I have now seen Mad Max: Fury Road four times since it was released two weeks ago. That’s the most time I’ve spent in a movie theater on a single film in its initial run since I saw The Fellowship of the Ring seven times in six days back in 2001, a record likely to stand forever unless The Force Awakens is a near religious experience.
As you can imagine, I get a lot of wide disbelieving stares when I tell people how many times I’ve seen Fury Road. For a lot of people, a movie is a disposable two-hour social engagement, a conversation with a loud, bright backdrop. Or just an evening’s diversion, something that entertains for a while but nothing lasting, an appetizer or dessert for the rest of the night out. And true, there are movies that work best as that — such as San Andreas, which I saw Saturday morning and which I struggle to recall much about other than incredibly competent disaster effects and Alexandra Daddario’s incredibly competent physique.
But with Fury Road, I can recall entire sequences off the top of my head. I can feel the ebb and flow of the action scenes, the propulsive beat of the chase, the emotion of the quieter moments, the grandeur of the finale. And when a film digs into you like that, it’s not unlike an addiction. You want to have the spell worked on you again, and not only some tiny screen in your living room by yourself. If the film has become your religion, you want to see it in its cathedral, with your other devotees. As loud and as direct from your cinematic god as possible.
That’s the rush of a movie that just works. One that makes you want to go back over and over again. One in which you just want to lose yourself. In a way, it’s also to make sure you actually saw what you thought you did. Movies like Fury Road and Fellowship are somewhat miraculous; who thought we’d get a lovingly faithful Tolkien adaptation from a man who was primarily a splatter horror director, or a fantastic new entry in a franchise that had been dormant for thirty years? So you go back as a form of pinching yourself, hoping you don’t wake up from the wonderful dream you’ve stumbled into where these films actually exist.
I feel like I’ve reach my quota on Fury Road. But who knows? That itch may start to form at the back of my brain. Images might race across my mind of battered vehicles roaring across a windswept desert. And I might find myself back in a theater seat looking for that rush one more time.