Thirty years after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, the cop-turned-apocalypse survivor Max Rockatansky is finally taking another road trip with Mad Max Fury Road. But while this is an exciting action movie, it’s not without its problems…starting with Max himself.
In Mad Max Fury Road, the wasteland of a post-apocalyptic Australia is controlled by different warlords who have an uneasy peace. When one of them, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) realizes that his truck driver Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has stolen his wives — one of whom is very pregnant — he and his followers give chase. Little does he realize that our old pal Max is strapped to the front of one of the chasing vehicles, and Max doesn’t appreciate being strapped to the front of a car driving wildly through the desert.
What follows is one long, full-throttle (pun intended) car chase. But one that has mid-chase fist fights, pit stops, and even bits of acrobatics. And it really is non-stop. From almost the moment Mad Max Fury Road begins, the movie is in almost constant motion, with one big action scene after another, explosions piling on explosions, and more bodies flying than a WWE highlight reel. It really is vehicular manslaughter on a grand scale.
Making this even cooler is that Mad Max Fury Road has a vibrant visual style. Everything in this world has been Frankensteined together out of other things, but while there’s a practicality to it all, there’s a sense of style as well.
It also helps that Theron all but steals the movie by being a total bad ass. Though she’s not alone. At one point in their journey, she and Max link up with some older ladies, and these gals more than hold their own with Max and the other guys. So much so that I half expect someone to whip out a boom box and start playing a cover of the Spice Girls’ “Spice Up Your Life” done by Slayer.
Mad Max Fury Road also gets points for not having even the slight hint of a romance between Max and Furiosa. Which would’ve been really easy, but also really obvious and really forced and thus really dumb.
But while Mad Max Fury Road is an exceptionally exciting movie, it’s not without its problems. The biggest of which, oddly, is with Max himself. For starters, Tom Hardy, who plays him here, doesn’t have the charm or magnetism of Mel Gibson, who played Max in the first three films Granted, Mel doesn’t have that kind of charm or magnetism any more, either, but Hardy is really rather flat here.
More importantly, Max is somewhat unnecessary. There’s nothing he does in Mad Max Fury Road that Furiosa couldn’t have just done herself, and probably better. In fact, at one point, she does just that. Which is why it’s hard to think they couldn’t have just named Charlize Theron’s character Maxine, and made nearly the same movie with her as the Mad one.
There’s also the issue that, because Mad Max Fury Road is non-stop action, there’s no time to breathe or for characterization. And that’s totally true. Especially since many of Max’s personality traits are revealed in the form of some confusing flashbacks that, save for one lucky hand motion, never pay off. But the action is so invigorating that you won’t notice the character’s lack of personality until the movie’s over.
Finally, while Mad Max Fury Road has a great sense of style, as I said above, there are times when it gets silly. For instance, one of the vehicles chasing Max and friends is a truck with drummers on the back an a guy playing guitar on the front. And while their thumping music really gives a sense of urgency to some of the action scenes, as a character, the guitar player is kind of a one-note joke that repeats too much. Though, if the audience at the screening I attended is any indication, I may be alone in this assessment.
Also, while Mad Max Fury Road is available in 3D, the version I saw was the 2D one. But it’s clear the film was meant to be seen in 3D, which is why there’s lots of things flying at the camera.
Still, despite these issues, Mad Max Fury Road is an exceptionally exciting and invigorating action flick, one much deserving of the name and all that lineage implies. Is it too bad Mel Gibson didn’t come back, and that Thomas Hardy ain’t no Mel Gibson, and that they didn’t just give the whole movie over the Charlize Theron, but as it stands, Mad Max Fury Road is a fun Sunday drive.