WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
2015 has been shaping up to be a stellar year at the movies. Marvel/Disney hit it out of the park (in my opinion) with their latest addition to their cinematic universe, namely AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Neil Blomkamp gave us a bizarrely violent mash-up of SHORT CIRCUIT and ROBOCOP with CHAPPiE, and aging director George Miller came out of nowhere with the action tour-de-force MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
For years I heard that a new MAD MAX film was on its way, and I had all but given up hope until I finally started seeing trailers and promotional materials on the web . I was immediately hooked, especially after discovering that this film was going to be massively old school. Yes, there is a good chunk of CGI in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, but much of the stunts and effects are all practical! With that in mind, having seen this film numerous times, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a mass grave of stuntmen hidden somewhere in the deserts of Namibia.
Set sometime after the events of MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME (I think… honestly even George Miller can’t pin down where this film occurs in the series), our post-apocalyptic antihero is captured by the “Half-Life War Boys,” the fanatical troops of the film’s villain, Immortan Joe (“The Toecutter” himself, Hugh Keays-Byrne). Kept alive to serve as a universal blood donor, Max is eventually carted off to be a the mobile “blood bag” for a War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult).
Immortan Joe has rallied his men and departed from his home base called The Citadel, because one of his trusted warriors, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has stolen something precious to him and made a run for it. It eventually turns out that she has carted off Joe’s mini-harem of “birthers:” Young, beautiful, healthy women who are carrying his unborn children. Max eventually escapes from his captors, and joins Furiosa to keep ahead of the combined war parties of Immortan Joe, and his allies from “Gas Town” and “The Bullet Farm.”
And that’s your entire plot ladies and gentlemen, because the rest of movie is just a series of bone-jarring, adrenline-pumping action sequences. Bodies are hurled like ragdolls through the air as post-apocalyptic jalopies crash, flip, and explode in a parade of beautifully orchestrated vehicular carnage. And just when you think that the movie’s action scenes have finally reached their zenith, Miller manages to up the ante.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is an exciting film that left me completely drained after my initial viewing of it. I was physically exhausted after watching Miller’s twisted metal masterpiece, and yet, I wanted more! It’s an extremely satisfying film, that takes place in a fully realized world. There are different factions surviving across the post-apocalyptic landscape, each with their own distinctive war machines, battle tactics, leaders, economies, and politics.
The film is further enriched by all the fun and bizarre characters that thrive in Max’s world. (Guitar-playing “Doof Warrior” has rapidly become a fan favorite!) Hugh Keays-Byrne’s Immortan Joe is a great villain, who is single-minded in his quest to regain the slave girls he considers to be his property. He is unrelenting, and looks cool as hell with in his toothy breathing apparatus. Charlize Theron is fantastic as the film’s main antagonist, the tough-as-nails Furiosa. She’s suffered a great deal and yearns to regain her freedom, by returning to “The Green Place,” a lush, green paradise that she was taken from as a child.
Also great is Nicholas Hoult who plays the fanatical Nux. Initially just an insanely suicidal minion in Immortan Joe’s army, Nux eventually has a change of heart and ends up sacrificing himself to save his newfound friends. And then there’s Max himself, played rather quietly by Tom Hardy. I liked Hardy as the new Max Rockatansky, and found his character to be rather interesting.
Max is literally going “mad” as the film progresses, as he is constantly hearing voices and hallucinating. These visions that he suffers from seem to be the result of the crushing grief he feels at not being able to save his family and friends in the past. Oddly enough, the repeated hallucination of a little girl (his daughter from another mother perhaps?) actually prepares him to instinctively block a fatal crossbow bolt to the face.
Though “Mad” Max is the title character of the film, it’s Charlize Theron’s Furiosa that is the focus of the story. But don’t believe for a moment that he doesn’t play an integral role in the proceedings: Max kicks ass! He nonchalantly takes out pursuers, and is regarded to be so dangerous and feral by his captors, that he spends the first quarter of the film chained and muzzled. He’s quick to react, and his survival instincts carry him and the other protagonists through one of the deadliest desert car chases in film history!
If I have any issues with MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, they are few and fleeting. The movie is exciting, and though it makes callbacks to previous films, it does its own thing. It feels like a natural progression for the franchise. The original MAD MAX was a classic revenge tale that leaves our main character a broken man by its climax. THE ROAD WARRIOR sees him go from a coldhearted opportunist, to a man that regains enough of his humanity to do the right thing, leading to one of the greatest chase scenes in cinematic history. (Though in the end, he gets a pretty raw deal.)
In MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME, Max has become oddly kid-friendly, and uses his skills to become the savior of a clan of desert children. It was a really strange direction for the series to go in, but you can chalk that up to studio interference (and a depressed George Miller who initially didn’t have much interest in even making the movie). But thankfully FURY ROAD is, in many ways, a return to form. Max is once again a nomadic loner, wandering the wastelands of the Earth, and running from his personal demons.
Though he feels he can survive better on his own, and most likely doesn’t want to bear the responsibility of anyone’s life (or death), Max grudgingly throws in with Furiosa and her cohorts. Their path eventually leads them to some hard truths, resulting in a veritable death race through the scorched deserts of the future, back towards the Citadel. Along the way, cars blow up, numerous people die, all while our main protagonists seek (and to a certain degree, attain) their own personal redemption.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is a visual feast that easily outshines the bulk of action films being made today. At seventy years old, George Miller has still got it, and I cannot wait to see what else he has in store for us. (MAD MAX: THE WASTELAND, if rumors are correct.) I truly loved this film (which is getting unnecessary backlash from Male Right’s Activists? Wait, that’s a thing?!), and it’s easily my favorite movie of 2015.
Once you have seen MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, you will have guaranteed your arrival at the gates of Valhalla, shiny and chrome! I highly recommend this film, and bestow upon it my highest rating of: