In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.
I was never a big fan of the first three Mad Max films. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and saw them on home video back in the day but at the time, they never reached out and grabbed me by the throat and demanded my attention. Flash forward to 2015 and after having just come back from a screening of the latest installment, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” I have to say, the experience has left me wanting to go back and watch all three earlier iterations. As most people already know, the original trilogy starred a then young Mel Gibson but this time around, we get English actor Tom Hardy filling the shoes of the Road Warrior. And he does a damn fine job too I might add. This is one of the year’s most anticipated films and it has good reason to be, it is visually stunning and the fact that most of it was shot for real, with very little CGI, makes it all the more impressive.
George Miller, the man responsible for the first three movies, is back in the director’s chair but this time, he elevates the series, literally, to the next level, in terms of visual aesthetics. The budget for the earlier films were a drop in the bucket compared to Fury Road and because of the increase in budgetary finances this time around, Mr. Miller is able to successfully execute some of the most electrifying stunts and action set-pieces ever captured on film. I literally had to pick my jaw up off the floor several times, at the sheer magnitude and scope of Fury Road and that very rarely happens because very few filmmakers these days, have the guts to shoot a big action movie old school, utilizing real stunt people and stunt work as opposed to making everything computer generated. And yes, I’m talking to you Michael Bay and George Lucas.
There is not an awful lot of dialogue throughout the film but that’s okay because going in, you know this is going to be a testosterone-filled two hours that will deliver the goods. The story is set in Australia but was actually filmed in the Namib desert in South Africa so the locales and overall environment is beautiful to behold but simultaneously brutal. As the movie begins, Max is hunted and captured by King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his barbarous military force, the War Boys. Joe rules a desert oasis called the ‘Wasteland’ where he governs all the people and keeps them in line by sanctioning their water but also by way of fear. Furiosa (Charlize Theron), is the only female driver of Joe’s fleet of armored trucks and with his five young wives in tow, she escapes from Wasteland and heads for her hometown in the east to get away from Joe’s tyranny so that she can help the women find a new beginning.
Along the way, Max and Furiosa cross paths and while they are initially hostile and combative towards each other, they both realize that in order to escape Joe and his men, they will need each other in order to survive. They quickly learn to adapt to each other’s temperaments but with Joe and his murderous men in hot pursuit, as well as other desert factions, Furiosa and her girls have no choice but to trust in Max and his knowledge of the outback if they are to survive. Director George Miller had been trying for years, to get Fury Road into production but with financial troubles and location woes (initially they were going to shoot the movie in Australia but torrential rains forced the production to move to South Africa), it appeared that the movie would never get made. The original Mad Max, Mel Gibson, even signed on to reappear as the titular character but with no start date in sight, he eventually dropped out.
I think the movie would have been just as good if Mr. Gibson had returned, and quite possibly even better, seeing the original Max reappear, even though he is still 30 years older but he is such a wonderful and versatile actor that he could have pulled it off. Age wouldn’t have made a difference in this world, it would have given Max a lot more character, knowing that he had been traveling the outback for 30 years and probably had a lot of different stories to tell. Tom Hardy is an actor I truly admire, he gave terrific performances in “Bronson” and “The Drop” and I also enjoyed him in the lighthearted action film “This Means War,” alongside Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon. The man has natural onscreen charisma and an actor of his caliber is most certainly required for a movie like “Mad Max: Fury Road” because his character says very little but his actions speak louder than words.
Max is initially reluctant to help Furiosa and her girls because after losing his family, those who mattered most to him, he has become the quintessential loner who relies only on himself to survive but he is also haunted by the ghosts of those whom he could not save, men, women and children who had perished and so he begins to see Furiosa as his redemption and feels that if he helps them get to their destination, he might find some peace of mind. But this is not a drama and director George Miller keeps the action ratio cranked all the way up for most of the film’s two hour runtime. Tom Hardy recently announced that he would love to come back as Max and director George Miller said he has more than enough stories to keep the series going and that’s a good thing because if “Mad Max: Fury Road” is anything to go by, then I for one, will be eagerly awaiting each new installment.
In theaters May 15th
For more info about James visit his website at www.IrishFilmCritic.com