Successful with its dialog, both in audible and visual forms, Mad Max: Fury Road is destined for action classic status – and maybe not only action. The work is marvelous, scene-to-scene and shot-by-shot. It’s overloaded with a stout feminine slant in a powerful look at how women are objectified, all between explosions, engines, and oil. A marvel and new essential Hollywood cinema.
Video (4K UHD)
Warner’s release of Fury Road is a grand disappointment in every category. Begin with the color, turning the amber landscapes into a garish hue of orange, then turning fireballs into an oversaturated mass. There’s no distinction in the color grading. Rather than appear like deep color, it looks as if saturation jumped multiple notches. The end result is messy, imprecise, and overcooked.
Digital cinematography does display clarity, if artificially so. Medium shots smooth over, signs of digital enhancement everywhere. That muddies detail, leading to mushy imagery. Close-ups might convince this is untouched. Certainly, the level of detail and texture evident when the camera zooms looks the part. Tightness in facial definition sports nuance. Anywhere else other than in close and the smeary, hazy appearance recalls some not-so-memorable botch jobs.
Consider too the mass of halos. Sharpening pushes too far. Spectacular shots of vehicles traveling against a sun-baked sky suffer from artifacts on those contrasting edges. Aliasing is noted on car grills and other fine lines. Shots with noise exaggerate the issue, leading to clumpy blotches across the horizon. Kicked up sand causes additional problems, with compression evident.
It’s not worth upgrading Fury Road for the HDR either. Contrast jumps, no question. Depth and dimension improve with richer black levels. That’s great. Highlights barely see use outside of the nighttime raid where car lights sizzle against the darker environment. However, with the egregious color, the zip in explosions is removed. That’s a loss. Stick with the 3D Blu-ray, and hopefully Warner revisits this in 4K down the line.
Video (3D Blu-ray)
In a time where people lean toward connected but inconsistent streaming and compressed portable video, Mad Max: Fury Road symbolizes why the industry needs Blu-ray. Images of brilliant clarity, awe-inspiring resolution, and detail topped with detail. Fury Road’s generous production design cannot be appreciated on small screens. iPads won’t (can’t, actually) do it. Mobile phones even less so. DVD? Forget it.
George Miller’s world is complete. The Blu-ray edition has no problem resolving minutiae – those specks of rust, the make-up effects, and mounds of humanity rushing for water. Fidelity is at this format’s peak.
The sights are absurd. Seeing the deserts (some real, some not) stretch miles out into the frame without any sense of lost fidelity is ridiculous. Seeing sand kicked up, once from a plow to put out a fire and again in a desert tornado, makes individual grains visible. There are numerous other scenes to choose from as well. Those two just stand out. Whatever complaints have arisen from Warner encodes in the past – and those were deserved – end up swept away by Fury Road. It’s a complex film. Compression is not a barrier to these visuals.
While a few early scenes feature black levels with a slight tint, most of Fury Road is embellished with flawless blacks. Depth is remarkable. Contrast mirrors a world baked by the sun. Highlights are gorgeous.
If anything draws ire, the color palette is certainly… limited. Aggressively saturated, but limited. Grading is excessive, burning flesh tones and saturating the sky with an intense blue. A few night scenes turn all blue. A supposed black & white version is not included either. Color work matches the theatrical side though. Certainly, scorched flesh tones make sense in this dry, all sunlit world. Conversations over modern digital color grading can be saved for another time. The video is of reference quality.
3D viewers will have a problem to contend with. A handful of shots feature aliasing. All of the lines on trucks and costumes become too much. The problem is contained to four or five instances, quick shots other than one featuring Theron walking toward the camera. Her belt’s stair stepping effect cannot be missed as the most distracting example.
The rest? Awesome. While not essential, conversion work is superior to most. The natural feeling of extending backgrounds and depth created in close-ups is superlative. Cars flip toward the camera and debris scatters into the front of the frame. Only two instances are egregious in their execution, mostly for fun. One is a branding iron, the other a guitar and steering wheel popping out as they’re propelled forward. Everything else is natural and reserved. It’s appreciated that Fury Road isn’t using the tech for exploitable purposes, but rather an extension of its world. For that, those equipped for such, go 3D.
Take the above comments about watching films on small screens and bring them down here too. A tinny portable device cannot do this audio work any favors. Both formats offer TrueHD 7.1 and Atmos flavorings. The mix is as reference as the video.
LFE use is the center, but never overwhelming. It fits. Engines rev to their full force, thundering into the low-end with an energy heard only from mega blockbusters. The tight, rumbling growl which is emitted regularly is intense, building scale and weight into a film which requires both. Explosions burst, engines grow as they pan in; the disc has an LFE-based mean streak. Different styles, different depths, and different intensities happen at once. Low-end balance ranks in the top 20 or so discs currently available. Even top 10 wouldn’t stretch anything.
And the use of surrounds is beautiful. If there is a need for a singular reference scene in Fury Road, it’s the sand storm/tornado, which bundles every element together. The way wind is whipping about. The way vehicles rush in from behind and then split the fronts. The directional explosions and screams. It’s almost too much to take in. This soundfield is humongous, stretched from one end of the room to the next with almost no downtime. Nearly all of Fury Road is an action scene.
Bonuses nicely pass through the different elements of the production, some with more of a promo slant than others. Maximum Fury is first, diving into the storyboard and general visualization of the film. It’s the longest at nearly a half hour. Behind-the-scenes moments include footage from Namibia, Africa. Fury on Four Wheels continues, 22-minutes of cars, design, and their intended exaggeration.
Road Warriors gives praise to Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy with a few interesting anecdotes. Tools of the Wasteland follows, digging more into the design process and the rules which ensured consistency. The Five Wives becomes a touch allegorical as it discusses these purposeful characters. Three deleted scenes (including what was a somewhat funny, temporary rubber baby) is followed by Crash and Smash. While only a few minutes long, this reel of live set footage which captures all of the key crashes and stunts live, is incredible.
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Mad Max: Fury Road
Video (4K UHD)
Video (3D Blu-ray)
Mad Max: Fury Road is destined to be labeled an action classic, and the Blu-ray one of the pinnacles of the format’s technical attributes.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 58 full 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.