It's been 30 years since we saw the last of Max Rockatansky and his adventures in the post-apocalyptic wastelands of earth.
With Mad Max: Fury Road director of the original trilogy, George Miller, wants to bring this great franchise back to life. But since Mel Gibson is now too old and too "controversial" to once again be put into Mad Max's leather jacket, Tom Hardy is now put into his place - and he has big shoes to fill.
Yet, along with several delays and a very troubled development, one has to wonder whether Mad Max: Fury Road can manage to defy its numerous odds working against it.
If the awesome trailers are any indication, Fury Road sure enough has immense potential to become one of the most impressive action movies of the decade.
Question is, whether George Miller manages to recapture what made Mad Max so great back in the 80s and bring this glory into today's age.
An apocalyptic story set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and almost everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world exist two rebels on the run who just might be able to restore order. There's Max, a man of action and a man of few words, who seeks peace of mind following the loss of his wife and child in the aftermath of the chaos. And Furiosa, a woman of action and a woman who believes her path to survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland.
Stepping very much into the footsteps of the original Mad Max trilogy from the 80s, Mad Max: Fury Road features a very straight forward and simple storyline that only rarely takes paths into different directions - but since this is exactly how Mad Max movies work out, this is not a bad thing.
Mostly comparable to a more dynamic or more mobile version of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Fury Road feels much more like an action heavy road movie than a traditional adventure movie.
Therefore, much like the title suggests, almost the entire movie takes place on the road (the so called Fury Road) and focusses on Max and his crew trying to reach the safe haven, Furiosa's homeland, savely all while being chased by the villanous Immortan Joe and his troops.
It wouldn't be too far fetched though to call Fury Road being much more focussed on its action scenes than its actual story or character development. Therefore, much like the previous Mad Max films, Fury Road is first and foremost a big action movie. People expecting an overly big and multi-layered storyline (or who haven't every seen a Mad Max movie before) surely enough are much more likely to walk out disappointed. On the other hand, people who know and love Mad Max, will get their money's worth with Fury Road.
|What a lovely day.|
What's immediately the most striking about Fury Road right off the bat, is the fact that the movie seems to fit in astoundingly well into the canon of the original three films. Especially regarding the circumstance that Fury Road is now being released 30 years (!) after the last Mad Max movie, this alone is a tremendous achievement all by itself. The dirty, disgusting, post-apocalyptic vibe of the wasteland instantly grabs you within the first few seconds of the movie. The production design in Fury Road is so ridiculously on-point that this is easily one of the very best 80s movies that are not made in the 80s.
Furthermore, it's very much a relief that director of the original Mad Max movies, George Miller, didn't back away from sticking to the movie's trademark violence and brutality that accompanies the franchise's gritty and "rusty" look. With that said, Fury Road is quite a graphic and violent movie. Though it's certainly not overly gory, there are still quite some disgusting and twisted scenes and imagery that surely aren't for the squeemish among viewers.
|Fury Road is one of the best 80s action movies not made in the 80s.|
Every nook and cranny of the production design brilliantly follows the franchise's now even more emphasized theme of madness. Now more than ever, Fury Road straight on showcases how madness slowly takes over the people in the wasteland - and even Max himself. Haunted by hallucinations of his deceased family and friends, Max himself is slowly losing his mind. Yet what truely brings the madness to life on a visual level are of course the crazy inventions and behaviours of the villain characters. From tanks made out of Dodge Chargers, over a manic cult that follows its leader Immortan Joe to Vallhalla, to a freaky mobile guitarist strapped on top of a car constantly playing weird riffs to motivate the battle troops. Fury Road features tons of very creative post-apocalyptic imagery that can be best described as beautifully strange.
George Miller really outdid himself here. If you thought that things like Master Blaster from Thunderdome were weird, wait till you see what he got in store for you in Fury Road.
Also, there is a nice variety of subtle tributes and references to the previous Mad Max flicks, which give the movie an additional nostalgic touch.
|Yes. This is really happening.|
Though their faces sure do look a bit different, Hardy nevertheless fits the bill really well and makes for a good "lead" character. What may come off as a bit strange for most of the movie though is how little dialogue Max is given. Almost through half of the movie Max is only getting into situations in which he communicates either through grunting noises or Yes and No responses. Sure enough, much like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator, a character can also be incredibly impressive or at least functional if his behaviour or in this case little dialogue makes sense in the terms of the scene. And in this case, Max's early on mostly silent and grim persona only underlines his distrust in most of the people he meets (in the end, pretty everyone is going crazy - so why even talk to them?).
If there's a bigger gripe with Max's character though (aside from a lacking bigger character development), it's that some hinted plot threads are never really followed upon in a satisfying or conclusive way. In Max's case, it's primarily his haunting flashbacks of his dead family that don't really lead to anything. More of a showcase of Max's madness, some viewers not familiar with the previous Mad Max flicks will probably just be left confused by the flashbacks in the end. But considering that Fury Road is meant as a direct sequel to the previous movies, the inclusion of the flashbacks themselves is not really the problem, but rather their lack of any conclusion or true purpose.
|With Tom Hardy, Mad Max's legacy is in good hands.|
Yet most surprisingly though, Fury Road is the first Mad Max movie in which it's honestly not Max who is the true lead character.
Instead, Fury Road's main spotlight is put on the character of Furiosa played by Charlize Theron. Trying to get back to her homeland along with four girls she tries to rescue from Immortan Joe, she is by far the most fleshed out character in the movie. Charlize Theron does a fantastic job with her performance here. Ranging from hate, to distrust, to trust towards Max, her character is easily the one with the most obvious character development throughout the movie.
While Max of course is also facing some slight personality changes throughout the movie, it's Furiosa who fills the film with the most varied range of emotions. Different from Max, who is more of a lone wolf, who in the end doesn't even seem to really care that much about anything (at first), it's Furiosa who is by far the most relatable character for the audience and actually somewhat the true hero of the movie after all. And even though Max is still somewhat the more badass character of the two, Furiosa and Max compliment each other very well in the longrun and develop a subtle and fitting "partner relationship" to each other without unnecessarily boarding over into a clichee love relationship.
|No disrespect Max, but Furiosa is the real hero of the movie.|
Way bigger in scale and much more capable in terms of weaponry and fighting skills, this is easily the most menacing gang of maniacs that Max has yet faced in the franchise. As already said, the true menace in Immortan Joe and his so called "War Boys" comes not only from the big number they arrive in, but also their skills and behaviour. With their weapons ranging from guns, over grenades, chainsaws, crossbows, and even some of them going kamikaze, it's truely threatening when the sound of their crazed guitar battle riffs can be heard coming closer from the distance.
As for their leader Immortan Joe, he is best compared to Mad Max 2's metal masked villain Humungus. Both villains also more or less feature the same amount of characteristic depth. Therefore, Immortan Joe is quite some blocks away from being a quote on quote "complex" or "deep" villain, but he gets the job done just right for a straight forward Mad Max movie.
Another notable character in the movie is Nux played by Nicholas Hoult. Hoult does a great performance as Nux, a deranged member of Joe's cult who ends up in Max's crew after a series of situations. Nux is obviously supposed to be a more comical sidekick for the protagonist crew in the movie. Yet this is done pretty well throughout the movie, since Nux comes off as not just a wisecracking idiot but more of a very capable new member. Wanting to achieve something great in his life, Nux is a very interesting character in Fury Road since his transformation from bad guy henchman to protagonist sidekick works surprisingly well and changes the audience's feelings for him from dislike to sympathy in a satisfying and somehow convincing way.
|Immortan Joe looks more menacing than he is, but he gets the job done.|
And it isn't far fetched to say that Fury Road really sets a new bar for the franchise in terms of action. Seeing how almost the entirety of the movie is one giant chase, Fury Road's nonstop action never gets boring since the action scenes themselves are so well choreographed and so chock-full of practical effects and actual stunts that it's hard to not be entertained by this.
Sure, Michael Bay flipped tons of cars over in his movies, but seeing how all the explosions, crashes and fights on vehicles here are all done by actual stuntmen in and around the vehicles is truely incredible.
And even though Fury Road occasionally uses short bits of CGI here and there, those are always used carefully enough to not distract from the main physical stunt work in the movie. It's a no-brainer that a huge sandstorm can only be achieved by CGI, but regarding the fact that Fury Road only uses CGI to occasionally set scenes and atmosphere and not replace the actual stunts and action itself is just how CGI should be used.
If it's any indication, Fury Road's very first chase scene alone is so dynamic that it could've easily serveed as a final showdown for any other generic action movie nowadays.
The stunts and action is where the heart of Mad Max movies is truely at and Fury Road absolutely nails it while also setting a new standard for the series.
|Mad Max road chases have never been any better.|
Fury Road not only raises the bar action-wise with its fantastic stunt work and action but also with its post-apocalyptic imagery and atmosphere that fits perfectly into the franchise's lore and picks up Max's story very well right where Beyond Thunderdome left off.
Sure enough, viewers that expect very complex character development or deep personas won't find anything too extraordinary here. Nevertheless, Fury Road is still filled with diverse and crazy characters who are a joy to watch interact with each other and to root for.
Mad Max: Fury Road is anything that fans of the franchise could want from a Mad Max sequel. Let alone the fact that this movie feels so much like a fitting sequel to the previous 30-year-old movies in itself is a giant achievement. For any action movie fans that say "They don't make movies like this anymore.", Mad Max: Fury Road is pretty much as close as it gets to recreate the glory of 80s action movies.
What a great way to revive a 30-year-old franchise. Bravo!
Final Verdict: 9 out of 10