The Mad Max franchise is arguably the most well known Australian film franchise of all time. We first met up with Max in 1979. His wife and daughter were viciously murdered by a gang of bikers, forcing Max to become, well, mad. He had nothing to loose. The story continued in 1981 with Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, a film that took all the right beats from the first film, added a more apocalyptic layer to everything and gave us a beloved and classic action movie. Things couldn't have been better. And for a while, they never were. In 1985 we saw the release of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, an uneven and rather dull entry into the world of the mad. Now, at long last, we're given Mad Max: Fury Road, and what a lovely day it is.
When we meet up with Max (now played by Tom Hardy), he's ran into a spot of trouble. He's been kidnapped, tattooed, tied up and is being used as a supply of blood. The monster behind all this? Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). While he's played by the same guy who played Toecutter in the original film, it's never addressed if they're the same character. Probably not. After all, he is dead. But hey, this is a reboot, and in reboots, anything goes. Anyway, Max escapes, gaining an ally in Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a one-armed badass who aims to kill, and a chase ensures. A chase that lasts practically the entire runtime of this film. And no, that's not at all a bad thing.
George Miller, director of all 4 Mad Max movies, is one crazy bastard. How he came up with such an insane film, I will never know. Miller has came out and stated that the screenplay for Fury Road was written after the storyboards were drawn, claiming he wanted to focus more on the visuals than the dialogue. Upon hearing this, I became slightly hesitant. The trailers were awesome, don't get me wrong, but the way that statement sounded made me take a step back. After watching the film, you can't even tell.
The visuals are there and they're brilliant, but the dialogue works too. Screenplay first or storyboard first. Who cares? If Miller takes this approach with every film from here on out, I will be okay with it. Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most outrageous thrill rides I have ever been, featuring such madness as a flame throwing guitar, a deadly sandstorm, men jumping from cars with humungous sticks and a gecko with two heads. Oh, and did I mention that that's just in the first thirty minutes? Miller truly has put the mad back in Mad Max.
The action is brutal, constant and filmed gorgeously. Fury Road is the most well shot film in this entire series, and this is a series of well shot films. It captures the insanity of everything, occasionally helping to produce the havoc. It's a brutally relentless epic with set pieces and stunts that were done entirely practical, the sandstorm sequence being the only obvious exception. It's the most action packed Mad Max movie yet and it works so bloody well.
Not only is it the most action packed one yet, it's also the best one yet. While there are a few teeny tiny flaws here and there, most having to do with predictability of the fate of most of the characters, it still manages to hold itself up there against the Road Warrior, waving as it surpasses it. It takes these characters on a journey that furthers their arcs, in particular with Max, who's still not over the death of his family.
His character is moodier and angrier than he's ever been, and this film puts him in just the right situation to unleash all that he's got. At first, it would appear that Tom Hardy is no Mel Gibson. Nobody can be. But as the film went on, his performance continued to grow on me. Ever since the announcement of his casting, I never doubted him. That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is, Tom Hardy may just be a better Max than Mel Gibson ever was. Aaaaaand here come all the haters. Sorry. Watch the film, come back and tell me otherwise.
However, Max isn't the only lead character this time around. Charlize Theron's Furiosa occasionally takes the helms, playing a much more dominant role than I expected. Her backstory is rarely explored, only hinted at, but if interviews suggest anything, it looks like we'll be seeing a lot more of her in future instalments, and I hope these films happen. I really do. George, if this is just a taste of what's to come, please give me more. The world needs more Mad Max.
To sum up, Mad Max: Fury Road is a Mad Max for a new generation, and I couldn't be more pleased with the final product. It's completely bonkers, filled to the brim with breathtaking action and casts the perfect Max. Now this is a movie worth waiting for.
4 1/2 Stars