George Miller returns to the post apocalyptic wasteland he created in the late 1970’s. Miller broke ground with “Mad Max,” the dystopian action film from 1979. It starred a then unknown Mel Gibson, and kicked off what would end up as a trilogy. The series launched Gibson to superstardom, and cemented Miller as a revolutionary filmmaker with his use of carefully and pragmatically coordinated stunts and sequences.
This fourth entry, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” had been in development for over a decade. It hit constant snags, and was originally supposed to be a continuation of the storyline with Gibson reprising his role. But as time went on, Gibson got older, the status quo changed, and here we are. This installment is half remake, half sequel. It incorporates elements from all three previous Max films, while starting the story anew. Rising star Tom Hardy inherits the role of Max Rockatansky. Oscar winner Charlize Theron joins him as Imperator Furiosa. The cast is rounded out with returning Max villain (albeit in a new role) Hugh Keays-Byrne and Nicholas Hoult as Nux.
The film opens with a bang, and it never stops. It starts with a spectacular slowed down framing sequence with Max running for his life. He is captured, and used as a blood blank donor for the inbred Nux. Imperator Furiosa is being sent out on a cross desert trek for gasoline. She works for Immortan Joe in Citadel, where he withholds water from his inhabitants and rules as a dictator. Quickly, Joe realizes what has really happened. Furiosa has taken his five breeding wives with the intention of emancipating them from his grasp. Joe riles up his army, and the epic battle begins.
As Nux pursues in hopes of pleasing Joe, (with his blood donor Max in tow) he tries to stop Furiosa by interfering with her armored truck. He is unsuccessful, and this allows Max to break free. He is confrontational with Furiosa and the women at first, but eventually joins forces with them. The action sequences are breathtaking. You will be on the edge of your seat the entire ride. As Max and Furiosa continue their journey, they continue to hit bumps, all while fighting off Immortan Joe and his War Boys. It is such an exhilarating, satisfying ride.
The biggest curveball of the story is Furiosa taking center stage, and it isn’t a bad thing. Max takes a back seat, and plays a sort of sidekick role. The feminist message is clear. Women can be strong, independent leaders. They are capable of restoring justice and balance to a world as well as any man can, and are not simply objects for reproduction. And Theron absolutely owns this role and that attitude. The film is a visual story in the most literal sense. The dialogue is minimal, as this tale is pushed along by the fantastic chase, and the repercussions from it. Theron is in control from head to toe. She conveys more with her facial expressions than any long dialogue could. Hardy is equally brilliant as Max. Hardy’s strength is his incredible subtlety. One would think in such a physically demanding and action packed role, he might lose it. He doesn’t. He’s as softly intense as ever. These rugged, survival of the fittest characters are second nature to him.
The production of this film was well documented as a hellhole. In addition to the years in pre production, principal photography itself lasted months. In the middle of the desert, with blistering heat, Miller had a 3500 sequence animated storyboard that would become the entire aid for how the film turned out. Hardy has said every single inch of that entire document is in the final film. Hardy and Theron were also reportedly butting heads the entire shoot. Hardy’s hardcore method style of acting apparently rubbed Theron the wrong way. When all was said and done, the two acknowledged that they had great respect for one another, and that their work ultimately made each other and the film better.
Miller has achieved nothing short of a modern day masterpiece. What he did in the 70’s with limited resources and technology was incredible. Today, it would have been very easy to just take all the computer advancements and throw this together. However, Miller did the exact opposite. He crafted all the action sequences as realistic as he could, inputting new advancements when necessary, mostly in post. In a way, his message was almost, “You’ve all been handling advancements in the wrong manner. Let me show you how to do this.” Mad Max is an adrenaline rush with a great story in tow. It is must see, and must own. One of this summers best.