What a rush! Mad Max Is back, and louder, brasher and crazier than ever. Yes, it’s borderline ridiculous, but boy does it know it. George Miller’s rejuvenation of the long slumbering franchise is a beast, embracing its roots, and the more ‘out there’ elements of its universe, to provide a non-stop, roller coaster ride of a movie. But the film’s greatest strength is that amongst the carnage, chaos and downright insane action, there is a script worthy of making this much more than your standard summer blockbuster. This is how action should be done.
Mad Max’s post-apocloplytic world has never looked so go. The daylight drenches the outback in stunning oranges, whilst the night brings with it deep blues, with these rich colours intermingling stunningly at times, providing a beautiful back drop for the road tip of a lifetime. Director of Photography John Seale brings a tangible vibrancy to proceedings, which work wonderfully in unison with the smorgasbord of eclectic costumes, characters and, of course, action on the screen. The aforementioned elements are designed and executed with a rawness, combining realism and fantasy with expertise. Yes, this is a far fetched land, but it is one that is believable.
And in this world where we find our titular character Max, there are foul inequalities around every corner. Pregnant women are farmed for their milk, the lowly citizens scramble for smatterings of water afforded to them by their villainous cult leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and human beings are used as “blood bags” to keep sickly warriors, born with defects and illness in good health.
This is where Max (Tom Hardy) finds his early purpose in the film, as a lifeline for one of Immortan Joe’s warriors, War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult), strung up to the bonnet of his car to provide a constant source of healthy blood as he joins a party in pursuit of the film’s real lead, Furiosa, played by the impressive Charlize Theron. For Furiosa has in her possession the cult leader’s Five Wives, a rare handful of women who might be able to provide him with a son born free of illness.
For a film that features an explosion at least every five minutes or so, its story is fairly dense. It’s a personal journey (both figuratively and literally) for Furiosa as she strives to take the Wives to safety, and it’s one which Max is almost a passenger in. The film may be called Mad Max, but this is very much Furiosa, and Charlize Theron’s show. Tom Hardy does a great job filling Mel Gibson’s shoes (whilst doing his utmost to repress his Bane voice which seems to creep in now and then), but standing toe to toe with Theron’s Furiosa, her character simply has more depth, more development, and is therefore more interesting.
It’s a bumpy road that they’re on though. A road movie this may be, but not that kind that Kermit and company took you on in The Muppet Movie (1979). The action is simply incredible, and in many respects old fashioned – practical effects reign supreme over visual effects, and the stunt men and women of the film certainly earn their keep. But on the other hand, the scope and scale of the sweeping shots and flipping cars is beyond anything put to screen previously. It’s ambitious in its approach, and it pays off sensationally throughout. Director George Miller has his proverbial foot on the gas, and rather than this being set piece after set piece, it’s one ginormous, operatic, refined mess of action, as though Miller is releasing a glut pent up energy after spending the best part of the past two decades working on light hearted family films.
The missteps are small – there is a vague love story between Nicholas Hoult’s Nux and one of the Wives. Max suffers from flashbacks to his troubled past which don’t lead to all that much and he possibly could have done with a bit more meat on the bones of his character, but otherwise this is an exceptional example of how action movies should be made. It thrives on its crazy, and excels because of its excessiveness. What’s not to enjoy about a movie that features flame throwing guitars, adrenaline fuelled mayhem and a healthy dose of drama for good measure? Sign me up!
A callback to the good old days of practical effects that sets the standard for just how good a modern blockbuster can be, Mad Max: Fury Road is a stroke of genius from director George Miller. Bold, brash and beautiful from start to finish.
Rating (out of 5):