Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Nathan Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Josh Helman, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, Richard Carter, Angus Simpson, Megan Gale, Melissa Jaffer
Dir: George Miller
FINALLY… after decades of development hell, rumors, budget issues, doubts and reshoots, Max is back! Directing his first live-action film in 17 years, George Miller definitely hasn’t skipped a beat and proved age truly isn’t a number (recently celebrated his 70th birthday). With reports of Miller having filmed over 480 hours of footage and virtually no screenplay present, it’s amazing how well everything clicked on screen. Everything you love about the Road Warrior series is here, and cranked up to five other levels.
You want action? You have action! Buckets of it! Miller pulls no punches when it comes to creating supremely choreographed chase and battle sequences. If one were to look beyond the explosions and bloodspray and skin-crawlingly disgusting tumors covering most of the villains, viewers would be surprised there’s a fantastic allegory hidden within Fury Road. Although their world is essentially in ruins, never to return to its lush splendor, Miller and editor Margaret Sixel weave a lesson for the current state of our world and the disparity that exists between the classes and more importantly, genders.
The tale begins at the Citadel, reigned by Immortan Joe (Hugh-Keays Byrne) and son, Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones). Controlling the only source of clean water within the known lands, Joe is allied with Gastown and The Bullet Farm, led by equally colorful persons of ill repute (John Howard and Richard Carter, respectively). Life may be more tolerable for those living above the canyons yet it remains equally unforgiving. Opportunity is taken, nothing is ever wasted, and everyone works or dies. Desperate to appease their false idol, Immortan Joe has a fanatical legion of young soldiers called Half Lifes willing to give their all to prove their worthiness for glory in the next life. One young life close to death is the pathetic Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who relies on Max to restore his station among the Half Lifes and keep him alive, in the most disturbing and entirely unsanitary way possible.
The oddest thing about Fury Road, aside from the inordinate number of skulls laying around and the severe lack of teeth in the mouths of its irradiated survivors, is a lack of characterization. One would assume with a star like Tom Hardy playing the lead role of a beloved sci fi anti-hero would be more prominent in the narrative. Hardy as Max isn’t a disappointment by any means, yet his rendition (or this particular film cut) is rather underwhelming; Rockatansky isn’t the dead-eyed, unapologetic, me-against-the-world road warrior we’ve known and loved the last 30+ years. Here, we witness a man broken by ghosts of his past, wasting away in the wasteland inside his once-reliable and intimidating Interceptor. This stark shift in his character would be fascinating to explore, however little is revealed during Fury Road about these unknown people haunting Max. Instead, we’re treated to the awkward pauses, barely registerable growls and guttural exhalations that have become Hardy-isms in most of his recent work. Granted, Hardy executes a commendable performance as Max, but he’s anything but mad. The same cannot be said for his supporting cast, who provide the appropriate amount of insanity one expects in a dystopian landscape.
Far and away, Fury Road owes all its cohesion and vision to the Imperator Furiosa, skillfully performed by Charlize Theron. Within seconds of seeing her on screen, there’s no mistaking the command and presence of a woman who takes no shit whatsoever. Unlike Tina Turner’s memorable Aunty Entity in Beyond the Thunderdome, Furiosa is more of a mirror to Max. Like him, she was ripped from a life of love and relative comfort, after which nothing else has existed in her life but pain and blood. Despite her gruff façade, Furiosa occasionally reveals her compassion and empathy for her precious cargo. Knowing what awaits them at the Citadel doubles her resolve to grant them escape from Immortan Joe’s clutches, by any means necessary. As seen in numerous fight scenes, Furiosa is real pit bull. Her amazingly cool prosthetic arm could be taken away from her but she still has three more limbs and knows how to use them. She will absolutely kick your ass deep in the dirt to make sure you stay down.
The strength and determination Furiosa exudes is present in every female character, albeit not with such graphic physicality. If there’s any resource more desired in this world than water, food, and fuel it is women. There is no time for damsels in distress. Whereas Max is more subdued in character and diminished in intensity, it is forgivingly allowed because nearly every woman within Fury Road is portrayed with a dynamism that’s seldom seen in film, let alone in testosterone-fueled post-apocalyptic car porn. Each actress within the film has her own traits and offer a unique insight into how their characters try to survive in this hellhole, but all share the perseverance and fervor that no man will ever own them. It was absolutely fun to watch what is typically a male-driven actioner being turned on its head with battle-worn women of varying ages ready to throw down against bloodthirsty musclebound marauders.
After the year of hype and amazing trailers, Mad Max: Fury Road certainly lives up to all expectations. Beautifully shot, excellent driving and fight sequences, disgustingly impressive set and character designs… George Miller deserves to receive another 150 million dollars for the sequel. My only request is please, please, please don’t make us wait 15 more years. Although if George somehow raises the bar again at age 95, I’d be damn impressed.