Reviving an old franchise is difficult especially one where last movie featured Tina Turner (she is amazing don’t get me wrong, but that was a whole other era.). So how do you revive a dead franchise? Do you Indiana Jones it and bring back the aging but iconic star? Do you reboot the series and rewrite its history ala Terminator? Or do you stick with the atmosphere and bring in a brilliant director? (If you’re counting: one of these have succeeded, one failed miserably, while one is yet to be determined). This one sticks with the atmosphere and George Miller, injects all the Mad Max chaos and brutality into Fury Road.
In a post-apocalyptic world, Max is used as a blood bag for one of Immortan Joe’s goons who is on the trail of Imperator Furiosa. What had started as a gas run turns into a quest for freedom as Furiosa tries to escape with the handful of women that are being used as Joe’s breeding chattel. As the chase ensues, Max frees himself and becomes a reluctant partner in Furiosa’s scheme. The two are chased through the vast desert landscape looking for Furiosa’s homeland where freedom will be theirs.
Miller was the perfect director and co-writer for this film as his mind is as chaotic as the movie itself. There have been reports from the actors that script pages changed daily (when there was a script) and Charlize Theron admits to rolling in the dirt for her look. The actors embraced this quality, and the casting was expertly done. Theron shows the earthy side of a Hollywood starlet (Theron, who despite her beauty, never has any problem getting dirty) and Tom Hardy grunts through his lines as the titular Max. Hardy is a chameleon easily sliding into any character role including this one.
The movie biggest it strength is also it weakness. The movie is INTENSE. While it’s easy to follow the plot, it is hard to take everything in. The movie is visually stunning perfectly portraying the wasteland man has created of the earth. Each goon’s vehicle has different flair make them individualized since they themselves all look some much alike. By the last third of the movie, I was mentally exhausted and the movie slows some to give the characters time to grow. But then viewers are whisked away again to a satisfying conclusion. There is no cliff hanger that begs for franchise, but there is a promise of more stories that can be told.
The final third of the film gives the emotional impact that matches the brutal intent in the rest of the movie. This is where you finally learn something about Max and see the characters as more than just one dimensional archetypes. Though it’s called Mad Max, it’s really not about Max at all. The film follows Imperator Furiosa and her personal mission for freedom and the green land. Hardy pretty much spends most of the movie looking pretty (even covered in dirt). In the movie’s final throws, he actually shows some characteristics other than a man bent on survival.
Mad Max Fury Road calls for multiple viewings as well as a look back into the original films. Hardy claims that Mel Gibson gave his blessing, and he should have: this film is a great addition to the franchise. If The Wasteland (Miller’s planned sequel) can be this good, then by all means keep Max coming.