Thirty-six years after Mel Gibson first donned a policeman’s uniform in the original “Mad Max,” the titular hero returns, this time played by Tom Hardy.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” picks up with Max once again wandering the desert trying to steer clear from packs of marauders and psychopaths. After unsuccessfully fleeing the followers of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter in the original Mel Gibson film), Max finds himself prisoner in a cult-like society where Joe controls the water supply and demands the worship of his people.
At the same time, Imperator Furiousa (Charlize Theron) is trying to smuggle Immortan Joe’s captive brides out of the territory and return to her homeland: a “green place” that promises a better life than the barren desert where they currently reside. Through a series of events, Max teams up with Furiosa and the brides (future band name?) and aids in their attempt to flee Immortan Joe, who has an army of suicidal followers in pursuit of them.
Writer/director George Miller returns to the material that first gave him a career, but this project has actually been in the works since around the time “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” wrapped up in 1985. Much of Fury Road’s main storyline has allegedly stayed intact over the years, but a series of rewrites, casting changes, and other production drama has kept the project on a shelf for a long time.
Miller’s input is vital to the film because he has a vision like very few people in Hollywood have today. Just watch the trailer and try to think of another filmmaker doing anything remotely similar these days. As a director and world builder, Miller is nearly irreplaceable.
After the first 20 minutes or so set up the film, the rest is an adrenaline-filled car chase for nearly its entire length. That may sound exhausting, but the script breaks up the action just enough to let you breathe. Though there isn’t much in the way of traditional character development, the performances by Theron and Hardy provide enough backstory simply by their small mannerisms.
Around the time the film was released, there were several articles floating around discussing how this was a feminist film (negative connotation) and how Mad Max wasn’t even the hero, etc. This is the furthest thing from the truth. While the film does feature strong female characters and most of the men aside from Max and Nux (Nicholas Hoult) are evil, there’s no secret agenda at play. If the worst thing about “Mad Max: Fury Road” is that both males and females get good roles and fun action sequences, that’s actually high praise.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is the best action film since “John Wick” and makes the CGI sequences of films like “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Fast and Furious 7” look like child’s play. Practical effects with the right execution will beat computers 9 times out of 10 and this film is a perfect example. Though its simple story and characters may leave some viewers wanting a little more, “Fury Road” delivers in every way that it should and is easily one of the year’s best films so far.