the overly-masculine Manotaur or a love god who dabbles in playing concerts at Coachella-type events. The humor covers a broad range, but none of it ever feels cheap or takes away from the characters. Even Pacifica Northwest, the show’s take on the snooty rich girl archetype, has depth to her even as her dialogue offers up some nice quips. Above it all, however, is the strength of the overarching story.

For most shows, there might be some challenge to trying to pull off a series-long mystery. However, Gravity Falls manages to not only dole out information or reveal surprises and twists at a proper pace, it also manages the pacing of its characters and actions. Continuity is wound tight in this show. Nothing is wasted. For example (to use one that offers no spoilers pertaining the overarching mystery), the first three episodes of the show have a figure in a grey jumpsuit appear in the background to grab a random object. It is not until the ninth episode that you finally meet the character, a time traveler named Blendin Blandin (voiced by Justin Roiland, of Rick and Morty fame). Due to the episode’s events, he ends up having to go back in time to fix a few potential time paradoxes. These moments of him fixing paradoxes, it turns out, are the moments the viewer can see him in the background of the first three episodes. This, along with many other elements ranging from big reveals to even the smallest details, serves to showcase how carefully plotted and planned the series is. Such writing for an animated series is worth rewarding. Alas, the schedule for episodes has been a little lax.

Currently showing on Disney X-D (A secondary channel for Disney aimed towards young teenagers, though with no hyphen in the channel name. That’s just there to stop WordPress from making an emoji.), the airing schedule for Gravity Falls has been wide, sometimes going for weeks or even months at a time without a new episode. This can be frustrating, especially for a show with such great quality to it. Still, this does not have to be disheartening. After all, there are ways to still support the show. For example, I recommend tuning in for the next episode, which airs September 21st. Though, you may want to catch up on earlier episodes, both for your own enjoyment and to catch up on a great show. Maybe if enough folks show their support, Disney might offer some stronger ground to go with the strong support.

Mad Max – Fury Road: Oh, What a Lovely Day

Back in 1979, a little film from Australia known as Mad Max, directed and co-written by George Miller and starring Mel Gibson, was released. Showing society falling apart at the seams and the crushing blows to the life of police officer Max Rockatansky, the film had a polarized response from critics when released. However, it is the sequel that would make Mad Max a familiar name, a sequel known to most as The Road Warrior. Set fully in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with Max pulled into an ongoing conflict between survivors in an oil refinery and the forces of the brutal Lord Humungus, the movie gripped people’s attention when it hit theaters. Its pure action and its vision of a punk and leather wasteland not only made the film stand out in its release back in 1981, but still remains at the defining point for most post-apocalyptic tales. From video game franchises like Fallout and Borderlands to comic books such as Tank Girl, the impact from The Road Warrior is still being felt. Now, 30 years after the last movie (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome), George Miller brought the world back to the wasteland with a new entry in the franchise. Back in May, at the beginning of the 2015 summer movie season, he gave to us Mad Max: Fury Road. Well, the wait was most certainly worth it.

Still keeping with its post-apocalyptic setting, the film starts with Max (this time played by Tom Hardy) captured by a group of chalk-white psychos known as the War Boys. As he seeks to escape and regain his freedom, he is pulled into a conflict that bubbles and boils around him. On one side is Immortan Joe, a masked tyrant who rules over his land by rationing out fresh water and who is desperate for a genetically-pure male heir to succeed him. One the other side is Furiosa, a driver who has left his ranks and is seeking to set his wives (a group of women kept locked up, seen by Immortan Joe as his property) free from his cruel treatment. The result is a near-nonstop chase, with cars and trucks speeding along the wastelands as Furiosa and Max journey to freedom while fighting off Immortan Joe and his War Boys.

This is a film that feels like a breath of fresh air when it comes to the action genre. Regarding the action itself, it is marvelously handled. The film is able to bring something fresh to each action sequence, with the movie as a whole pulling off its spectacle through real stunt work and as much practical effects as is possible. The result is that each fiery explosion, each tumble of a car or truck sent barreling off-course, each high-flying War Boy leaping through the air, is real. Having such a tangible and physical element better sells the action, instead of relying upon just CG to deliver its thrills. The writing is also top-notch. Though its core story may be brief, the film is filled to the brim with character development. What’s striking about that is how bare-bones and sparse the dialogue is, mostly used for those details that must be said. Otherwise, the movie allows its tale to unfold through action and implication. It’s a wonderful showcase of the classic screenwriting rule of “Show, Don’t Tell”. The visuals are also a sight to behold, with a clear camera view of the action and colors that are striking and bright. The overall result is a film that is top-notch with its visuals, its storytelling, and its action. There is another thing, however, which is worth noting that adds to the film’s strength: Furiosa.

Played by Charlize Theron, Furiosa is one of the strongest female leads I have seen in a long time for an action movie. She fights and battles for these wives, doing all that she can to ensure that they are finally free from the cruel clutches of Immortan Joe. However, it is also clear how much she cares for them, knowing their pain and fear oh so well. The mixture is one that captures a fine balance between her strength and support. It is not over-layered by “feminine” elements in some desperate attempt to define her solely by that, nor is it so overloaded in hard edge and toughness that she could be easily swapped with a guy with no loss in content. No, the balance allows Furiosa to shine as a character who can be appraised as both (if you’ll understand my phrasing) a strong female character, and a strong character who happens to be female. In fact, this movie is really more of her story. Max is just along for the ride at first, though he does grow more invested beyond a basic need to survive. At the chase goes on, he undergoes his own changes and becomes a helping hand in this battle between Furiosa’s path for freedom and Immortan Joe’s hunger for control. Though his help is definitely a great aid, it is Furiosa who is the real central figure for this tale.

It’s almost hard to believe that it has been 30 years since the last Mad Max film. The franchise has left such an indelible image of the post-apocalypse, of punk-fueled and leatherclad psychos zooming across the wastelands in their cars, that it almost feels like no time has passed. Still, it is a great thing that George Miller has returned to bring such an iconic world and hero back to the big screen. Under his skilled craftsmanship, he has shaken up audiences with something wild, something brash, something masterfully told. In short, he’s given us something a bit mad, and it’s all the better for that.

If you’re ready to go beyond Thunderdome, Mad Max: Fury Road is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD. Also, at the time of this post, the movie will be re-released to certain IMAX theaters for one week only starting on September 11th.