‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is an Adrenaline-Fueled Masterpiece- Throwback Review

Was the world prepared for Mad Max: Fury Road seven years ago? That mainly depends if you’re already a fan of the franchise writer/director George Miller created. It all started with his directorial 1979 debut original starring Mel Gibson. Then, the 1981 sequel, The Road Warrior, was regarded as one of the greatest action movies ever and followed by Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, co-directed by George Ogilvie. Thirty years later, since the last installment, it sounded impossible to finally get the fourth film off the ground, only to make the experience worth the time in the world for a lovely day.

Years after the collapse of civilization, the tyrannical Immortan Joe enslaves apocalypse survivors inside the desert fortress of the Citadel. When the warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leads the despot’s five wives in a daring escape, she forges an alliance with Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a loner and former captive. Fortified in the massive, armored truck the War Rig, they try to outrun the ruthless warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his henchmen in a deadly high-speed chase through the Wasteland before they reached their destination of Furoisa’s childhood home “Green Place.”

Why did I decide to re-watch the long-awaited sequel? For one, Miller has his upcoming Three Thousand Years of Longing out soon. And I’m currently reading the book “Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road” by Kyle Buchanan, all about the detailed history of the journey getting this film together. And it’s been years since Miller tried to make it come true. So many stops from studio changes, locations, over-budget problems, Mel Gibson became a controversial actor in Hollywood, etc. This was a sequel that’s been in development hell since the late ‘90s. Miller’s career has reached little success in the live-action department. When he was hired by the studio to helm the sci-fi drama Contact, he was fired (and Robert Zemeckis was brought in to take his place), 1998’s Babe: Pig in the City failed to be as popular or well-received as its predecessor, and his own Justice League movie project was abandoned because of the Writer’s Strike. In the time since, his attention was on the Happy Feet movies for Warner Bros., the first winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

His return to the post-apocalyptic world didn’t excite me initially since I have seen none of the previous movies, believe it or not. But the moment I knew I had to see it came from the first trailer they released at Comic-Con 2014, and it blew my mind, raising my anticipation from zero to 100, just like that. Immediately, it became one of my must-see blockbusters in the stacked year of the 2015 calendar year. From everything that sounded like a major disaster for Hollywood, many were worried this would not be amazing when the time came. However, those who have never watched a Mad Max movie will have no problems witnessing one of cinema’s most incredible action movies ever made. Simply put, Mad Max: Fury Road is everything I could ask for and more!

Every time I think about a single detail regarding this, how was it possible to get this made when it follows a pretty simple storyline? Nothing about this screamed complex when it’s essentially an extended chase through the wasteland trying not to get killed. Miller was in his late 60s when he started filming and for a director who used to be a doctor, it was a blessing for him to see his vision finally come to life. For his age to make an action movie close to $200 million, Miller puts everything into this to make everything else afterward to massive shame, except for a few other franchises. Even when it doesn’t need to have a proper story that throws people off, everything is being told through visual storytelling with little moments of dialogue. The most unconventional part of the production was it didn’t go through with a traditional screenplay. Miller, alongside comic book artist Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, planned the film through 3,500 storyboards to match Miller’s preparedness for the sequences his mind can control.

The strength the film carried wholly without question is all the action. Holy crap, this has some of the greatest spectacles of effort I’ve seen in a long time where it displays every moment of car crashes, explosions, and incredible stunt work is perfect in feeling the story is constantly moving, which can create many challenges. From the opening chase to the last, they put you in awe in a way that never becomes repetitive. They resemble a pirate ship battle on dry land with Miller’s precise direction, keeping them kinetic and dangerous for these characters to stay alive. The practical effects are a work of art, returning to the basics of feeling the rawness of the original two movies in every centered frame. I’m someone who gravitates towards practical action more than having everything being shot on a green screen because of the grounded realism through wide shots to take in the chaos. Why wasn’t this in the IMAX format on its first run?

Tom Hardy had some big shoes to fill in taking over for Gibson, whose career took off after playing Max in the original trilogy. His brilliant role in Bronson got him to be cast as the Australian antihero. He nailed the quiet and brutal nature of the character and made it his own with little dialogue. He’s still a man crush of mine today in a role he took on right when audiences noticed him through Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, respectively, that’ll have his problems from this past haunting him, a creature of isolation. But, I just loved the physical presence he cared throughout. And after not needing an audition, Charlize Theron gives one of the best performances of her career as Furiosa. She’s this fearless leader not taking any shit from anyone when protecting these women to the point she felt like the main character more than Max. With so many female action heroines in entertainment, she became one of the most inspiring since Sarah Connor from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. We get a few details about her from the prequel comics, though this trained warrior is seeking redemption. And she has a robotic arm that doesn’t need an explanation. 

Both Max and Furiosa are in a world where trust doesn’t come often, but they manage to work together when their paths cross to invade the posing threats of the various parties after them. There was a rumor that Hardy and Theron didn’t get along onset, but I think it was because of their hot environment. Nicholas Hoult as the war boy Nux was too crazy, in a good way, just wanting to be worthy enough to join Valhalla. And the late Hugh Keays-Byrne as the menacing Immortan Joe (he was also Toecutter in Mad Max) is a villain scum to despise for breeding women automatically.

This has always been one of those films with an aspect of applauding that enhances the action movie forward. The editing from Miller’s wife Margaret Sixel, the production design and the location of Namibia, Africa setting in place of the Wasteland landscape that became Miller and the crew’s playground. The fantastic score from Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, adds to the bombastic scenes and even the quieter moments. Also, nothing is more of this style than seeing a Doof Warrior jamming out on a flame-throwing guitar. That’s metal at its most creative. And the cinematography from John Seale is unbelievable since the color grading was a choice for a post-apocalyptic world to make it appear bleak. That comes through perfectly during the sandstorm sequence that had my jaw drop every time. It’s almost impossible to see how anybody won’t be impressed with two hours of action galore.

Personally, I have nothing negative to say other than I wanted a little development on the wives: The Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), Capable (Riley Keough), Toast the Knowing (Zoë Kravitz), The Dag (Abbey Lee) and Cheedo the Fragile (Courtney Eaton). Of course, that just be a minor nitpick when everybody knows that the first half is a full-on chase concluding with basically a race with ridiculously awesome cars designed to go 110 mph from Point A to Point B.

I remember being overwhelmed for the first time. When I bought the Blu-Ray in college, I grew so much appreciation. The night after I watched this again recently, that was all I could think of, and that’s something special. This is a hardcore reminder of how many specific action movies today cannot generate that high level of thrills, especially when they have directors incapable of making them work. They present clearly everything here without shaky camera work that made me fall in love with Mad Max: Fury Road more on subsequent viewings. Years after its release, everybody universally agreed it destined this to be a classic and one of the best of the decade. It underperformed slightly at the box office, but it was one of the year’s best-reviewed films. They even nominated a summer blockbuster this popular for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director; winning multiple achievements for Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing. I would’ve voted for this to win Best Picture, honestly.

We are getting a sequel in the shape of a Furiosa prequel since there have been discussions about one for a time now following the resolution of the conflicts between Miller and the studio. Theron isn’t returning, but I’m curiously excited to see what Anya Taylor-Joy can do.

Mad Max: Fury Road is maybe one of the best action movies ever made and even of the decade, packed to the brim with action-packed delight to revive the franchise into high gear. Insane is the right word to describe this to the degree that it feels like a Red Bull trip full of adrenaline for the post-apocalyptic movie and will be one to remember forever. 

Grade: [A]

Mad Max: Fury Road was released on May 15, 2015. Runtime: 121 Minutes. Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images. Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures.

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