A lot of times when you try to revisit a beloved film from the past, the end result simply doesn’t live up to the memory and nostalgia you had for the original. The recent Indiana Jones and Star Wars prequels immediately come to mind. Yet, Mad Max: Fury Road not only lives up to the previous films, hell, you could make the case that it surpasses them. It also perfectly stands well on its own as an action classic. From the opening minute of the movie, the action starts full throttle and rarely eases up until the credits roll. It sets the bar extremely high for action movies and will inevitably be compared to other films for the next couple of decades. It’s a film that will not only make Mad Max fans happy, but will recruit legions of new fans who weren’t even born when the originals hit the big screen, or even knew about them.
As mentioned, the action is mind-blowing. If there was such a thing as “vehicular Valhalla” then trust me, this is it. I have a hard time thinking of another movie that had this level of hardcore action in the last 20 years. The chases here make “The Fast and the Furious” movies look like your local go kart track in comparison. There are amazing car crashes, jaw-dropping jumps from speeding vehicles, and insane fight scenes that made me hold my breath without realizing it. Immortam Joe’s army is essentially a band of marauding land pirates and they have all of the bravado and barbarity that you’d expect to go with it. And even when there isn’t action on speeding vehicles, the hand-to-hand fight scenes are equally amazingly executed. An impressive fight scene between Max, Furiosa, Nux, and the brides is one of the best choreographed in a long time. I think this movie makes a strong case for there to be an Oscar for stunt work. And since any character can die at any time, the stakes are much higher than they are in a lot of summer popcorn flicks. At its core, this is a Western with equal measures of triumph and tragedy that you’d expect to go with that genre.
The production design of this film is utterly insane as well. For example, a gearshift isn’t just a gearshift. It’s a bone… and a shiv. A monster truck isn’t just a monster truck. It has massive drums and an electric guitar player on bungee cords. Oh, and the guitar shoots flames. It’s all just so brilliantly over the top. As an added bonus, Furiosa’s truck is practically a character on its own. Like the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars or the Orca in Jaws, her vehicle has a personality of its own and is with our heroes for every mile of the chase. To give an inanimate object a bit of character shows the brilliance of George Miller.
While this film is a two-hour non-stop chase sequence, you absolutely care about the characters. Tom Hardy takes over for Mel Gibson as Max and he does an excellent job. He’s a man torn between the brutality this world requires for survival and his past life as a protector. Hardy conveys that inner turmoil well. But while the movie is called Mad Max: Fury Road, the real star is Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. She is, essentially, a female Mad Max. If she had both of her arms, it’s quite possible that she could beat Max. She’s a fantastic heroine and she’ll be joining Ripley, and (Linda Hamilton) Sarah Connor on my list of cinema’s toughest women. The rest of the cast stands out as well. Nicholas Hoult continues to show his versatility as an actor in his role as Nux. Hoult has played a zombie, Jack (from the beanstalk), and Beast. Now he plays a post-apocalyptic warrior here in one of his most memorable roles. He brings heart and nobility to this mad religious zealot. It’s an impressive physical and emotional challenge for an actor and he pulls it off well. The brides each have their own moments to shine, and surprisingly, Rosie Wheatley stands out as Splendid. I won’t spoil some surprises with her, but the audience quickly roots for her character and quickly becomes emotionally invested in her survival. Also who is majorly noteworthy is Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe. He played Toecutter in the original Mad Max and returns here to create an even more memorable cinematic villain. He’s just insane on every level and commands the screen every time he appears. The appearance of Immortan Joe is art all by itself – with Keays-Byrne looking absolutely monstrous wearing a fang-filled breathing apparatus and white gladiator armor to match his deathly pale skin
I also need to mention the music by Junkie XL. As the chase progresses across the desert, we get to see the insane weaponized vehicles Joe and his caravan have at their disposal, which also come complete with their own personal soundtrack provided by a jumbo truck full of drummers and a flame-spewing heavy metal guitarist wearing essentially a Slipknot mask who even gets involved in the action. Trust me it’s more amazing than you could imagine. For a lot of films, the music fades into the background and is simply white noise. Here, the music is the heartbeat of the chase and sweeps you along the post-apocalyptic wasteland. This is a score worth picking up to listen to later.
Most of what didn’t work, in my mind, is a nitpick. Some of the characters that were killed off I wish Miller had kept alive. But if they didn’t kill off a few characters that you liked, it wouldn’t have the high stakes I previously mentioned. I’m just sad I won’t get to see more of them. There’s also the case I mentioned previously about Furiosa being more of the focal point and not Max. It’s almost like the recent Hobbit films, where the character in the title is more of a supporting role. But then again, having re-watched the original trilogy, particularly The Road Warrior not too long ago, Max didn’t have much to do in those either. He’s basically the forced tour guide of this “Tales From The Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland”, so you can almost find it fitting in a way.
The film also ends a tad awkwardly. It closes on a rousing note and then cuts to a random quote that leaves the audience scratching their heads. I would have rather seen Max riding off into the sunset as is appropriate for the Western that this is.
Finally, it took George Miller 14 FUCKING YEARS TO MAKE THIS MOVIE. Since then, he only made 4 other films: 2 were about a pig, and the other 2 were about CGI dancing penguins... Basically, I’m just hoping and praying I don’t have to wait until 2029 to see another Mad Max movie.
While it’s still early in the summer, Mad Max: Fury Road is the best movie of the summer so far. You heard me, @%$^$ SUCK IT AVENGERS and your complete ineptitude to tell a story. I really look forward to seeing it again and it sets the bar high not only for movies for the rest of the summer, but for action movies for the next 10 years. I hope we get to explore more of the world of Mad Max again soon. I can see some audiences not willing to fully embrace the madness and way this movie tells this story. But for me, personally this film had me since the moment our hero started his intro monologue, and with that I bestow upon it a perfect score. 10/10