Review: George Miller's 'Mad Max: Fury Road' is the New Metal
by Jeremy Kirk
May 15, 2015
What a lovely day, indeed. It's been 30 years since we ventured out into the Wasteland with "Mad" Max Rockatansky, 34 if you're not counting the time he went Beyond Thunderdome. Who could blame you? With 30 years worth of hope and nearly 20 years of promise from series creator George Miller, a new adventure in Mad Max's dusty, brutal world had better deliver the goods. That adventure is now here for our sensory feasting. Mad Max: Fury Road delivers on your every, post-apocalyptic wish and with an endless supply of visual insanity. What more could you possibly hope for in Miller's vision for the world after the fall?
Miller's vision of the future has steadily grown in its absurdity since Mel Gibson's Max first took on Toecutter and his biker gang back in 1979. Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome varied in their depictions of the violence in this world, one clearly more interesting and entertaining than the other. With Fury Road, Miller errs on the side of fandom giving us Road Warrior's car-pocalypse style of action we've frequently loved for decades. Also with Fury Road, Miller finds time for everything but the kitchen sink, and, who knows? Even that might be there somewhere in the background.
It's an unrecognizable universe from one film to the next, and, here, even Max has changed. Tom Hardy fills the lead role this time as that lone traveller surviving across the barren land. While doing some of that lone traveling, he stumbles into the path of the War Boys. They're a savage army led by a sadistic ruler, Immortan Joe, played by Mad Max's original Toecutter, himself, Hugh Keays-Byrne. Joe abuses the people who follow him, some even worshipping the man as the savior of their world, and keeps a small harem of beautiful women, his Five Wives, to ensure the future of his clan.
Also part of Joe's group is Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, a truck driver who travels to the nearby Gas Town for fuel runs. Furiosa's latest run, however, heads off course, as she helps the Five Wives escape to a better life, a beautiful area she remembers from her childhood called the "Green Place". As Furiosa and the Five Wives race towards their freedom, Joe and his army of metalhead marauders follow close behind, and Max, capture by the War Boys, finds himself in tow for the long ride.
Miller has always depicted the protagonist of his series as the selfish loner who inadvertently finds himself as the reluctant hero, always running from the demons in his past aka the events of the first Mad Max. Fury Road is no exception, Max now beginning to lose mental stability under the weight of all the crazy in the world. Miller keeps him the strong, mysterious type, his post-apocapytic version of the Man With No Name staying silent for a majority of the action. That's all fine & dandy when there is this much insanity to behold.
The level of intensity Miller brings to the action in Fury Road is far greater than anything we've seen him pull off before. It hits early and rides on through until the very end, Joe's pursuit beginning even before we're given much character establishment. All of that comes over the course of the ensuing action, but never at the expense of Miller throwing just one more ridiculous set piece his audience's way.
An abundance of CG effects aid in the execution of Fury Road's action, another new addition to the Mad Max universe. The effects are sometimes noticeable, almost pulpy at times, but this, too, adds to the world's ludicrous attitude. The visceral tone of the violence, though, keeps the action here fairly grounded creating an odd juxtaposition that has a strong hand in defining Miller's strange world. It'd be off-putting if you weren't mentally transfixed to whatever wild, visual escapade the film is going to deliver next.
Fast-paced and hard-hitting as it is, the excitement in Fury Road never deters from the characters Miller presents. He does so with each one in clever and interesting ways. Immortan Joe's decaying skin and skull-like mask he wears to breathe speaks volumes. Furiosa's mechanical arm and headstrong attitude says even more. Their chase brings eccentric character after eccentric character out of the woodwork, each one having a respective, strong hand in expanding Miller's cinematic universe. More so than in any of the previous films, you understand how many of these individual characters could lead their own, solo movie; Furiosa chief among these.
Sure, Furiosa's development in Fury Road is more interesting than even that of Max, not that we haven't had three movies worth of Max's development already. It's Theron's performance, though, that solidifies the character's strength. While Hardy looks cool in a leather coat and saying very little, it falls on Theron's shoulders to carry much of the film's dramatic weight. She meets the challenge head-on and finally gives us someone else in this universe to cheer for other than the Road Warrior.
Hardy does a fine job playing the straight-man hero, Max becoming defined by the trail of exploded vehicles he leaves in his desert wake, but the actor is playing hard towards his strengths. The same can be said for the film itself, but that is putting it rather lightly.
Mad Max: Fury Road is the new metal – an epic, post-apocalyptic chase movie that hardly allows the viewer a moment to breathe before the next train load of stunning imagery hits. When Fury Road is done assaulting your sense and wiping your eyeballs all over the screen, one undeniable truth remains – George Miller still knows how to kick your ass and make you love every minute of it.