It’s not often that one gets to witness a true Renaissance, the rebirth of a franchise, but George Miller manages to awaken and breathe new life into his cult favorite franchise with Mad Max: Fury Road. Debuting a full thirty years after the premiere of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Fury Road give audiences just about everything that the post-apocalyptic 80’s franchise is known for and more.
Picking up after the events of Thunderdome, Fury Road brings us back to the mad, mad world of Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a barren Australian wasteland devoid of water and hope, where the strongest rule the road. Upon his capture at the hands of a group of War Boys commanded by the leader King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played the villain in the original Mad Max), Max finds himself an unwilling member of a war party hunting down the traitorous Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). After a high-speed chase through the desert and learning the reasons behind Furiosa’s desertion, Max, along with Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a War Boy with a death wish and a heart of gold, joins Furiosa in her journey, an attempt to find asylum for a group of women held hostage by the Immortan. On their quest, the group finds themselves pursued by multiple factions of the waste-land, including but not limited to people eaters, guitar players, a man adorned in bullets, and dirt bike riders.
The narrative of the film, though a simple on the surface, carries with it a surprising amount of depth, further developing the world of the franchise without resorting to mindless exposition. Rather, Fury Road thrusts you into the world, where you’re expected to keep up and just roll with it. While it may sound daunting, especially for those who haven’t seen Fury Road’s predecessors, the thrilling action sequences and look of the world are enough to draw you in and keep you in your seats. While most of the action scenes are car chase oriented, each is truly unique, while at the same time providing a feeling of proper escalation. Furthermore, the practical effects, stunts and costumes, are just plain rad. This is what every action/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic 80’s flick wishes it looked like. Many of the character designs feel like a Burning Man induced fever dream, and it is glorious. Everything contributes to the Max’s twisted metal world, and while you wouldn’t want to visit, it’s a hell of a ride.
That being said, if you’re coming into this film to see award-winning acting and character development, you might want to rethink your priorities. Though it is technically his film, Max operates like a spaghetti western character, wandering through the desert until adventure just happens, he doesn’t have much of a character arc to him, but that doesn’t matter. Rather, driving much of the narrative is Theron’s Furiosa. While her motivations felt a touch underdeveloped, Furiosa proves herself to be a compelling character and a true road warrior. However, the strongest most compelling arc is that of Nicholas Hoult’s Nux, who brings a good deal of heart and sincerity to the role. In fact, each of the character’s rather than becoming fully fleshed individuals, take on a more emblematic role within the world of the film, lending an almost epic quality to the plot.
Accenting the visuals and the story, the score of the film hits all the right notes, with screeching guitars accompanying the tenser pursuits and the classic Mad Max sound to fill out the rest of the action. It’s serviceable, but decidedly action movie. There’s nothing revolutionary on that front, save for the diegetic guitar, which, if I’m being perfectly honest, were my favorite moments of the film, if only for being so deliciously diabolic.
In summation, Fury Road is a true return to form for the series, taking everything that made the Mad Max franchise so memorable and cranking it up to eleven in what is one of the best looking, most imaginative action films in recent memory. Just remember to buckle your seat belts.