Action films are a unique genre of their own. Sometimes, they consist of alien invasions, natural disaster scenarios, terrorist plots, and world domination schemes.
Removed from real world conventions, these movies are meant to entertain audiences as an escapist fantasy.
George Miller’s Mad Max series succeeds in both entertaining and mystifying moviegoers with its dystopian setting and themes of environmentalism.
Beginning in 1979, the first film sparked an Australian New Wave of cinema, launched a young Mel Gibson to Hollywood stardom and spawned two sequels. Mad Max: The Road Warrior centered around gang warfare and a fuel and energy crisis, while Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome focused on cargo cultists.
After a thirty-year hiatus, Miller returns to the world he created, with Mad Max: Fury Road. Although the film was moderately successful at the domestic box office, it has gained a large overseas audience and earned six Academy Awards.
Set sometime after Beyond Thunderdome, the film begins with former police officer Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) making his way through the Australian desert.
Society has collapsed in the wake of nuclear war, and fuel has become increasingly scarce. Max is chased and captured by the War Boys, a group whose main resources are water and human trafficking.
Their leader is Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Burne), a megalomaniacal tyrant with a lust for power and a desire to control the region’s water supply. Due to his universal blood type, Max is kept alive as a donor for a War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who is ill from the effects of the environment.
Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is one of Immortan Joe’s top lieutenants, but she dreams of escaping her male-dominated life. After being sent on a mission to acquire fuel, she instead opts to escape Immortan Joe’s Citadel and takes five of his wives with her. Upon discovering the betrayal, he sends his foot soldiers after them in hot pursuit.
During a desert storm, Max escapes his confines, thwarts the War Boys’ attempts to capture the women, and takes charge of Furiosa’s armored truck, the War Rig. Upon escaping their pursuers, Furiosa wants to return to the “Green Place”, a location she remembers from her youth, and Max reluctantly agrees to accompany her.
Nux manages to escape Immortan Joe and joins up with the group as they venture across the wasteland in search of refuge.
Tom Hardy does a fine job as Max. His portrayal is not a carbon copy of Mel Gibson’s tough loner, but it is more of a quiet, stoic man who is slowly regaining his humanity.
Hardy’s performance mostly consists of expressions, subtle gestures and nuances to his own past experiences; in total, he only has nineteen lines over the course of the film.
Had Hardy been the sole focus of the story, it would not have worked as well, because the character of Max is both a solitary figure and a reluctant warrior who is forced into action.
As the one-armed Furiosa, Charlize Theron is one of the movie’s highlights, thus giving a pro-feminist theme. Stubborn and independent, she is unwilling to submit and be an underling of Immortan Joe, let alone leave the other women behind.
Initially, Furiosa is less than friendly towards Hardy’s Max, even after he saves her life, but it is their uneasy alliance that causes her to become introspective.
Theron brings an aura of toughness and vulnerability to the role. Her determination to reach the “Green Place” and hidden fear that it might not exist is inspiring and heartbreaking to watch.
Buried under prosthetics and makeup, Nicholas Hoult is unrecognizable as Nux, who goes from a mindless follower to a man of action.
Having risen to fame with British drama Skins and the X-Men film series, the former teen idol has matured into an adult actor with a penchant for disappearing into his characters.
As a frequent collaborator of the director, Hugh Keays-Burne is unsettling and eerily convincing as Immortan Joe, a man whose face is hidden by a breathing mask.
Unlike most blockbusters, Fury Road is unique in that it relies on practical effects and production design, without an over-reliance on CGI effects. Indeed, the only extensive VFX are used to remove Theron’s left arm and replace it with a prosthetic limb.
Miller’s team has assembled a believable menagerie of rustic-looking vehicles that are capable of movement. Furthermore, the pinnacle of their craftsmanship is a guitar that doubles as a flamethrower.
The film’s cinematographer John Seale chose to shoot in digital, which is most effective for the desert chase sequences. Seale’s approach is unique in its use of over-exposure and color manipulation to present an interesting palate.
The Blu-Ray DVD comes with a half-hour documentary on the filming process. Miller, Hardy, Theron and others participate in the behind-the-scenes look at the production.
Several other features examine the costuming, vehicles, and shooting of the film. Viewers hoping for a treasure trove of deleted scenes will be disappointed, because the DVD only has three short cuts that amount to four minutes in length. However, rumors indicate that Miller is preparing to release an extended black-and-white version of the film in theaters, but it remains to be seen whether or not this will become a reality.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a fine addition to the previously dormant film series. Miller is successful in revitalizing a character that helped define 1980’s cinema. Hardy might have very well found a franchise to call his own. Theron’s performance is a pleasant surprise and a convincing feminist hero.
This is one of 2015’s best movies and a definite “must” for fans of action films.