It’s been 30 years since Max Rockatansky last walked the desolate wastelands of the post-apocalyptic future in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Since 2001, creator George Miller has been attempting to produce a sequel. Following several stalled attempts, due to 9/11, Mel Gibson’s antics and location problems, it’s a surprise to some that this film ever got made. Now it’s finally here, does Mad Max still have a place in this world or is it a franchise that has passed it’s sell by date?
Mad Max: Fury Road sees Max (Tom Hardy) become the reluctant hero as he helps Furiosa (Charlize Theron) save the five imprisoned wives of evil overlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and find a new home. What follows is a chase of such epic proportions, including tankers, big rigs, monsters trucks and muscle cars, it makes up 90 percent of it’s two hour running time.
I’d been looking forward to this film since seeing the first trailer last year and I can happily say, Mad Max: Fury Road, is absolutely fantastic, exceeding my expectations. As action films go, this is one of the best I’ve seen since The Raid in 2011. A film that embraces the genre and pushes it to it’s limits, ensuring most of it’s effects are done on camera. When you consider every car they designed is real, and many of the stunts are genuine performers, Miller has used every technique available to portray his cut-throat, dangerous world. Some of you may be wondering how a chase could remain interesting throughout, but he has so many tricks up his sleeve, it never gets boring. Exploding trucks, Immortan Joe’s pale “War Boys” leaping kamikaze style from vehicle to vehicle, even a guy playing a guitar flame-thrower on the roof of a big-rig. Just when you think it can’t get any crazier, Miller pulls another eye-popper from the bag.
Many action films these days choose to put the camera close to the action and we’re left with a very shaky camera and a series of fast cuts making it ridiculously difficult to see what is going on. Miller opts for wide angles with long cuts allowing your eye to take in the full picture as a tanker truck is exploding. There is also an air of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns with long stretches of vast desert landscape, giving us the feeling of isolation and sparseness.
Many have tried, but none have succeeded to mimic the unique style the Mad Max films have come to be known for. The scrap-punk design was something to admire in it’s predecessors, but with a bigger budget, Fury Road pulls out all the stops to give us a twisted portrayal of future life. Overweight women being milked like cows, captured men being used as human blood bags, there really is no limit to what these savages will do to survive.
However, that’s not to say this visually stunning thrill ride has no plot to support it. A simple story told with complex characters is the perfect choice for action films. It keeps you invested in their quest, encouraging you to will them on, through every challenge that crosses their path. Furiosa’s story arc is one of the strongest elements, giving her a clear overall goal and this allows the viewer to simply sit back and enjoy the ride. Brief moments of calm are slipped in to give the audience a breather and to develop characters emotions, especially Max’s struggle to deal with the loss of his wife and daughter, but they never feel overdrawn or intrusive, getting straight back to the action.
Special praise must be given to it’s two leads, who, despite rumours about on-set fall outs, have incredible chemistry on screen. Hardy comfortably fills the big shoes left by Gibson, giving us a Max that is still tortured by his demons, but strives on. Theron also excels as Furiosa, a one-armed no-nonsense woman, determined to do whatever it takes. She is without a doubt one of the best female action characters since Aliens’ Ripley. On the other side of the battle is one of the most intimidating villains put to screen. Mad Max films have always featured great antagonists and Immortan Joe is no exception, up there alongside Mad Max’s Toecutter (Also played by Keays-Byrne) and The Road Warrior’s Lord Humungus. Keays-Byrne’s incredible appearance with long bleached hair and booming voice behind a Bane like gas mask, make him a terrifying and formidable adversary, consistently posing a threat to Max and his allies.
I must add that I saw this film in IMAX 3D. While many oppose the idea of 3D at all, (I am one of them) I can honestly say this film benefitted from it. The depth of field in the chase sequences accentuate the action and give real gravitas to the danger of the stunt-work involved. Luckily, there were only a couple of gimmicky “coming out of the screen” moments. The broad view that IMAX has to offer was also perfect for this film and I would strongly advise watching it this way, if possible.
There has been criticism on the internet about the films portrayal of women, going so far as to call it feminist propaganda. I won’t mention said writers name or link to his article as I do not wish to promote his views in any way, suffice to say he couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, Mad Max features strong 3-Dimensional female characters who do more than just stand there looking good, but said writers main gripe was that it’s female lead Furiosa barks orders at Max and is something of a worthy match. How this can be perceived negatively is pure misogynistic trollop. In a future where the whole world has gone to chaos its entirely understandable that the women would need to become stronger and tougher to survive along with their male counterparts.
Anybody who has read anything of the like, please ignore it and see this film for what it is. An incredible feat of film making with jaw dropping stunts and effects, supporting a simple enjoyable story that will have you thrilled for its full 2 hours.