When I heard a while back that one of my favorite movie franchises, the Mad Max series, was getting the reboot/long-past-its-prime-sequel treatment, I had…low expectations, to say the least. After having my hopes take a kick in the slats with the somewhat of a letdown of the Star Wars prequels (though, I am no prequel hater; they just lacked in a few areas) and the barely watchable latest Indiana Jones movie (again, not a hater, but Woof!) I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope for Mad Max: Fury Road.
First (and most importantly), it would be made without Mel Gibson. Say what you will about his recent past (and really, who is anyone in Hollywood to be pointing fingers and holding grudges?), but he WAS Mad Max; I just couldn’t picture anyone else donning that tattered MFP jacket & driving that beat up old Pursuit Special (even though it did meet a fiery end in The Road Warrior). Second, so much time had passed since Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome that I almost couldn’t imagine Gibson being able to go another round through post-apocalyptic Australia, even when talk of a sequel started percolating in the early 00s.
Those concerns faded away when the rust-covered opening credits appeared on the screen. Once the movie started, it was non-stop, riding by the seat of your pants action, with nary a lull the entire running time. The most succinct words to describe Fury Road would be Mario Kart: Apocalypse; so many tricked out cars, speeding & smashing their way across the Australian-by-way-of-Namibian desert – I half expected to be spitting out dirt by the end of the movie.
As I said earlier, I was a bit worried about Tom Hardy taking over the role of Max Rockatansky, given my affinity for the previous trilogy and his (in my opinion) just okay performance as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (in fact, there was one part where he sounded a bit like Bane – including the muffled speech). I was pleasantly surprised by Hardy’s portrayal, though, as he managed to maintain Max’s quiet, somber demeanor, coming off very much like Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name, like Gibson before him.
Charlize Theron, in another role where she allows her acting to show through while hiding her beauty under a layer of grit & grime, rocks the movie as Imperator Furiosa, one of Immortan Joe’s trusted lieutenants. While the movie’s hero is Mad Max, much of the story focuses on Furiosa, her mission & her “cargo.”
Of course, every Mad Max (and post-apocalyptic, for that matter) movie needs an over the top bad guy and this time we get Immortan Joe, the leader of the oasis known as The Citadel and object of worship by the War Boys. Making his return to the Mad Max-verse, Hugh Keays-Byrne (who played chief villain Toecutter in the first Mad Max), plays Immortan Joe as a cross between a doughy, mutated televangelist, keeping his faithful followers hanging on his every word (and drop of water), and the way all of us who were bullied as schoolchildren saw those who made junior high a daily nightmare (no, I’m not bitter). The War Boys, especially poor Nux (played by Nicholas Hoult), are faithful to Joe to the end. Joe promises them a trip to Valhalla in exchange for their undying fealty, along with a chrome-spray paint smile. Oily, gross & evil are all apt descriptors for Immortan Joe.
The sets in this movie, along with the seemingly unending Namibian desert, are gorgeous. Living in the desert Southwest my entire life, I could appreciate the sparse, wide open desert and breathtakingly beautiful scenery. The only thing more beautiful and refreshing in this movie was the use of practical effects for nearly all of the visuals in the movie, which made a few of the purely 3D gimmick scenes stand out like a sore thumb. Knowing that almost all of the racing, flipping and, ultimately, exploding cars were really raced, flipped and blown up made me giggle like a little kid. Comparing these effects to other contemporary CGI effects laden blockbusters just goes to show that, sometimes, the old ways are better. Far, far better.
If you haven’t already, grab a canteen of water, load up your spiked, armored Humvee with you and you closest, mutated friends and head to out to see Mad Max: Fury Road; just watch out for the road mutants as you make your way to the cinema.