Mad Max: Fury Road roared into theaters this weekend, coming in second at the box office behind Pitch Perfect 2. It’s a loud action movie with fast cars and lots of explosions, but it’s also rated R–so I wanted to help parents decide whether or not it’s safe to take the kids.
1. Why the R rating?
The official reason given by the MPAA for Fury Road’s rating is for “intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.” “Violence throughout” actually nicely sums it up. Almost from the moment it starts, Fury Road is non-stop action and violence. Many dozens of people are killed, lots of them in fiery explosions. However, there’s only one overtly gory scene, and it’s almost at the end of the film. There is also some blood along the way, but honestly a whole lot less than I expected.
The “disturbing images” bit also definitely fits. The first scene of the movie has Max eat a live two-headed lizard, and includes a shot of the still-moving legs sticking out of his mouth. A bit later, we’re shown a grotesquely mutated man being put into some combination of protective suit/armor/life support system. There are lots of starving, thirsty people around. And there’s a whole army of nameless bad guys who willingly put themselves in harm’s way, and occasionally do things knowing it will result in their deaths, to please the main bad guy, Immortan Joe. (The actor who plays Joe, by the way, appeared in the original Mad Max movie.)
There’s also the central plot of the movie, which revolves around Charlize Theron’s character rescuing a group of women from Immortan Joe’s harem. One of them is pregnant, and it’s made clear through the movie that none of them were part of the harem willingly.
There is a brief scene with a naked woman, but she’s only shown at a distance. Once the camera begins to zoom in on her, everything important is kept covered by her long hair. There’s one use of the “f” word, and some other very mild language, but it’s infrequent.
2. Do we need to have seen the other Mad Max films to make sense of what’s happening?
Definitely not, and I can say that with certainty because I have not in fact ever seen any of the prior Max films, and I wasn’t lost. Besides, the movie doesn’t exactly have the most intricate plot in the world. Assuming that you can follow the idea that the good guys are in one vehicle and everyone else is a bad guy, and the good guys have to stay away from the bad guys, you’re good to go.
3. When’s the best time to run to the restroom?
The movie is exactly two hours long, so you may need to run out at some point. There are a few brief lulls in the action about halfway through: one when they stop the truck after entering the canyon, the second when Joe’s henchman is about to perform surgery (this is another of those disturbing moments), and the third when they stop the truck again after the night sequence.
4. Will I like it? Will my kids?
There’s no question that Fury Road is probably the fastest paced action film I’ve seen in a long time. If you like lots of chase scenes, lots and lots and lots of gun play and explosions, and a two-hour movie that barely feels like one hour, then you’ll likely enjoy this one. It moves fast enough that you don’t really have time to stop and think about how silly the plot is, but, if you do prefer your films to have things like character arcs, then you should probably go see Far From the Madding Crowd this weekend instead. It is worth noting that both Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy deliver very good performances.
As for the kids: older kids, particularly ones in their teens, will most likely enjoy it, provided they aren’t bothered by the theme and violence. I’d probably recommend keeping younger kids at home.
5. Is it worth seeing in 3D?
No. I did see it in 3D, and there were only two scenes that stuck out as really having a 3D feeling. There’s one early shot where a character balances precariously at the edge of a cliff, and the 3D actually helped a tiny bit with the sense of vertigo. Near the end, there’s a big explosion where a bunch of debris is thrown towards the screen. Other than that, I actually forgot I was even watching in 3D through most of it, so I’d say it’s not worth the extra money.
6. Is there anything during or after the credits?
No. As soon as the credits start to roll, you can leave.