They might as well strap you in and inject you with heroin when you sit down in the theater to watch Mad Max Fury Road because that is what this experience feels like, and it definitely is an experience.
This has become a term used a lot with movies such as Gravity or Interstellar, mainly science fiction films that take you deep into the nether of space or another world and makes you feel like you have left Earth with the astronauts in the film. Fury Road is an experience, but instead of taking you into space, it does go to another world, but one filled with chaos, filth, and grime — and I loved every second of it.
A return that was 36 years in the making, Fury Road feels like an odd hybrid of reboot and reinvention that doesn’t seem to always work in the climate of Hollywood that begs for more of the old, but in a new form. Director George Miller delivers this and more with his fourth entry in the Mad Max saga that began in 1979 with Mel Gibson playing the lead role.
This time around, it is Tom Hardy, and the film never seems to miss a beat as both a Mad Max film and an outright action extravaganza. Hardy slides perfectly into the stoic, badass role of Max (maybe even better than Gibson ever was). He speaks when he needs to, is able to find a way out of even the most insurmountable jams, and always has the heart to help the innocent even if it doesn’t directly mean something for him.
Max finds himself in the Immortan’s Citadel as a captive after some of Immortan Joe’s (played by original Mad Max baddie Hugh Keays-Byrne) goons tracked him down and brought him in. The day he comes is special. Immortan Joe is sending some of his men, led by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), to Gas Town in order to bring back some gasoline for the colony. It seems to be a ritual that happens annually and he doesn’t expect much to change during this routine.
Well, it is a movie, so it most definitely does this time.
Instead of making it to Gas Town, Furiosa decides to curve off the path and head East in search of “the green place” or a sanctuary for her and the other “mothers” that Immortan Joe keeps as mothers to birth his heirs. Once he discovers this, he sends his men after them, which leads to Nux (Nicholas Hoult) joining the group going after Furiosa with Max in tow as a “blood bag.”
Miller uses the break between Mad Max films to create an experience that feels as much like the other entries as it does new. While Mel Gibson is nowhere to be seen, Hardy does a fantastic job of re-creating this character for the modern era while keeping the qualities that made him great. The same can be said for Miller, who already established his expertise in action through the first three entries, but created a wholly new product that may have reinvented the action genre from here on out.
Crashing cars, poles flinging from car to car with men on top — a freaking car that has a man playing a fire guitar for most of the movie — the atmosphere of Fury Road is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in either an action movie, or just a film in general. The set pieces for the car chases are unparalleled in terms of design or scope as men fling from car to car with no disregard for existence, and the practicality of it makes it something both fearful and awe-inspiring.
In my opinion, the best done chase was the one that takes places following Furiosa’s escape from the citadel and the corresponding army that goes after her. A storm rages in the distance and Miller paints the scene like a clash between titans in Greek mythology with the cars representing the gods of Olympus. The thunder roars with the motors as fire and metal clashes in the winds of the outback and Miller captures all of it like poetry in the form of true carnage.
While the visuals stand above the rest of the typical blockbuster fares, as does the action, Miller never forgets about giving the film a core with its characters. Hardy, fresh off his restrained performance in Locke, almost mimics that because of his lack of lines. Something that Gibson did also, it is also something that isn’t usually seen in a modern blockbuster and the fact that a week ago, I was watching Robert Downey Jr. chew up screen time and not give nearly the power that Hardy brought to this movie is something.
But, the true star is Theron as Furiosa and her quest to bring the girls (led by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Zoe Kravitz) to a safe place is what drives the movie. In a film that brings out incredible feats of action and filmmaking, the biggest feat that it may accomplish is giving so much screen time and focus on a cast that is largely made up of women. The final battle takes place with a group of women leading the charge alongside just two men, Max and Nux.
In what shouldn’t be a big deal (but it is in the current blockbuster landscape), Miller shows that it doesn’t matter what the gender, race, or physical nature (there are senior actors involved in the battle also) the actor is — good action is good action. Hopefully, this is the takeaway for not only future directors, but also actors as they see that the content will drive the consumers rather than the face on the front.
Mad Max Fury Road is a balls to the wall, unhinged, insanity-fueled dive into hell, and one that I will gladly take at any point in time. The action is awe-inspired, the stunts re-define the genre, and the story is the best of the series so far (as is the movie).
It is tough to put labels on anything that just came out, but box office withstanding, it would be safe to bet that Fury Road will have an impact on the action genre for years to come with the hope that Miller keeps coming back to this series and doing it over again for the foreseeable future.