Mad Max and its two sequels The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome remain some of the best B movie cult cinema there is starring a then unknown Mel Gibson and set in a post apocalyptic world in the badlands of Australia, a world where society has collapsed and oil is a scarce valued commodity.
George Miller’s sand choked world of warring gangs, desperate communities and vehicular combat has influenced numerous others in the years since its release with Beyond Thunderdome the third film being originally released in 1985, which to younger generations means centuries ago. The idea that the long mooted fourth Mad Max film is here in 2015 is a bit surreal really.
The original trilogy were made on shoestring budgets even Beyond Thunderdome, the biggest production of the three, had a budget which amounts to peanuts compared to today’s blockbusters. Anyone who’s wondered what a Mad Max film would be like with a megabucks budget doesn’t need to wonder anymore but it does pose the question of whether a B movie is still a B movie if it has a blockbuster budget?
Marketing is a strange thing in film, especially now, where trailers are often packed with spoilerific highlights taken out of context, bereft of atmosphere and almost always undermine the viewers enjoyment of a film when it actually turns up and is inevitably disappointing being a victim of its own unending hype machine.
When the first trailer for Mad Max Fury Road turned up it pretty much blew everything away with its sheer visceral insanity but contrary to the norm the film itself more than lives up to the hype.
Fury Road finds Max ,this time played by Tom Hardy, allying with the headstrong Furiosa, Charlize Theron, who is determined to find redemption by betraying her cruel master warlord Immortan Joe, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne (who played villian Toecutter in the original film).
One thing that’s become distinctly apparent in film in the last decade or so is the slow saturation of digital FX, 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day wowed cinemagoers with its use of digital FX work but it was also reliant on the time honoured use of practical FX to ground the narrative in a believable real world. Since then though that duality has been pretty much lost leading to films which are all spectacle with nothing grounding them in the “real” world and coming off like confusing cartoons which rather than sucking you into the narrative push you out (see any of the Transformers films but especially Revenge of the Fallen onwards).
George Miller isn’t having any of that though Mad Max Fury Road is two hours of real in your face vehicular carnage featuring some of the most insane stunts seen in film in years, and that’s not just empty hyperbole. There are digital FX here but they’re used the way they should be to enhance the practical FX. Miller and co-writers Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris have triumphed where many assumed they would utterly fail, Fury Road leaves everything choking in the dust.
Watching the carnage unfold, Fury Road is in essence a feature length chase sequence, it not only highlights just how bad most modern action films are but also highlights the awe inspiring magic that is mostly missing from cinema now. Miller has apparently riled “mens rights activists” for a whole bunch of bullshit reasons but mainly because of his “feminist agenda” ironically though he’s also made one of the best action oriented films in years so maybe that says something about having a “feminist agenda”.
Hardy is great as the stoic Max haunted by visions and nightmares and definitely living up to his prefix “Mad” whilst Theron’s Furiosa is arguably even more of a badass than Hardy’s Max in a role which is surely one of her all time best, Nicholas Hoult also gets a good turn as Nux.
The real star here though is the insane world that Miller has created with warlord Immortan Joe and his domain being just one small part of it, there’s no stodgy exposition here to explain things it just is and you have to hold on for the ride as Miller and co hit the gas.