Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whitley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton
Director: George Miller
Writers: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
A week ago I had never watched any of the Mad Max films. When I saw that this film was coming out it was my understanding that, as far as story and continuity goes, I wouldn’t really need to watch them. However when I decided to go and see it, I thought I’d watch them anyway because I wanted to get a sense of how a Mad Max film should (and shouldn’t) be done. My impression of the Mad Max films is that they are fun, violent, and over-the-top films that don’t take themselves too seriously and therefore shouldn’t be taken as such by the audience. The characters were badass, the post-apocalyptic atmosphere was brilliant and the incredibly thrilling car chases were always the best parts of the films. The first two films knew exactly what kind of films they wanted to be and they delivered themselves perfectly. I didn’t think the third one was a bad film per se, but it wasn’t a Mad Max film. The few actions scenes that were included were downplayed and softened to make it more accessible for a PG-13 audience, the story felt very out of place and out of character, and on the whole it was too light-hearted for the ruthless and desolate world of the Mad Max universe. It is often the case that when a director works on a franchise for too long, they often end up getting carried away with it and distorting it until they forget how they actually did it in the first place (George Lucas and Peter Jackson being primary examples). Thankfully this isn’t the case with George Miller this time around. With Fury Road Miller has created a film that embraces the new technology now available to him while still remaining true to the spirit of the original films.
In Fury Road Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is captured by the War Boys, a deranged cult led by the vicious Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and is consigned to being a ‘blood bag’ for War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Max sees his chance to escape when he commandeers the War Rig driven by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in her attempt to save the Wives, a group of beautiful and fertile young women who have been subjected as sex slaves, from the captivity of the cult. Max and Furiosa both grow to understand that their best chance of survival and escape is to work together to escape the wrath of Immortan Joe and his army as they determinedly pursue them. What ensues is effectively a two-hour chase scene as the crew of the War Rig struggle to evade and fight off the cohorts that hunt them, all the while dealing with the hostilities that arise between them.
This film delivers everything that an audience could ever want from a Mad Max film. Tom Hardy’s portrayal of the titular character is sufficiently callous, understated and intimidating. What makes Max an interesting character is that he was good man long before the nuclear war destroyed this world, but has been damaged and impaired by the harsh brutalities of this new world of anarchy and violence into a shell of a man who relies solely on his instinct to survive. His merciless and indifferent nature, coupled with the faint traces of his former self beneath it all, makes him a compelling figure and an overall badass protagonist. Furiosa is every bit as strong, as vicious and as resolute as Max is in her quest to save the Wives from a life of brutality and misery. For her the quest to survive extends to more than just staying alive. It is about retaining one’s humanity and creating a better world from the ashes of the old one. She serves as the film’s heart in her search for a glimmer of hope in this dark and barren world.
As well as compelling characters and an interesting yet unspoken discussion on the theme of survival Fury Road also delivers on mindless, over-the-top violence, another staple of the Mad Max universe. The tension in the chase scenes is palpable and provides an exhilarating experience for the viewer. The fact that the entire story is centred on a single chase means that the tension remains throughout the course of the film, even in the quieter scenes. The film is absolutely packed with blazing guns, roaring engines and fiery explosions, but never loses track nor gets carried away with them. The action is just as intense and just as ridiculous as it needs to be for an entertaining, adrenaline fuelling, and radical sci-fi film. Miller is also able to be creative with the action by employing practical effects whenever possible and allowing the characters and their devices to be as insane and ridiculous as possible. I have no idea why the War Boys have a car with them in which a guitar player shreds throughout the entire chase, but it is awesome nonetheless!
Like two of its three predecessors, Fury Road knows exactly what kind of film it wants to be and delivers exactly what it promises. It is packed with entertaining and memorable characters with strongly defined personalities; it boasts of excellent production that helps create a living, breathing world with an engrossing atmosphere; and it utilises awesome, exaggerated action sequences that make for an exciting, spine-tingling viewing experience. Fans of the original trilogy should be satisfied with Miller’s latest offering and newcomers to the Mad Max universe are in for a treat.