In a barren post-apocalypse, Max, a mentally unhinged lone wolf doing anything to survive, is captured by the hordes of the dastardly Immortan Joe. Meanwhile, Furiosa, a servant of Joe, has decided to help free the women of Joe’s child farm. In the mad escape, Max and Furiosa cross paths and only together can they hope to outrun the insane vehicular army on their respective tails.
They say better late than never, and rarely has that statement been more accurate than with the release of Mad Max: Fury Road. Set for production in 2003 with original leading man, Mel Gibson, director George Miller’s visionary project was immediately hindered with location issues followed by Gibson getting tunnel vision for his Passion of the Christ project.
And so, twelve years later and with a change in cast for the iconic central character we finally get to see why Miller was so persistent in bringing his very own slice of cinema history back to the big screen; and for those who like dialogue-light, car based post-apocalypse action movies, it’s something of a revelation.
Okay, so there’s no two ways around this, but there are people out there who find films of slight story and even slighter dialogue to be boring, even if what’s happening in the film is anything but; can’t be helped, without the hook of dialogue these types of films just aren’t their cup of tea, meaning genre masterpieces such as Conan The Barbarian (1982) and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior just hold no interest for them. If you count yourself amongst this bracket of people, you’re probably not going to enjoy Fury Road, but everyone who’s left is in for a treat.
Mad Max: Fury Road is all about the visuals, which are consistently visceral and impressive. From the vistas to the character design to the car chases we are served up the beautiful and the grotesque in equally huge dollops and at a relentless pace.
Indeed, George Miller’s original vision for the film was for it to be one massive, extended car chase through the arid landscape. Word is, in attaining this vision, Miller produced the storyboards for the film before he even wrote the screenplay, which would explain why the semi-legendary, psychedelic comic auteur, Brendan McCarthy, is a credited writer on the project. And though the film doesn’t end up being that entirely, it very nearly is.
Keeping the plot slight has the odd effect of making the titular Max (here played by the ever excellent Tom Hardy) a side-character, if a rather integral one, in his own film. Charlize Theron’s character, Furiosa, has the honour driving the plot while Nicolas Hoult has the nearest thing to a full on character arch (everyone else has a character slight bend).
All this might indicate that the film would become repetitive after a time, with the action getting tiresome in the way it did with the last Transformers film, for instance, but somehow this just isn’t the case.
It’s true that the film does have a simple and repetitive rhythm, which consists roughly of five minutes of story followed by twenty minutes of insane action on repeat, but Miller has deftly handled that action to have you hooked with it’s ever-changing and deceptive chaos. I say deceptive because despite the fact the chases are a mess of mutant-car-exploding-brutality, we never lose track of who is who and how they are fairing in regards to the sequence as a whole, or to put is another way, the ‘action narrative’ is clean; but hell, it really does get mental.
A Mad Max film just wouldn’t be right without that grotesqueness previously mentioned, and they don’t come much more grotesque than the villains AND villainous vehicles on display here, each and every one with a look potentially more iconic than the average movie creature or slasher, yet with this there’s an element art, so that collectively it’s almost beautiful.
Literally beautiful though is the landscape, which, contrary to the current traditions of post-apocalypse movies, is shot to be breathtakingly colourful, with just enough CG to add a scale which would be impossible to get any other way.
This usage of CG extends to the whole production, adding to the peripheries of the practically shot visuals rather than creating the scenes wholesale. The film is so much better and much more seamless for this approach, to the point where, more often than not, you won’t even notice where the real stops and the CG starts. Extra hat doffs go to Furiosa’s awesome mechanical arm.
As part of the Mad Max series, this instalment stands alone; not a reboot per se, more of an update of George Miller’s intentions and vision for the character and world he inhabits. Fury Road is how your ten-year-old self saw Mad Max 2 to be, and how you affectionately remember it. In that respects, and with all budgetary increases considered, it’s technically the best film of the bunch.
Possibly the least summer blockbustery summer blockbuster ever made, Mad Max: Fury Road will lose some people with its priority of visual storytelling over usage of dialogue, but it’s a visionary and singular outing that’s sheer audacity deserves your attention. Miller and Hardy have signed on for more… Bring ‘em on!