Directed by George Miller. Produced by Doug Mitchell, George Miller, and P. J. Voeten. Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris. Release date: May 15, 2015.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a testament to how important it is to have talent behind the camera when making a movie. Structurally, the film is one big, extended chase scene. The last one of these was Getaway, which is so awful it deserves to be shown to large crowds, ready to laugh, at midnight screenings once a year. You know, like The Room or Birdemic. Fury Road, on the other hand, keeps one long chase thrilling for almost two hours of running time, and does so while providing gorgeous visuals and a decent amount of character development. And explosions. Lots and lots of explosions. More explosions than your typical Michael Bay movie.
The film has been directed by George Miller, who brought us the previous three Mad Max films, but in recent years has spent his time directing family-friendly films like Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City. He returns to his roots, at least in spirit if not in budget, with Fury Road, a big-budget, R-rated, B-grade action movie.
The premise? Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy, who replaces Mel Gibson in the role) joins up with a fugitive, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to rescue a group of girls (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton) from the clutches of the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, unrecognizable despite playing the villain in the first film). So, they drive through the post-apocalyptic desert that the series has become known for, blowing up practically everything in their path, all while searching for “the green place.”
Is there more to it than that? Honestly, not really. Like I said, it’s just one lengthy chase scene. Most of the character beats happen while the film is in motion. While most movies stop to give the characters time to deliver exposition or grow, this one just keeps on trucking – while still giving us these things, which make the action feel more important. We become invested in these characters even though they don’t pause to tell us why we should. When we do stop, it’s to let the enemy get closer, ramping up tension that was already cranked up higher than most films can even dream of reaching. This is the type of movie that raises the heart rate, drops your jaw, and pleases your eyeballs for every second that it’s on-screen.
It takes a talented director to pull this off, and I don’t think anyone coming away from Fury Road is going to claim that George Miller isn’t talented, assuming they didn’t have that opinion already. The premise could have easily become dull, the characters could have been one-note dullards, the B-movie premise and aesthetic means the stunts could have been lackluster – but none of that happens. There’s genuine heart and passion put into this project, and you can feel it radiating through every frame.
This is the type of movie that raises the heart rate, drops your jaw, and pleases your eyeballs for every second that it’s on-screen.
The film is gleefully violent. It causes a substantial amount of carnage in a short period of time – and then keeps going. It gives us great physical performances from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, the latter of whom might come away from the film with several dozen offers for action roles. Theron steals the movie away from Hardy, giving us one of the great female characters of the year, and perhaps the decade. Actually, all of the hero characters, both male and female, get more than a few moments to shine – it just so happens that most of them are female. That shouldn’t really be as noteworthy as it is, but when the damsels in distress turn out to be anything but, it’s noticeable and worth pointing out because of how rare it is.
Another rarity is how frequently an action movie can top itself. After the opening portion to Fury Road‘s chase scene, I wondered how George Miller would top that. I wondered the same thing after the next portion. And so on. It just keeps getting bigger, crazier, and more entertaining. In the end, it’s a junky B-grade actioner, but it’s one of the best junky B-grade actioners we’ve ever gotten, or will ever get. Yes, it is that good.
I’m still kind of amazed that Fury Road even exists, particularly in this state. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome effectively killed the franchise for three decades, and it’s not like a fourth chapter was being clamored for by anyone other than die-hard supporters. But now we get Fury Road, with a budget to rival more “sure thing” action franchises, and it paid off wonderfully. This could have been a disaster, but it instead turned into a movie that action fans will be talking about years from now.
The first Mad Max film in 30 years, Mad Max: Fury Road showcases exactly how one can take a simple premise and turn it into an incredibly enjoyable movie. It’s one chase scene stretched across two hours of film that never once gets dull, gives us several great characters, and delivers some of the best action scenes of the year. When Kingsman: The Secret Service was released, I expected it to be the best pure action movie of the year. Mad Max: Fury Road may have just topped it. This is incredible filmmaking and a rebirth of the Mad Max brand.
Bottom Line: An instant game-changer, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best junky B-movies we’ve ever gotten.
Recommendation: Action movie fans need to see Mad Max: Fury Road as soon as possible.[rating=4.5]
If you want more of Matthew “Marter” Parkinson, you can follow him on the Twitter @Martertweet and check out his weekly movie podcast.