With Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron as two rebels on the run in a desert wasteland in post-apocolyptic Australia, director George Miller returns to the story he introduced in 1979. After the original Mad Max, Miller wrote and directed two more — 1981’s “Road Warrior” and 1985’s “Beyond Thunderdome.” Although I saw “Fury Road,” I wasn’t familiar with the original three films, besides vaguely knowing they exist. And I suppose knowing them is paramount to fully appreciate the latest.
So, I come at this as an outsider, someone who sees “Fury Road” basically as a live-action version of the Twisted Metal video game franchise (my nerd reveals itself). Like Miller’s film, Twisted Metal involves a sort of death derby, the vehicles, in a lot of cases, being extensions of the drivers as the War Rig is to Furiosa (Theron) and the Gigahorse is to Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Miller’s cars are masterful works of art.
The action in “Fury Road” is relentless and extraordinary as Immortan Joe and his psychotic worshipers, called War Boys, chase Max (Hardy), Furiosa and her beautiful female companions — Immortan Joe’s collection of wives — across the desert as Furiosa tries to reach her homeland. The action sequences, practically non-stop, are a cinematic graphic achievement (cinematography by John Seale), making the film an exhilarating movie-watching experience. The best of them may be when a psychotic worshiper named Nux (Nicholas Hoult), with Max strapped to the front of his car, is chasing Furiosa’s War Rig into a massive sand and lightning storm.
Theron, Hardy and Hoult are good. There’s a scene late in the film when Furiosa walks out into an open sandscape, drops helplessly to her knees and makes a loud, tortured scream. As the camera catches her from a distance, it paints a picture that nicely portrays the loneliness of the world. And it drowns out her scream — an awesome effect. It’s this moment that lifts Theron’s performance to a new plateau.
Ultimately, I have a skewed perception of the film because I haven’t seen the others. Miller, without the shadow of a doubt, has created an brilliant, colorful world all his own, more than 30 years after he released the original, but one I’m sure those who saw his previous works appreciate significantly more.
“Mad Max: Fury Road”: ★★★