Each week BWN entertainment editor Sparky Funstein reviews movie reviews from across the country, and around the world. This week, Sparky takes on Jeff Baker of the Oregonian and his review of Mad Max: Fury Road.
As a life-long fan of movie reviews, I have to admit that I have been waiting not-so-patiently for what seems like forever for Jeff Baker’s review of Mad Max: Fury Road. Sharp-eyed review fans will recognize Baker from his work on Furious 7, in which he expertly deconstructed the final role of deceased actor Paul Walker. But that was just Baker warming up. He really gets down to business on Mad Max: Fury Road.
The review opens at breakneck speed–starting with the do-or-die headline which poses the question of whether Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action film ever made–and barely relents over the next 864 words, which may seem long, but goes by before you know it.
Baker clues us in early that he knows his Mad Max well, including his last name (Rockatansky), a clever bit of trivia that may have read as patronizing in the hands of a lesser reviewer but plays beautifully here. He also gives a nod to the homo-erotic subtext of the original Mad Max films when he describes Tom Hardy–portraying the titular hero–as “all yoked shoulders and roped forearms.”
The locomotive speed of the review nearly stumbles early on when Baker mistakenly refers to The Dark Knight Rises, which also starred Hardy, as The Dark Knight Returns. Fanboys may find this confusion unforgivable, but it is a slip that can be easily corrected in editing, and Baker quickly regains his stride as he summarizes the action.
Some will accuse Baker of lacking imagination in his descriptions of some characters, most noticeably when he brings up a certain heavy metal guitarist who spews flames from the neck of his guitar, but that is mere nit-picking. His spelling of gasoline as “guzzle-ine” is more troubling, as it’s a trick that’s been done to death.
But these are minor slip-ups, and Baker proves his skill as a reviewer by commenting on technical details, such as edits and the lack of green screen, which will convince a majority of readers that he knows a great deal more about movie-making than they ever will. He also expertly references film-making legends David Lean and John Huston, and gives a nod to fanboys with a mention of J.J. Abrams and the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, recovering much of the goodwill lost in the earlier Dark Knight near-catastrophe.
Baker ends his review with a bang, putting the pedal to the metal and breathlessly writing in turns about the film-making process, the depth of the characters and the imaginatively simple plot, and ending it all by courageously throwing down the gauntlet at the feet of superhero movies from DC and Marvel studios. Baker’s review, while flawed, is certainly among the best of the year so far.