by Coop Cooper
The first “Mad Max” film premiered in 1979, starring a very young Mel Gibson and the film went on to become a cult classic. Two sequels followed, the critically revered “The Road Warrior” (1981) and the less respected, yet highly entertaining “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” (1985). Now for the first time in thirty years, we finally have a new Mad Max film… and the result is spectacular.
Taking place sometime long after the original “Mad Max” film, Max (Tom Hardy) and his suped-up Ford Falcon are immediately caught out in the open, captured by the War Boys and taken prisoner. The War Boys are young, radiation-stricken mutants who live only half a life and must rely on constant blood transfusions to live. Unfortunately, Max is a universal donor and is used by the ambitiously suicidal War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult) as a rejuvenating ‘blood bag’. The War Boys serve the water warlord known as Immortan Joe (original “Mad Max” villain Hugh Keays-Byrne) who rules his warriors and subjects as a messiah, commanding a religious-like zeal amongst his followers. His commanders, the ‘Imperators’, are lead by Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who betrays Joe and smuggles his five, young breeding women (including Elvis’s real-life granddaughter Riley Keough) out of the territory in a transport disguised as a water shipment. Enraged, Joe sends his War Boys after her, including Nux and the shackled Max. The remainder of the film is one long chase scene.
Although the plot seems simple, the execution is anything but. This must have been the most outrageously difficult-to-pull-off action film I have ever witnessed. There is more action in this film than all Mad Max movies combined. The sheer scope of it is overwhelming, making it the most unique movie-going experience of the year.
Using mostly practical effects and real-life stunts/explosions, it’s a wonder this production didn’t kill half the crew. The added computer generated effects enhance what is already there, allowing for sweeping shots of vistas and close-up shots of mayhem. The production design, the bizarre, fully functional battle cars and the insane costumes made the rest of it all come together. I expect “Fury Road” to win some technical awards around Oscars season.
Surprisingly, amidst all of the action, the character development doesn’t suffer. Out of all of the characters, we get to know Max the least. Furiosa and Nux get the most development. Nux is fascinating because of how much he changes over the course of the story. He begins as a scary fanatic, serving only to die for his master in a blaze of glory. By the end, he’s the character everyone is sympathizing and rooting for. Furiosa also gets a compelling backstory which explains her motivation for betraying Joe and protecting the girls. “Mad Max” films have always featured strong women in significant roles with Tina Turner’s villainous ‘Auntie Entity’ in “Thunderdome” being the most memorable. Theron makes a mark as Furiosa and it’s no doubt the strength of the character compelled her to take the role.
It was fun to see Hugh Keays-Byrne again, even if most of his face is covered by a hideous mask. As the ‘Toe Cutter’ villain from the first Mad Max movie, “Fury Road” allowed him to come back for a memorable farewell. Hardy plays a convincing Max, giving the character his own gruff spin, although he has maybe ten lines of dialogue in the movie total. He has the physicality and the attitude for it and I think they have found a worthy successor in him. I’m hoping the next film will focus more on the character of Max, giving him a chance to grow.
Director George Miller, who created and directed the entire Mad Max franchise, pulled off a doozy of an action/adventure film here, easily topping all the scenes in his previous films. I’m hoping “Fury Road” will kick off a new series of Mad Max films and introduce the younger generation to this compelling character and his post-apocalyptic adventures.
5 out of 5 stars