George Miller has been trying to follow up Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome for 30 years. He was all set to go with Mel Gibson in a fourth movie for the franchise before the first of many setbacks interrupted the flow of things.
Then, of course, Mr. Gibson said some very bad words during an arrest and on his girlfriend’s answering machine, making him virtually unmarketable due to his temper and generally bad outlook on things. Unfortunately for Mel, the character wasn’t named Mad But Also Extremely Bigoted, Sexist, Anti-Semitic and Stupid Drunk Max.
So here we are, 30 years since Tina Turner put on that goofy wig and sang that lame song for Thunderdome. After a bunch of films involving talking animals (Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet), Miller is back in his post apocalyptic world messing around with fast rigs on desert landscapes. He also has a new Max, that being Tom Hardy, and Charlize Theron along for the ride.
The results are a blast, probably the best in the franchise when it comes to action. I’m going to have to give a few points to Gibson over Hardy for his Max portrayal. Hardy is good in the role, but Gibson is the original and best Max, even if he is a total asshole.
The film starts off with a shot reminiscent of The Road Warrior (a.k.a. Mad Max 2), and then it just goes berserk. Max gets himself captured by a really disgusting looking, villainous ruler named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and finds himself hanging upside down and providing blood for a pale, bald Joe minion, Nux (Nicholas Hoult).
A shaven-headed Theron shows up as Imperator Furiosa, a one-time loyalist of Immortan Joe, who tricks him and kidnaps his wives, intent upon taking them to some sort of green promised land. When Joe figures out she’s making a run for it, his soldiers (who look a little like the cave creatures from The Descent) take off after her. This includes Nux, with Max strapped to the front of his car wearing a facemask reminiscent of his Bane getup in The Dark Knight Rises.
As far as plot goes, that’s about it. Theron and the wives try to drive really fast, and those pursuing her drive really fast, too. Along the way, they pick up a few other characters and some folks get mulched under car wheels. You get the picture.
What makes Miller’s latest a cut above the rest is a major reliance on practical effects for the stunts. Sure, CGI shows up (and when it does, it’s very well done), but much of what we see is stunt people doing crazy, crazy things in front of cameras.
The folks who put the look of this movie together, from it’s terrific cinematography, to its costuming to its incredible stunt work, all deserve praise and extra beers. The pounding soundtrack and the editing work to help to make this a true pulse racer. It must be said that no matter how frantic the action gets, there’s a certain visual clarity to everything happening in the movie. It’s easy on the eyes, even when the edits are rapid paced.
Theron brings a nice bit of gravitas to this blockbuster. Sporting a CGI mechanical arm, face paint and a perma-stern expression, she makes for one badass rebel. Again, Hardy is fine in the Max role, but the really great performance in this film belongs to Theron.
Hardy actually spends much of the movie silent, especially in the early going. He looks great, even when he’s playing the part of a Blood Bag. Hoult actually manages to be quite moving under all of his makeup as the kamikaze who has a change of heart.
This is supposed to be the first in a new trilogy, but it should be noted that Pitch Perfect 2 kicked its ass at the box office, so it isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. Let’s hope that critical praise and word of mouth result in a healthy worldwide run for Mad Max: Fury Road. I want more.