In Hollywood, especially in recent years, everything old is new again, with properties and franchises being revived years or even decades after they were last seen. Usually people who had little or nothing to do with the original films take on the new projects, but Mad Max: Fury Road was done by the same writer/director who brought the franchise to life in 1979, George Miller.
Miller’s involvement is just the first of the positive signs for the new film. The second, as anyone who’s seen the film’s trailers can attest, is the approach Miller and his team took toward the stunts in the film. Instead of relying on CGI to do the heavy lifting, they took the old-fashioned approach of putting actors and stunt men and women in harm’s way for the film’s absolutely bonkers car chase scenes.
It all adds up to what’s sure to be one of the most memorable movies of 2015, whether it’s considered to be one of the best or not. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where a warlord, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), rules over a population desperate for water and gas, the film is a visual stunner virtually from beginning to end.
It doesn’t really matter all that much if you have limited knowledge of the first three Mad Max films, the last of which was 30 years ago. All you really need to know is that Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy, taking over the Mel Gibson role) is still a loner who speaks very little, and this time around he finds himself helping Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who has betrayed Immortan Joe and is on the run from him and his minions.
Despite what you may hope or believe from the trailers, the film is not non-stop action, a fact that might be a disappointment for some. However, instead of using the film’s quieter moments to flesh out the background of key characters, Miller seems to prefer to let the visuals doing the talking, filling the screen with all manner of oddities.
The lack of a complete story doesn’t really hold the film back, but it does make it less than it could have been. Still, when the rest of the movie is as inventive as it is, actual exposition can prove unnecessary. The details on everything from the costumes to the cars to the weapons are a sight to behold, each of them telling their own mini-story within the larger picture.
The car chases – or, more accurately, the car crashes – are as over-the-top as advertised. Although there are times where CGI obviously comes into play, for the most part it’s plain to see that the stunts were done with practical effects and real people. The thrill factor is upped exponentially because of this decision, with one sequence, in which people high atop poles drop down on other vehicles, taking the cake.
But it’s not just the stunts that are eye-popping. The cinematography by Oscar winner John Seale is for the ages, and is one of the few instances in which the use of 3D proves to be a real boon to the final product. Seale uses varying colors, wide angles and more to take in the full scope of the film’s desert setting, and there are times when your jaw will drop at how beautiful he makes it seem.
Hardy is already well known for being a taciturn actor, which means that the role of Max fits him to a tee. Using few words and a mysterious yet alluring accent, Hardy makes Max into someone to be feared or trusted, depending on which side you’re on. Theron is the co-lead, and she grabs the opportunity for all it’s worth. She lives up to her character’s name in every way while still ensuring that Furiosa’s femininity never gets lost.
Special note should also be made of Nicholas Hoult, who plays Lux, one of Immortan Joe’s zombie-esque minions. Not only does he get the line – “Oh, what a day! What a lovely day!” – that is already the movie quote of the summer, but he plays his role in such a creepy yet innocent way that he threatens to steal every scene he’s in.
While Hollywood is rightly taken to task for remaking too many old movies instead of coming up with new ideas, Mad Max: Fury Road proves that there’s always an exception to every rule. Any movie fan worth his or her salt will walk away with glee from this visceral delight.