Mad Max: Fury Road

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

George Miller

Starring

Charlize Theron Nicholas Hoult Tom Hardy

Anticipation.

The 30-year wait is over.

Enjoyment.

George Miller is a beautiful mad bastard.

In Retrospect.

A fitting franchise addition that’s full of surprises.

The outer chassis may look battered and bruised, but there’s well-oiled action perfection under the bonnet.

Man, what a rush. With the dust settled on what has surely been an exhausting 25-year development period full of false starts and speculation, George Miller emerges from the semi-corroded director-for-hire wreckage of his own career – defiantly and triumphantly slamming the throttle forward on the franchise that made his name. The engine may have been completely stripped and rebuilt using newly acquired parts, but the result is nothing short of awesome. A supercharged spectacle that races through the gears delivering shot after shot of gasoline-laced adrenaline direct to the heart. It is, perhaps surprisingly, a singularly entertaining modern blockbuster.

Some fans understandably questioned whether too much time had passed, if there was anything to be gained from strapping in for one last ride across the scorched plains of this seminal post-apocalyptic saga. Any such fears are laid to rest within the frantic opening few minutes of Mad Max: Fury Road, when Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is chased down and captured by a gang of scurrying, snarling “War Boys” – an accursed V8 cult ruled by the tyrannous Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). This is a world beyond Thunderdome, a stark post-civilisation afterlife where oil runs clearer than water, a place where all hope has been extinguished. In this wasteland of the damned, our eponymous protagonist – unable to escape the ghosts of his past – stands alone. The Road Warrior rendered Lone Wanderer.

Redemption beckons after Max forms an unlikely alliance with Imperator Furiosa, a fearsome rebel played by Charlize Theron, who emerges as the film’s prize asset. Indeed, the strong female cast, which includes the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Zoe Kravitz, is a major if unexpected selling point. Much has been made of Hardy’s suitability to the lead role (he’s great by the way), but few could have predicted that Miller would be bold enough to force his iconic hero to take a backseat in favour of a refreshing franchise – not to mention industry – subverting feminist subtext.

There is something reassuringly unfamiliar at work here. The post-apocalyptic Outback setting (Fury Road was shot in Namibia) which Miller first had a hand in cultivating way back in 1979 remains unchanged, but the veteran writer/director somehow manages to make the environment of the film feel entirely fresh. Even more impressively, we never lose sight of the hero’s journey amid the maelstrom of sharp hand-brake turns and suspension-busting stunt work that dominates Fury Road’s two-hour runtime. This is a film fuelled by fire and blood, and as such you might expect such explosive in-camera pyrotechnics to detract from the central narrative, but Miller ensures that we remain invested in Max and Furiosa’s joint arc right to the end.

Ever since Christopher Nolan rewrote the blockbuster handbook with his Dark Knight trilogy, summer tentpole movies have tended to be overly earnest, joyless experiences. Not so Fury Road. There is simply so much to admire here on a technical level, from the tire-screeching, heavy metal guitar-shredding chaos of the action set pieces to Junkie XL’s thundering drum score to John Seale’s punchy cinematography. These individual components may be informed by contemporary trends and techniques to some degree, but there is something excitingly original – maverick, even – about the way Miller fits them all together. Fury Road works, then, not because it succeeds in reinventing the wider landscape within which it sits, but because it is content simply to build on its own rich, bonkers legacy.

Published 15 May 2015

Anticipation.

The 30-year wait is over.

Enjoyment.

George Miller is a beautiful mad bastard.

In Retrospect.

A fitting franchise addition that’s full of surprises.

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