It’s a mad, mad, mad, Mad Max world!
It’s been 30 years since we last saw Max Rockatansky AKA Mad Max roam the dystopian post-apocalyptic landscape created by the great visionary filmmaker George Miller. During that time, Miller directed only a handful of films, primarily talking animal family films such as Babe 2: Pig in the City and the Oscar winning Happy Feet. Despite it being a work-in progress for many years, Mad Max: Fury Road seems to be Miller’s way of delivering a strict how-to lesson to all the action director wannabes who are flooding cineplexes these days with CG-filled shlock. Fury Road has its fair share of CG, but only when necessary…or when super cool. The practical effects (you know… actual people and actual cars and actual explosions) are unparalleled. Fury Road will set the precedent for what all forthcoming action films will be compared against, and not only for its action. Mad Max: Fury Road manages to showcase some of the greatest frenetic visuals in at least a decade while still delivering a worthy story and characters. It’s style AND substance — a rare treat. ‘What a lovely day!’ indeed.
Let’s talk about the leads. Tom Hardy (Warrior, Inception) reprises the role that made Mel Gibson an international star. Yes, Mad Max: Fury Road is not a money-grubbing reboot or an origin story, nor is it a stereotypical sequel. It is a new chapter in a well-aging, semi-campy, fandom heavy franchise. Case in point: half of the screening’s audience was decked in road warrior gear (if you don’t know what type of gear I’m talking about, this film may not be for you.) Anyway, it’s easy to dismiss an actor’s performance in a role that demands much more physical presence rather than emotional presence or heavy dialogue, and yet its hard to imagine anyone but Hardy pulling this off as well as he does. He’s able to convey a tragic past without shedding tears, and a stoic madness that we’ve come to expect from Max. He’s scarred and he’s lethal, and we see and believe it. But, in comes Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, arguably the most badass female character since Ellen Ripley in Alien (1979), the same year the first Mad Max was released. With one arm and a thirst for redemption, Furiosa steals away the beautiful women who had been held captive as birth mothers for an army of young “war boys” by an evil warlord, Immortan Joe. Theron is fantastic as Furiosa and may very well be the second most popular costume this Halloween (the first choice will be a Mad Max side character who riffs along for the ride throughout the new film — you’ll see).
Let’s talk about the action sequences. I can’t think of enough superlatives to accurately express the incredible thrills that Mad Max: Fury Road delivers. The audience at the screening erupted into rousing applause on four separate occasions throughout the film. It’s as simple as this: George Miller knows how to stage and direct action sequences. The fluid movements of the players and cars involved, the way we’re able to keep track of all that’s happening (even in moments of utter chaos), the frenetic pace, the absolutely insane amounts of crashes and explosions (mostly real), add up to the most exhilarating sequences seen on film in a long time. The stunts are so gorgeously executed and visually arresting, I wonder if the $150 million budget (low by modern day blockbuster standards) included consultations with Cirque du Soleil. It’s madness.
Let’s talk about the women. It’s already becoming somewhat known that this film is being heralded as a “feminist action film.” And it’s true. Fury Road features a female heavy cast, allowing for many women to represent many different types of women, rather than one woman representing all women of the world (as is the case in most movies, especially action films). It’s great to see female characters of a wide variety and treated as equals — susceptible to the same emotions, flaws, and violence, while able to display the same bravery, heroism, and strength of the male characters (here, sometimes more so). Add this to the long list of things Mad Max: Fury Road does right.
Let’s talk about the total insanity. Mad Max: Fury Road is really a crazy film. It’s wild and goes in unexpected directions. It embraces the unruly aesthetic made famous by it’s 1979 beginnings. The cars are completely decked out as war machines and the frame rate is sped up at times to make the action more frenetic. The cinematography is of the highest caliber as we’re treated to zooms, elaborate pans, and wide shots that allow just enough time to take our breath away before diving right back close into the gut wrenching brutality of each action sequence. Oh, and Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played the lead baddie, Toecutter, in the original Mad Max thirty-six years ago returns to play the lead baddie again. How f-ckin’ badass is that!?
So basically, when you have a movie that excited fans early on when it was first announced, created more excitement when one amazing trailer after another was released, and finally brought a strong fan following clamoring for “madness” into theaters to finally see a movie thirty years in the making, and have those fans leave the theater MORE excited than when they arrived, the movie did something right. Mad Max: Fury Road did everything right. See it now. Go mad!
Mad Max: Fury Road opens today in theaters everywhere.