Director: George Miller
Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Nicholas Hoult
It’s nice to see that George Miller has mellowed in his old age
Slow, uneventful, boring, and subtle. These are some of the words you’d never hear from any sane person describing Mad Max 4. Before I dig deeper I should probably let you know that I’m a twenty year-old man who only recently watched the original Mad Max trilogy, so I don’t have any nostalgia attached to them. The first Mad Max film is genuinely considered mediocre by most people apart from proud Aussies, and my opinion was pretty much the same. It didn’t leave a particularly lasting impression. I was under the impression that it was some sort of hardcore revenge movie, but the revenge part only happened in the final underwhelming twenty minutes. The rest of the film was spent titting about in a underdeveloped post-apocalyptic Australia.
The Road Warrior, however, is generally considered as one of the greatest action movies of all time. I was expecting a full-on action fest (much like Fury Road) but unfortunately what I got was a ponderous seventy minutes involving Max titting about with a colony of people protecting fuel before ending with a spectacular car chase. I was quite disappointed and can name several older action films that are far better than The Road Warrior (Terminator 2 and Hard Boiled to name two). Beyond Thunderdome is generally considered as the worst of the lot but to my pleasant surprise I actually enjoyed this the most out of the trilogy! It might have something to do with me being a massive Tina Turner fan, but I thought there was more action and better characters than the other two films.
After being largely underwhelmed by the Mad Max trilogy, I had my expectations for Fury Road lowered. Pretty much every review I’ve read has been astonishingly glowing with many hailing it as one of the best action films of all time, but didn’t they say that about The Road Warrior? Fury Road is directed by the same George Miller, a man now in his seventies who hasn’t directed an action film since Beyond Thunderdome and whose recent credits include Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City, Mad Max 4 is bound to be pretty weak, right? Wrong.
Believe the hype. Mad Max: Fury Road is an incredible feat. I have no idea how George Miller managed to pull out something so utterly spectacular out of his bag. Fury Road is the best action film I’ve seen since The Raid and has some of the best stunt work since The Dark Knight Rises. In my opinion it leaves the original Mad Max trilogy lying face down in the dust. Fury Road is the great big throbbing war machine whilst the original trilogy is more like some old rusty bicycle. The first ten minutes of Fury Road is far better than anything from Mad Max 1-3 and the entire two hour film definitely contains far more action than the first three films put together.
It opens with an epic monologue from our new Max, Tom Hardy. Mel Gibson never did anything for me as Max. In fact, the character of Max never did much for me. I much prefer Tom Hardy as Max. His accent may be as muddled as Stu’s tan in Mrs. Doubtfire but I think he has much more of a presence than Mel Gibson ever did. His famous interceptor is destroyed within the first five minutes which is obviously symbolic. Just like James Bond getting shot in the opening of Skyfall and a TV exploding in the opening of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, the interceptor getting totalled represents a new era of Mad Max. George Miller has completely cut the ties from the original films and quite rightly so!
I mentioned before that the opening ten minutes of Fury Road is better than anything from the original trilogy and it really is! We get thrown into a huge world and feel fully immersed. The imagery is impressive and epic. It feels like something from Lord of the Rings with some powerful masked weirdo sitting on a giant cliff and spilling gallons of water to his loyal pale-painted followers. The villain in Fury Road is basically Aunty Entity on acid and curiously similar to Tom Hardy’s very own Bane. He’s a brilliantly memorable villain who has his very own breast milk farm and an army of seriously sexy wives.
It occurred to me about three quarters of a way through the film that I actually cared about the characters on the screen, which I’ve never felt before during a Mad Max film (apart from Tina of course). The action still comes first, but there’s still some character development to keep you interested in the, admittedly thin plot. Some have complained that Charlize Theron’s Furiosa character takes over from Max but that didn’t bother me at all. I love strong female characters and Furiosa is definitely that! I cared about the clan of oddballs and their goal. I cared enough, anyway, to make me care about who is actually in the action.
Talking of action. Fury Road’s action sequences are every bit as amazing as you’ve heard. It’s a total intense onslaught of revving action from start to finish. Within the first thirty minutes, we’re plunged into a fiery sandstorm with a furious army of vehicles in hot pursuit. I sat there completely mesmerised by what I was watching. There’s a jarring moment shortly afterwards where Max slowly awakes from a pile of sand and the slowness of the scene is so bloody jarring! At least ninety minutes of Fury Road is just pure full-throttle action. It’s amazingly executed with so little CGI and jaw-dropping stunt work. The final chase sequence is completely exhausting.
Fury Road is eye popping. I felt like Toe Cutter before he collides into a lorry in Mad Max 1 through most of it. Let’s just hope that the sequel will be like The Raid 2. It could easily get better by putting as much focus on character development and plot as well as the action. The Raid 2 did exactly that and produced one of the best films of the twenty first century. As it stands though, Fury Road is a gigantic, towering achievement. You can almost feel the testosterone sweating off the screen. The Fast and Furious franchise can well and truly piss off because this kind of action belongs to the mad.