“If you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane,” says Max Rockatansky to Furiosa.
In 1979, George Miller unleashed Mad Max into Australian cinemas and became one of Australia’s biggest hits ever. It featured a breakout performance by a young Mel Gibson, who would return for 1981’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (released in the U.S. as The Road Warrior) and 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome as well as achieve international fame. Beyond Thunderdome was believed to be the end of the Mad Max saga until about 15 years ago when rumors spread of a new Mad Max film called Mad Max: Fury Road. Miller was intent on making it and Mel Gibson was even attached to return as Max. Production on the film ended up being delayed, and it would lay dormant for another decade before being resurrected by Miller. A new Max had to be cast, but everything else fell into place and Miller finally made his long-awaited return to the world of Mad Max. I saw the film recently in 3D and it was simply awesome (it certainly lives up to the hype).
2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road follows former cop Max Rockatansky in a dystopian Australian future as he gets caught up in a conflict between Furiosa, who has stolen a war rig and is trying to transport five young women to safety, and Citadel ruler Immortan Joe, who was using the women as breeders and has taken some war parties in pursuit of Furiosa. Miller assembled an excellent cast that includes Tom Hardy (as Max), Charlize Theron (as Furiosa), Hugh Keays-Byrne (as Immortan Joe), Nicholas Hoult (as Nux), Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (as the Splendid Angharad), Zoe Kravitz (as Toast), Josh Helman (as Slit), Nathan Jones (as Rictus Erectus), Riley Keough (as Capable), Abbey Lee (as the Dag), Courtney Eaton (as Cheedo the Fragile). Hardy steps into the iconic role made famous by Mel Gibson and makes it his own while capturing the spirit and the tragedy of the character. Theron gives one of her best performances ever as Furiosa, a woman looking for redemption and hope for the future despite its seeming bleakness. Keays-Byrnes (who played the villainous Toecutter in the first Mad Max) crafts another iconic villainous figure for Miller in the form of Immortan Joe, a despot who rules over the Citadel almost as a god-like figure.
Miller’s direction is strong, drawing incredible performances and staging jaw-dropping action sequences. The screenplay by Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris helps set the world of the film for newcomers to the franchise as well as honoring the legacy of the previous Mad Max films. It explores faith, hope, and redemption, and its focus on the preciousness of water and oil as valuable resources remains as relevant today as it was more than 30 years ago (it is so much more than a 2-hour chase sequence). It advances the nobility and tragedy of Max and presents the best action heroine (in the form of Furiosa) to grace cinema screens since Ellen Ripley in James Cameron’s Aliens. Colin Gibson’s production design is amazing (the Citadel city is my favorite, and the various vehicle designs are insane). John Seale’s cinematography eschews a desaturated look and manages to make the Australian desert landscape look so hot and bleak and yet so beautiful). Jenny Beavan’s costume designs are quite creative, as are Lesley Vanderwalt’s wild makeup designs. Margaret Sixel’s editing gives the film an excellent pace, while Junkie XL’s score is much better than I had anticipated (it’s quite good). Miller’s return to the world of Mad Max is a most welcome one, and Mad Max: Fury Road has proven to be simply awesome (is it too early to call it a visual masterpiece?). Don’t hesitate to check this film out!