Mad Max: Fury Road is the 2015 offering from George Miller; the creator of the original Mad Max film trilogy with Mel Gibson, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron as the perfectly matched double act who prove that cinema as spectacle is addictive. The film also shows that Miller has lost none of the abilities to produce post apocalyptic nuances, over the top scenario buildup and grandiose settings that are guaranteed to make viewers gasp. He also shows that epic films belong in the Australian desert where miles of road provide the best long-running “car” chases in cinematic history.
This latest Mad Max, which could be called a “re-boot,” has a protagonist who is that bit more tortured and haunted than Gibson’s ex-cop turned vagabond traveler with an edge. Hardy’s Max is followed by visions of what appear to be his version of the killed child from the first Mad Max film. Calling his name, asking why he did not save them, the girl is joined by several specters who challenge him and fill his head.
Certainly, this iteration of the tough survivor has much in common with the female protagonist in the film, Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. Both characters are fighters, warriors of great capability and resourcefulness. Each have their own set of talents and skill sets and the two have one more thing that they share; they seek redemption.
There are some things that have carried over from the original verse that Miller brought to low budget life back in 1979. Max still has that car, although not for long, he has the long mane of hair, but also not for long, and he has the leg brace. Later he will pick up the double barreled shotgun and the mis-matched right boot.
Something else has popped up from that first film, that crazy motorbike gang leader, Toecutter, aka Hugh Keays-Byrne. The actor appears in “Fury Road” as Immortan Joe, the larger than life dictator who rules his people with an iron fist as he controls all the drinkable water.
Another familiar element has been kept from the original Mad Max films. The action sequences are filmed in the same manner as those in the 1979 film. The stunt fights and the chase sequences are not “slowed down.” When filming fast and frantic action, director’s opt, as a rule, to slow down the crank rate of the camera, i.e. keeping the frames slowed down a fraction. This enables the sequences to look “natural” whereas all of the fight scenes and chase scenes look sped up in the Mad Max verse. (Resembling old black and white silent westerns, or later cheap westerns with sound.)
(It should be noted that either by design or accident, Miller seemingly pays tribute to another film. In the two scenes where the water is released onto the populace from above; he appears to give a nod and a wink to the animated film Rango. A 2011 “cartoon” western with animals as the main characters that “starred” Johnny Depp as a lizard who wrests control of the water away from the evil Ned Beatty. In that film, Beatty’s villainous mayor controlled the water and, like Immortan Joe, released the stuff sparingly to the town’s denizens while maintaining his own personal supply. Just like the evil leader in Mad Max: Fury Road. Rango was actually a western version of Chinatown and Mad Max, the whole franchise and not just Fury Road, is an apocalyptic western with horses being replaced by horsepower.)
George Millers re-imagining, or a reboot, of the verse has Max being captured early on. The film focusses upon Joe, Imperator Furiosa, the “breeders” and the “war boys.” At least at first. It then moves on to Furiosa, a capable one-armed warrior woman who drives the war rig and she is on route to get “guzzoline” and bullets. She detours from her ordered mission as she has taken Joe’s special breeders. The plan is to escape to her childhood home, the green place and take these beautiful young women with her.
Immortan Joe learns of the escape and rounds up a war party with two other warlords. War boy Slit (Josh Helman), is on his last legs, Max, who is O- universal donor is used as a human blood bag (and is called that by his captors) and he is hooked up to Slit. The “rev-head” driver/warrior decides to go on the quest to get the women back and Max is brought along.
The film has an interesting cast. Out of the breeders two of the beautiful young ladies are played by performers who have a sterling show business pedigrees. Zoë Kravitz (daughter of Liza Bonet and Lennie Kravitz) is Toast the Knowing and Riley Keough (daughter of Lisa Marie Presley) is Capable. The rest of the Australian cast is filled with splendid character actors who are long time performers in Aussie Cinema and television. Actors like Richard Carter and John Howard for example.
Tom Hardy and Chalize Theron have brilliant chemistry together and each carry their own portion of the film well. There were complaints that the movie was really Theron’s and that Hardy was almost portraying a secondary character. While the focus is on Furiosa for a portion of the film, the story really is about their brief partnership and proves that not only is George Miller a proactive advocate of strong female character’s so is Hardy’s Mad Max Rockatansky.
It is worth mentioning that all the female characters in this post apocalyptic desert world are strong. The breeders, the all female family that Furiosa is desperate to return to and even the enormous “milk” producing captives seen at the beginning of the film prove to be strong.
Mad Max feels a bit like David Lean on steroids in terms of landscapes and epic scenes of battle. The stark and surreal beauty of the shooting locations is breathtaking, as are the computer effects, for instance the metal arm that Theron’s character sports through the film has been done so realistically that it is easy to forget it is not real.
The stunts are also stunning. The film’s humor is still there, (the drums the guitar/flame thrower) and combined with the over the top “chopped” vehicles, the madness and the white knuckle chases Miller provides entertainment on such a grand scale that even on the small screen Mad Max: Fury Road fulfills the eternal quest for exciting cinema ten-fold.
This is a 5 out of 5 star film for spectacle alone. In terms of home entertainment, this is what Blu-Ray was invented for.