Back in 1979, when it was a humble Australian independent flick, Mad Max changed the landscape of not just the movie space, but pop culture at large. It did so by pioneering the sensibilities of the post-apocalyptic action genre, exploring a world that was dying or dead, yet wasn’t quiet or sombre. Instead, Mad Max, along with its two sequels, were brash, visually striking and vaguely satirical in their showcasing of the fragility behind human decency. They were bold, shocking projects that deservedly became huge successes, rocketing Australian director, George Miller, and then-unknown American actor, Mel Gibson to superstardom in one fell swoop.
Since then, we’ve gotten an especially large glut of post-apocalyptic action franchises, especially with forces like zombies and mutants added to the mix. The genre that Mad Max built is going stronger than ever these days, between various ultra-popular entertainment brands like The Walking Dead, Gears of War and Terminator, with all of those offerings owing quite a debt to Mad Max for their inception… Yet despite that, the genre has undeniably become a little stale at this point, often consisting of the same aggressively bleak tones, dull colour palettes, and recycled marauder/zombie threats.
Well, leave it to the original visionary behind a badass end-of-the-world scenario to show us how it’s done! George Miller has returned to the franchise that put him on the directing map, after decades of trying to get a new Mad Max movie off of the ground, even without the involvement of Mel Gibson. Now however, with Warner Bros. finally allotting Miller a big blockbuster budget, and Tom Hardy succeeding Mel Gibson as the title character, we have Mad Max: Fury Road, a fresh and exciting reboot that is as bold and groundbreaking as the original 1979 movie.
Mad Max: Fury Road is nothing short of glorious. It does away with the overdone dull post-apocalyptic palettes and plodding character introspection, producing a movie that is vibrantly violent, mightily triumphant, and delightfully off-the-rails. Mad Max: Fury Road not only effortlessly stands with the previous three movies, but it may even surpass them to become the best Mad Max movie to date!
If you have any love of blockbusters, or just of damn great action movies, Mad Max: Fury Road is an absolute can’t-miss Summer thrill ride!
We may have a new Max Rockatansky, but one who has lost no appeal compared to Gibson’s original turn. Tom Hardy fits the role of Max like a glove, being a wasteland rebel of few words, and only having a handful of lines in the entire movie. Despite that however, Hardy’s Max is just as raw and appealing as Gibson’s, conveying his thoughts and feelings through facial expressions and movement tics, moving along as an aimless, broken man just doing what he feels he must to hold himself together, as anyone is in the harsh desert of the dead Earth. Max never wastes words, which means that everything he does say is carefully chosen, and every turn he takes in the story has hefty impact.
Most of the limited exposition is instead handled by Charlize Theron’s female lead, the single-minded and blunt Furiosa, who, mercifully, is not made into a forced love interest for Max at all. Furiosa comes from a supposed haven that provides the only safe lodgings for a group of downtrodden ‘breeders’, beautiful women who are charged with procreating by having sex with the villainous leader of a small society of Australian survivors. As much as Max remains the title character of Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie is even more about Furiosa’s story, with Max’s backstory only told through fractured, out-of-context flashbacks that imply his long years as a drifter who lost his family to a group of bandits. Max is a plot device, and one could make the case that the movie’s main character is actually Furiosa, but either way, the leads are immensely appealing, with Charlize Theron providing a direct, but compassionate foil to the more uncompromising and self-driven Max.
In many respects, character development is cast to the wind in Mad Max: Fury Road, but given the movie’s setting and subject matter, this minimalist characterization actually feels quite appropriate. Who these people were before the world died doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters in this new world is survival, with the movie unfolding as one grand, painstaking chase in the pursuit of a better future, and a better self. Mad Max: Fury Road wisely doesn’t take away from the pacing or action by loading its personalities with details that, frankly, the audience isn’t going to care about.
The same is true of Immortan Joe, the movie’s villain, who hoards one of the world’s only remaining caches of water to keep the other inhabitants of his society under his thumb. Joe is actually played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played one of the main villains in the original Mad Max movie, Toecutter. It’s a cool nod to the old movies, despite Mad Max: Fury Road being a reboot that has no continuity with them, and Keays-Byrne is a great antagonist, even now. Immortan Joe barely looks human, having flowing locks of stark white hair and chalk-white skin, along with a monstrous, oxygen-supplying face mask that has a garish demonic tooth design on it. Appropriately, he looks more like a vengeful god of destruction, a perpetual boogeyman that is ever on the trail of Furiosa after her escape. One won’t know much about Joe, but one won’t care. All that matters is that Joe is a scary dude who has the full, unfiltered might of the world’s violent insanity at his back. His reputation speaks for him.
The movie’s sole remaining lead is Nux, played by Nicholas Hoult, a disciple of Joe’s who is eager to prove his worth by dying in service to his leader. He is captured early in the movie, and is meant to serve as the personification of a quest for a better self, and whether that may lie through death or life. When nothing is left in the world, what is there to strive for beyond a noble death? Anything? Nux is the only character pushing a theme underneath all of the noise and bravado, but his presence nicely prevents Mad Max: Fury Road from being charmless or air-headed. In a way, he’s the movie’s most sympathetic character, grounding the straightforward story when it’s otherwise larger-than-life.
The rest of Mad Max: Fury Road’s cast simply consist of various drifters and killers that were consumed by the despair of the new world. Most of these personalities manifest as over-the-top goons with a cult-like devotion to Immortan Joe, being monstrous and even downright suicidal in the action scenes, which makes everything feel that much more manic and unpredictable.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie that ironically benefits from not saying much about its characters. It says what it needs to, and rather than bog itself down in needless exposition, it does what movies should strive to do; Carve out its own distinct identity by showing, not telling.
Mad Max: Fury Road could be summed up as one big chase. It tells a very simple story in a barely existent, yet fantastical world. It’s not a story built on pathos or drama. It’s a story built on carnage and thrills, and it commits wholesale to its unique, twisted vision in a way that few blockbuster movies these days actually have the spine to do.
The movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape, within an endless desert unfolding across the dead Australian outback. As a sole oasis in this desert, a warlord called Immortan Joe stands on one of the lone green areas, rich in a vast supply of water that he uses to control a large group of survivors, who seemingly worship him as a vengeful god. Among the population of Joe’s community is Imperator Furiosa, a woman who smuggles out Joe’s breeders (essentially, the concubines that he impregnantes to keep the population going), promising them safe haven in a mythical place.
At the same time, a drifter named Max is captured and made into a ‘blood bank’ for one of Joe’s young soldiers, Nux, being a way to replenish the blood supply of the sickly young man. Strapped to the front of Nux’s vehicle as the chase for Furiosa begins, Max then becomes swept up in an enormous conflict that may just give him a chance at a new future, after losing his purpose upon the death of his family by bandits.
Mad Max: Fury Road may ignore the events of the other three movies and completely start the franchise canon over again, but it presents an outstanding foundation for a revived new take on the Mad Max series, one still forged by the hand of its original maker, while being made with modern production values. Like the previous movies, the story is not complicated, but it nonetheless feels memorable and striking, being an epic mind-melter that is packed with tons of amazing action spectacle and set pieces, even in a singular post-apocalyptic desert landscape.
This commitment to the action and visuals telling the story, not simply existing to distract the audience, makes for a great testament to the potential of a truly well-conceived blockbuster movie. It’s simultaneously surprising and almost overwhelming with its minimalist storytelling, yet is nonetheless perfectly easy to understand on an almost primal level. Put simply, this is easily one of the most fresh and exciting action movies to come along in many years, without needing superheroes, zombies or monsters.
The fact that George Miller was allowed to return to the franchise that went on to be his breakout hit as a director, especially so many years later, is truly awesome. Mad Max: Fury Road has been a very long time coming for Miller, and it continues to cement the man as a true visionary.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a groundbreaking showstopper from a directing standpoint, to the point where its absurdly manic, and yet beautifully choreographed insanity seems almost impossibly realized. Any lover of movies, who truly understands the kind of work that goes into putting together a blockbuster on this enormous scale, is bound to be blown away by Miller’s direction here, which hits the ground running with a breakneck pace, only stopping to take a breath when it’s absolutely required. It takes a true genius to put together a movie that looks so untamed and chaotic, and yet is clearly so intimately calculated and focused, then make it look easy. Audiences won’t see the wires though, so to speak, with Mad Max: Fury Road unfolding as a beautiful masterpiece of violence and adrenaline that doesn’t feel as calculated as it is.
Equally appreciated is how Miller separates Mad Max: Fury Road from the glut of other post-apocalyptic media these days, shirking an expected dark, grungy direction in favour of making everything vibrant, colourful and flashy. Mad Max: Fury Road doesn’t carry the chip on its shoulder that many other modern post-apocalyptic movies do. It’s proud of its bloodlust and decay. It crafts a compelling desert wasteland that would almost be strangely inviting for viewers, were it not so frequently dangerous!
Of course, the best part of all this as well is that George Miller doesn’t worry about being studio-friendly, nor trying to be appealing to all audiences simultaneously, as many money-hungry Hollywood blockbusters are guilty of doing on both counts. Miller doesn’t apologize for his vision. He banks on it proud and wholesale, boasting an R-rating, and trusting his incredible work to find the audience for him. It’s this sense of wholesome, inspired glee that gives Mad Max: Fury Road a sense of addictive spirit and vigor that too many big-budget movies tend to lack now, making an already objectively impressive directing job feel all the more commendable.
Just as the visuals stand in contrast to what you would expect from a post-apocalyptic movie, the soundtrack does as well. Junkie XL composes the music, being a frequent flier with many recent Warner Bros. blockbusters like Man of Steel, 300: Rise of an Empire and The Dark Knight Rises, and his blend of fast-paced hair metal and war horns with the bold choice of classical crescendos works incredibly well. It feels both retro and modern, as well as giving the unhinged lunacy of the movie a sort of twisted grace and splendour, hammering home how truly effectively self-indulgent the whole affair is!
Of course, in a movie of this nature, the rest of the audio work is equally excellent. Mad Max: Fury Road is a very loud, powerful production, and it’s definitely a movie that begs to be seen in theatres to get the most out of it. The grinding of sand with the roar of engines, and the shredding of metal amidst the blast of explosives, all come together to make a movie that feels all the more breathless and destructive, taking no prisoners as it goes no-holds-barred on raw action spectacle.
Mad Max: Fury Road can seem almost overpowering at first, so be forewarned that this is not a movie intent on coddling audiences that may be sensitive to its frequent sensory overload. Those open to being impressed however will find that Mad Max: Fury Road will definitely make its presence known, and remembered, from the audio!
The original Mad Max movie was scraped together on peanuts. Adjusted for inflation, it would probably still come under a $1 million budget. Boy, has this franchise come a long way since those days! Mad Max: Fury Road has now been put together in the neighbourhood of $150 million, and it certainly looks the part!
On top of being an immensely thrilling and well-made action movie, Mad Max: Fury Road often looks absolutely mind-blowing in terms of its visuals! The colourful, glossy style of its post-apocalyptic landscape is immediately striking and appealing to look at, and the incredible excitement of the action sequences is a true joy to behold! Mad Max: Fury Road is positively oozing with style, and its in-your-face, thoroughly insane action makes everything all the more exciting!
In fact, even most of the Fast and Furious movies are put to shame by Mad Max: Fury Road’s absolutely fantastic vehicle combat. Being a Mad Max movie, there’s a massive emphasis on fighting both with and on vehicles, and it makes for grand action set pieces that stand firmly apart from anything else, as they did back in the late 70’s and most of the 80’s. The superb vehicle warfare is supremely well-done, and is something that needs to be seen to be believed!
The ostentatious characters, settings and vehicles all become even more gripping when you see the 3D cut of Mad Max: Fury Road as well. The 3D is pretty good, and it really brings you into the destructive pandemonium of the action in ways that the 2D cut can’t quite muster. The 3D flourishes are well worth the added price of a 3D ticket, though if you insist on seeing the movie in 2D, you’ll still be getting a visual masterpiece.
There is an IMAX 3D cut, but for whatever reason, it’s not available in most places, and is largely limited to international territories like Europe and Asia. I imagine that the IMAX 3D cut is probably the best way to watch Mad Max: Fury Road, but if you live in most parts of Canada or the U.S., chances are, you’re merely going to have a choice between the 3D or 2D cut, even in cities that have IMAX theatres. My personal recommendation is definitely the 3D cut, if you have anything less than a firm hatred of 3D movies.
Either way however, Mad Max: Fury Road is a wonderfully-produced, visually beautiful masterpiece of action cinema. It feels like an invigorated new take on post-apocalyptic action, standing confidently and strongly with its own bold sense of style, which creates a uniquely memorable blockbuster that immensely raises the visual bar for pure action filmmaking.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a surefire contender for one of 2015’s overall best movies, even just under halfway through the year. It’s a violent, destruction-filled spectacle of beautiful insanity, injecting tons of new life into a stagnating subgenre of post-apocalyptic media. Everything old feels new again here, not just with Mad Max, but among the many derivatives that Mad Max inspired in the decades since its original release in 1979.
It goes without saying too that this is how you reboot a movie franchise! Mad Max: Fury Road feels like the same bold groundbreaker that the original Mad Max movie was so many years ago, being equally appealing to both avid fans of the original trilogy of Mad Max movies, as well as anyone who has never seen a Mad Max movie in their lives. Mad Max: Fury Road is as much a celebration of a classic trilogy as it is a perfect jumping-on point for newcomers, bringing the best of the classics to a new generation, touched up and made better than ever by modern production values, and a story that feels faithful to the original inspiration, yet nonetheless boldly carves out its own unique direction.
Mad Max: Fury Road is simply the best of every world, and will certainly be giving other Summer blockbusters of 2015 a run for their money, even juggernauts like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Terminator: Genisys. Mad Max may have largely lain dormant for decades since the mid-80’s, but with the excellent final product of Mad Max: Fury Road, it feels like it never truly left, even thirty years later.
I cannot recommend Mad Max: Fury Road enough. It’s so far the most impressive movie of 2015, and is the first universally spectacular blockbuster of the year!
- Gorgeous, vibrant wasteland setting
- Outstanding vehicle-heavy action and carnage
- Memorable personalities that are portrayed very well
- Some may be overwhelmed by the relentless pacing