8 out of 10
Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky
Directed by George Miller
Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has been driven crazy by the death of his wife and daughter who still haunt him, but when he’s captured by Immortan Joe’s War Boys to be used as a “blood bag” for one Nux (Nicholas Hoult), Max finds himself caught up in a chase across the desert as Joe tries to catch Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who has run off taking his best breeding wives with her.
It’s hard to believe it’s been thirty years since Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, for which filmmaker George Miller went quite off the rails as he brought his Australian future shock action to mainstream American audiences to help make Mel Gibson a household name. Gibson is gone but the madness remains as Tom Hardy slips into a role that doesn’t require him to remember a lot of lines but also helps to show why at least the first two movies are such classics.
Hardy doesn’t have much to say after the opening sequence in which Max peers across the desert with an introductory monologue as voiceover. He’s soon captured by a gang of painted “War Boys” who want to use his blood to fuel their warriors, and the focus quickly shifts to Nicholas Hoult’s Nux, one such War Boy who is completely devout to the mask-wearing Immortan Joe, who rules his mountain refuge with an iron fist, keeping the populace in line with water rations. One of his high-ranking officials named Furiosa has left with a tanker full of water, but in fact she has used her run to free Joe’s wives, the young and pretty sex slaves he uses to bear his children. Going by the seemingly inbred brutes he’s spawned so far, she’s making a wise move though it puts her on the run from Joe’s blindly-devoted War Boys who are ready to go to their deaths to please their master.
If you think that Miller is trying to make some sort of veiled social commentary about religion fundamentalism, you won’t have to dig too far below the surface of this surprising simple story to find it. The entire movie is essentially a chase across the wasteland as Max is trying to escape from his captors and eventually ends up helping Theron’s Furiosa and her “girls” escape from the pursuing dictator and his suicidal zealots.
As the chase progresses across the desert, we get to see the insane weaponized vehicles Joe and his caravan have at their disposal, complete with their own personal soundtrack provided by a truck full of drummers and a flame-spewing heavy metal guitarist who even gets involved in the action. In some ways, it’s a bit like Moulin Rouge! (another film by a visionary Australian filmmaker) in that it takes some time to adjust to the concoction of Adderall and adrenaline that drives the film’s visuals.
When you think of inventive and creative production design, Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and even Stanley Kubrick may immediately come to mind, and the visual genius of George Miller and his team is evident from the make-shift vehicles created for Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s an original way to explore science fiction by taking parts of existing vehicles and creating new things that look even more fantastic when speeding across the desolate environments which Miller has found. It’s quite impressive to realize how much of the action is done practically, which also gives the movie such a distinct look and feel from the “Fast and Furious” movies.
In that sense, Fury Road doesn’t really need Mel Gibson, as Tom Hardy readily slips into the role of a brooding silent type – and really, other than that opening monologue, he doesn’t say much more than ten words, which is fine since some of the words that come out of everyone else’s mouths are questionably silly at times.
What some may find surprising about Miller’s latest venture is that it’s a rare feminist-friendly action movie in which Theron’s Furiosa and the women she’s saving have far more to say and do, constantly proving themselves to be far more logical and practical than the men chasing after them. Hoult’s character also tends to grow on you although the wild way his character is introduced, essentially turning him into as much a central character as the others, might also take some adjusting to. There are plenty of other characters, few of whom are actually given names at least until the end credits, which is a fun way to learn their amusing monikers.
Other than the at-times wonky dialogue, the only other thing that might be considered a negative, keeping Mad Max: Fury Road from receiving an absolute rave, is that it may get a little too crazy at times for those used to more grounded storytelling. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of the original movies and want to see what Miller’s able to do with a bigger budget and modern technology, then it delivers something as crazy and fun as any of the earlier movies.
The Bottom Line:
Like being given a look into the brain of an insane drug-fueled alien, George Miller’s genius as a visionary helps make Mad Max: Fury Road one of those rare cases when a filmmaker returns to their groundbreaking franchise and manages to create something just as game-changing.[Gallery not found]