By Thomas Simpson
Thirty years passed between Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and the fourth installment Mad Max: Fury Road, the latter having spent almost two decades in development hell, rarely a good sign for any movie.
The more time passed the older Mel Gibson got and although there were talks of him putting the leathers on once more, he was eventually replaced by Tom Hardy. The only saving grace to sate those hungry for blood was that George Miller was back at the helm.
The earth is still a scorched dystopian landscape with gas being a treasured commodity. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is a much feared cult leader with a devoted following of War Boys. There is dissonance in the ranks as his trusted soldier Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) helps Joe’s wives escape their forced marriages.
Finding that his trusted breeders are missing, Joe unleashes a heallacious army in pursuit of Furiosa including loyal War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Where’s Max in all this? He’s strapped to a bowsprit on Nux’s car being used as a makeshift blood bag for the sick War Boy.
And you thought Happy Feet would have made Miller soft.
Mad Max: Fury Road lives up to its name and does what it says on the tin. This is a full throttle chase film with lots of terrifyingly beautiful vehicles.
CGI is often a necessity in this day and age but Miller’s insistence on practical effects where possible raise the stakes. When you see a car somersaulting through the air, you can take comfort in knowing that the twisted metal is a genuine threat. The dust storm scene is a magnificent maelstrom of violence that would leave you on the edge of your seat if you weren’t already melted into it. All this in the first act.
Tom Hardy picks up the mantle of the role made legendary by Mel Gibson. It’s no easy task and it’s one he is capable of and he proves that here.
What has surprised fans is how little focus is put on the titular character. Yes, this is Max’s world, and this is a Mad Max film, yet the star of the show here is Theron’s Furiosa. She is the protagonist, the hero willing to risk her life to ensure Joe’s wives escape his clutches and start a new life in the green place.
Max is reluctant to help and in many ways plays second fiddle to Furiosa. Dispute the criticism from the internet forums, this doesn’t damage the film. Not in the slightest. Max is still the Roadwarrior, a man on his own path with one goal: survival.
However, like the western gunslinger that he embodies he can’t stand by and watch injustice go unpunished. The chemistry between Hardy and Theron is the perfect mix with Hoult continuing to show why he deserves such versatile roles. Max is the name that’ll draw you in but there’s more depth to this film than the insanely over the top action sequences suggests.
Fury Road had an impressive opening weekend (for an R rated film) but it remains to be seen if the numbers will justify a sequel. Not that we’d have to wait another thirty years–Hardy has previously mentioned that he’s signed on for a further four films with Miller stating that he has a script ready to go for the sequel.
It’s fun, it’s tense, it’s a visual spectacle that will leave you satisfied. If it does nothing for you I’d check for a pulse.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.