Mad Max: Fury Road (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

April 18, 2016 14 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Long time readers of this site will probably recognize how I feel about re-makes. In the right cases and in the right hands, I’m ok with them. I guess my personal philosophy is that if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. Having been a casual fan of the original Mad Max trilogy, I won’t say that the franchise was in need of a reboot or a new installment or whatever this movie is supposed to represent. But when I learned that the original director, George Miller, would once again helm the production then I was instantly ok with it. Yes, my life has several double standards like that. It’s bliss. The original put a young actor by the name of Mel Gibson on the map and though Gibson has had his troubles in recent years, it’s hard to deny that he made his mark on Hollywood. Jumping forward three decades, we’ve got a new slew of actors though in the mix is a Best Actress winner and a man who needs no introduction to action films. Nevertheless, we’re once again going back to post apocalyptic Australia and the endless search for water. That sound you hear is the motor revving up and the road ahead is the two hour surge of adrenaline you’ll get along the way.

The plot isn’t exactly difficult to understand as we meet Max (Tom Hardy), a loner wandering through the wasteland who is haunted by his turbulent past. He becomes swept up with a group fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by an elite Imperator, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who, along with some precious cargo, are escaping a Citadel tyrannized by the Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Max and Furiosa form an uneasy alliance to unite against their common enemy and trying to save their respective necks along the way. Of course, it’s not always as easy as it might seem as they’ve got to deal with Nux (Nicholas Hoult), someone trying to earn the favor of Immortan Joe, but who also might see the error of his ways. Will Max and Furiosa be able to escape the army that pursues them or are they destined to a most unsavory death?

Never let it be said that a movie needs to be complicated (needlessly so) to be good. This is probably one of the easiest movies to decipher in terms of a plot line, but it works on several levels. What could be construed as paper thin characters by some are very interesting and dynamic ones here. No doubt Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult and Charlize Theron are all capable performers, and that shows in what we see on screen. The film is among the best reviewed of the year and with good reason – it delivers everything that we would expect it to. When so many films out there are mindless remakes or endless superhero movies, its a refreshing change of pace to see something like this. Granted, this won’t be for everyone, but it’s the icing on the cake that George Miller came back to helm yet another Mad Max film. What’s really got me scratching my head is that this same gentleman also directed 2006’s Happy Feet. Now tell me how that makes any sense?

Video: How’s it look?

Please read our review criteria for Ultra HD discs.

As of this writing, this is my first Ultra HD review. I was debating to even get a UHD player, but had a bit of store credit at Best Buy and figured why not? Assuming you’ve read the Blu-ray review of this title, it was among the best that the Blu-ray format had to offer last year offering up perfect audio and video scores. Was there really room for improvement? The marketing folks who are in charge of UHD would like you to believe that there is!  Popping the disc into the player, I was actually pretty giddy with anticipation. I mean, after all, this is 4K (well, ok, not really) but for all intents and purposes…And, from my streaming on Netflix and seeing the demos in stores like Best Buy, the one thing that really stands out to me isn’t so much the deal, but it’s the color depth. There really seems to be a broader spectrum with these 4K discs.

Like any new fledgling format, it’s a bit difficult to really get a feel for how these discs will end up looking. Hell, the format might not even make it (HD-DVD anyone?). Looking back at the early days of Blu-ray, a mere decade ago, the discs were essentially unconverted MPEG-2 (DVD) transfers put on a Blu-ray. I watched my copy of Hitch and The Departed recently and by today’s standards, there is noticeable room for improvement. So to with the Ultra HD format, we really can’t be sure if these first few waves are really indicative of what’s to come. Still, I’ll stop my babbling and just call it like I see it – that’s why I started this site in the first place.

One of the awards that the film didn’t win (but was nominated for) was achievement in Cinematography. Granted, this is an epic film from beginning to end and I was looking forward to seeing how it looked in UHD. I also had the Blu-ray in my other player on a different source, so I could switch back and forth and do a little A/B comparison. To be honest, there is a definite difference between the two, but only if you’re switching back and forth like I did. Yes, the improved color depth is noticeable, but it’s not a night and day difference. There’s a tad bit more resolution, though some of the effects have a little different tone to them. Certainly skin texture and tone look the part, though those two things don’t really apply to this film given the, uh, differences in color and hue. One thing that really caught me were the sweeping shots. They seemed a bit cleaner and not to take anything away from the Blu-ray. I stand by my video score that I gave it last Summer. While the image does benefit from the UHD technology, it’s subjective to say the least. There are so many factors that could/might make an image appear “good” on one screen and not so good on another. But there is a difference. Given my comments above, if you own the Blu-ray, I see no reason to upgrade based on what I saw. That’s not to say that in a couple of years they come out with a true 4K version of this film, at that point it might be a different story.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Unlike the audio, the UHD features the same Dolby Atmos mix (downgraded to a TrueHD mix if you’re not equipped). As such, our opinions haven’t changed here. For a while, DTS HD Master Audio had a run on the market when it came to Blu-ray soundtracks just as Dolby Digital did with DVD’s. It would appear that the tide is starting, ever so slightly, to turn. As more and more titles start to feature a Dolby Atmos track, Mad Max: Fury Road is the latest in the mix (pardon the pun). Granted, for those that don’t have a receiver that can decode this track, it defaults down to a “lowly” Dolby TrueHD mix. Whatever way you listen to this film, I can assure you that you won’t go wrong. The action begins just after the Warner logo and really doesn’t stop until the ending credits. Yes, this is a two hour action movie that rarely stops to take a breath. Gunfire, car chases, bombs blowing up and everything in between – this has them all. Vocals are rich and pure, even pushing aside Tom Hardy’s lines which sound kind of muzzled though, to his character’s credit, he is wearing a muzzle through most of the film. Like the video presentation, this is simply a definitive example of what a HD soundtrack should sound like.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road – As the title entails, this is a pretty robust look at the production of the film with some emphasis on the visual elements. Stunt work (of which there was a LOT) is also profiled as well as the aforementioned use of as little CGI as possible.  It’s a step above the usual talking heads with some behind the scenes footage featurette – this one really seems to work.
  • Mad Max: Fury on Four Wheels – This twenty minute segment focuses on the cars and trucks, if you can call them that, used in the film. We get a look at how some of the automobiles were conceived, designed and built and their use in the final product.
  • The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa – The two leads, played by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, give us their take on the work they did for the film, getting into their respective characters and the direction of George Miller. Both seem pretty humbled to have been a part of the movie and thought the shoot sounded grueling, both seem to think it was well worth it.
  • The Tools of the Wasteland – Not all of the focus was on the cars in the film, but rather some of the unique weapons and other assorted materials used in the film. This might be the first time I’ve seen a guitar player perched on the front of a car with flames coming out of the end. Credit that to the art department which certainly made its mark on the film with some of their rather unique and obscure creations.
  • The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome – About the only characters in the movie that we can construe as “good looking” the five wives are profiled here. There’s not a lot to report, each tell of their respective characters as well as some of the things they did to get into the story and made the most of their respective roles.
  • Fury Road: Crash & Smash – If you liked the destruction in the movie, then this is it on the most basic level. Contained in this short segment are some raw, pre-production test crashes. It’s nothing fancy, but you can really get a sense as to how much post production can add to a scene.
  • Deleted Scenes – Three total, all in fairly rough format and none of which really added anything of note to the film (I’d say that’s why they were cut).

The Bottom Line

Touting a near perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, Mad Max: Fury Road is essentially non-stop action for most of its 120 minute running time. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are in top form. This UHD release looks great and sounds great, but if you already own the Blu-ray then I see no need to upgrade. If you’re just starting a collection and want to go from the ground up with UHD, then this is certainly one of the marquee titles.

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