Mad Max: Fury Road trades out asphalt for a giant sandbox full of life-size matchbox cars cobbled together by a Dr. Frankenstein clone (in this case, filmmaker George Miller). Edgy, darkly comic and full of blistering action, the return of the Mad is unlike anything you’re likely to experience in a theater this year. Simple as that. A writer could be crass and embellish the film’s audaciousness with expletives in phrases like “that was batsh*t crazy,” or “so f**king insane.” I won’t do that (but it adheres to both hyperbolic phrases); just know that some of you aren’t ready to experience George Miller’s return to the post-apocalyptic world inhabited by Max Rockatansky.
A long-dormant film franchise, which originated while Miller worked as an emergency room doc in Sydney, Australia – where he saw many injuries and deaths inflicted by fast-moving cars – returns with a vengeance. Fury Road can be labeled as a movie reboot or a sequel. I’ll call it a cacophony of harmony discord of what is expected with most action movies. It’s its own animal. A phantasmagoric road trip where our hero guzzles gasoline, and whose world is fire and blood.
It’s been thirty years since the release of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, a fun, albeit weird entry for the franchise. The film pitted Max (Mel Gibson) against the baroness of Bartertown, Aunt Entity (Tina Turner). Way bigger than the previous entries some felt it was the most Hollywood of the Mad Max trilogy. The movie’s tone is lighter than the grim nature of the film that launched the franchise with a young twenty-one-year-old Mel Gibson at the time. Plus, it has a theme song with the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll singing about how we don’t need another hero.
Though Gibson’s stock as a leading man would rise (and fall), Miller went on an extended hiatus, venturing to the outer reaches of his post-apocalyptic world. The Witches of Eastwick, Lorenzo’s Oil, Babe: Pig in the Cityand Happy Feet (and its sequel), each a far cry from his trilogy of car-action pics in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Miller tried to get a fourth Mad Max project off the ground but faced financial difficulties and postponements due to real-world strife and abandonment as the material was deemed too politically sensitive. These setbacks only seem to further fuel the filmmaker’s desire to push the boundaries of the visual narrative.
Not only has he recast one of the most legendary action heroes in movie history – a name like Max Rockatansky epitomizes badass (or sounds like a Flintstones character) – Miller shows the legion of action filmmakers that while he may be 70 he has a few new tricks up his sleeve when it comes to car-nage.
Mad Max: Fury Road is vehicular mayhem on steroids. Tom Hardy steps in as the titular antihero, a man who has grown crazier with each passing year, trying to survive the desert wasteland. Still haunted by the deaths of his wife and son, slain by a motorcycle gang, Max now makes way through a mostly barren post-apocalyptic landscape aside from townships like Gastown, Bullet Farm and the Citadel.
This time around Max falls into a situation where he reluctantly joins forces with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as she defies Citadel warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) by stealing his five wives. She is determined to free them from their subservient lives as Joe’s child bearers and take them east to the “green land,” a place Furiosa remembers from childhood. Joe, unwilling to see his wives go free, leads his marauding army of War Boys in a manhunt for Furiosa to reclaim his property.
Up until the release of Mad Max: Fury Road Miller’s world was built on force and attitude. Limited in budget he could never let his imagination fully run wild. But the very opening shot, with Max overlooking a bluff, his cobbled together Pursuit Special (last seen in The Road Warrior) just left of center, sets into motion an enormous chain of events built on visuals and barnstorming action that includes well over 30 vehicles and 150 stunt performers, including some from Cirque du Soleil.
For a project that is legitimately a two-hour chase movie, there’s more happening under the hood than the chase for hope and freedom. There’s the meek who occupy the Citadel and are beholden to the water supply as salvation. Joe’s obsession to produce a male offspring that’s perfect in every way, not unlike his sons, one a lunkhead, the other with pituitary malformities. Nux (Nicholas Hoult) and his pursuit of Furiosa, a War Boy out to prove himself worthy of entering the gates of Valhalla in the afterlife.
Tom Hardy ably fits the character of Mad Max, but Fury Road, title notwithstanding, is not his movie. It’s Furiosa’s. Though, it only becomes her movie near the climatic race back home when she has a mea culpa moment, to which Max sees and stoically reflects his own misfortunes in hers. It’s a minor aside and solemn moment in an otherwise over-the-top production. Charlize Theron owns the screen with her character, a kick-ass heroine with an artificial arm that is tough and to not be taken lightly.
Moving at breakneck speed with the occasional respite to cool off – both the engines and the audience – Mad Max: Fury Road is a roaring achievement for old fans and hopefully new fans of the franchise. I’m in the camp of allowing George Miller’s fever dream imagination run wild with future installments of Mad Max and/or Imperator Furiosa. For the unfamiliar, audiences would be best to ensure their seat belts are locked into position. The ride is jolting but oh so lovely.
Director: George Miller Writer(s): George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris Notable Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!