George Miller released the original Mad Max way back in 1979, using a ridiculously low budget and a little known future star named Mel Gibson. With it’s insane stunts and over the top action it became a cult classic and spawned two fantastic sequels, The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome. Well, soon after George Miller wanted to bring a fourth film to life. Thinking about the great action and stunts he crafted on minimal budgets, he figured he could work miracles with all the modern technology available to him now. Due to all kinds of controversy, and Mel Gibson problems, it never happened. It took 25 long years but Miller was finally able to bring it to life, with Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson and Charlize Theron joining him. That’s a long wait, and I was curious to know if it would be worth it.
Well here’s a spoiler alert for my own review. Yes, it absolutely was. If you’ve seen the trailer, and I hope you have, you’ll know that this was always going to be an insane film. Just like it’s predecessors. Over the top madness. It’s set years after the events of Beyond Thunderdome, and the post nuclear apocalyptic world is even more ravaged than before. Mad Max is captured by a band of bad guys who reside in the ‘Citadel’, a city ran by a strange tribal king named Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Bearne, who also played the villain from the original). The people here worship him as he can give them brief access to water and food that he stores for himself. He also keeps a group of beautiful wives who he uses for breeding. Well, his trusted ‘Imperator Furiosa’ (Charlize Theron) steals these women, hoping to free them, on board a giant war tank. Max get’s caught up in the fray and of course ends up helping them on their quest for freedom.
That sounds like a lot, but that is all fitted into about 15-20 minutes. That way, the rest of the film can be dedicated to complete and utter stunt filled, gas guzzling (literally at times) madness. And boy is it mad. Right from the start the pace of Mad Max: Fury Road is beyond belief. Things just keep coming at you. Most of the action scenes revolve around vehicles, just as the original trilogy did, and throughout I literally could not work out how they managed to bring this stuff to the screen with it almost never being obvious that they were using CGI and green screen. Almost never, literally.
Some of the choreography is genius to the point that I just can’t figure out how they came up with it. It’s just action packed, insane art. Bodies fly from giant gas filled creations that have engines the Fast and Furious franchise would be envious of. Cars and giant trucks smash into each other with reckless abandon. Explosions rip through the sandy wastelands. Bullets spray. Grenade tipped spears are thrown by crazy, bald psychos painted completely white. It’s just nuts. It’s also amazing.
All this madness is about as intense and brilliant as any action ever placed on the big screen, and that isn’t an exaggeration. But the thing is, it’s like that for about 75% of the run time. Maybe more. They provide just enough breaks for you to catch your breath, and the creativity is great enough that each scene brings something new and they don’t get boring. But all this would still lead to no more than an above average film if there was no narrative clout at all.
Fortunately, without trying too hard, Miller is able to give us something to care about. Charlize Theron’s character is a blessing, as she brings a real acting talent who’s character really drives the film. Her mission to save these women is a great one and we attach to it and all it’s feminist power. Max is played really well by Tom Hardy, but he only utters about 20 lines and his character is actually a bit of a second fiddle. Theron is the heart of the movie and this frees up Max to just be a total bad ass, which he does to great avail. We would be a amiss not to mention Nicholas Hoult for playing the insane but loveable Nux. His character is a bit rushed, and his change of allegiance isn’t really believable, but I’ll give that a pass.
All in all, I’m actually glad that George Miller couldn’t get this film made before and that it took 25 years. Because that allowed it to come to life in all it’s IMAX 3D glory in 2015. Quite simply one of the most intense, thrilling, insane and fun movie going experiences I’ve had in a long time. Fantastic stuff, and although this will be hard to top, it’ll be tough not to wish for a sequel.
PS. The guitar player, though. Wow.