Mad Max: Fury Road is basically a roided-up remake of The Road Warrior, and that’s very, very good news. Returning to the franchise he created after a thirty-year hiatus, co-writer/director George Miller not only fully embraces the goofy excess of the original films, but he goes above and beyond in his mission to create a willfully insane orgy of dirt, fire, blood, and tons and tons of gasoline. Mad Max: Fury Road is akin to witnessing the original Mad Max’s nightmares.
Just like the way he had with The Road Warrior, Miller’s focus is to string together a bunch of hyper-violent, hyper-stylized and hyper-kinetic car chase and action sequences that take place in the post-apocalyptic Australian outback, while peppering in economic yet perfectly efficient amounts of plot, character development, and exposition.
However, since Miller went balls-to-the-wall crazy after getting his hands on the kind of budget he couldn’t have even dreamed of while filming the original Mad Max trilogy, The Road Warrior looks quaint and adorably low-key when compared to Mad Max: Fury Road. What we end up with is a perfectly paced and streamlined modern action classic, an opus of violence, a festival of light and color that doesn’t have a remotely dull moment during its gripping and breathtaking two-hour runtime.
Mad Max: Fury Road follows the minimal story structure of The Road Warrior to a tee: After his family is brutally murdered by savages in the post-apocalyptic Australian landscape, lone warrior Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy channeling a more comprehensible Bane) exists only to survive in a harsh and unforgiving world. In order to save his own skin, he ends up having to help a group of innocents survive, only to eventually find a modicum of hope and humanity that’s been missing from him for ages.
After protecting a small village of people from the masked madman Humungus and his blood-thirsty army in The Road Warrior, Max is tasked with protecting a small group of women, led by the brave Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), from the masked madman Immortan (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his blood-thirsty army. The biggest difference between the two films, aside from budget and sheer level of insanity, is that a surprising feminist theme gradually emerges from Fury Road.
Miller’s film has many references to men being responsible for the destruction of the earth, and the final battle is a full-on gender war with badass women of the apocalypse kicking mucho ass without even taking names. Even though the franchise belongs to Max, it’s Furiosa, boosted by Theron’s passionate and layered performance, who becomes the true hero of Fury Road.
In order to bring his futuristic S&M-convention-meets-extreme-off-road-racing fever dream to life, Miller utilizes an ideal blend of practical stunts, real environments, and a healthy amount of CG background elements. Yes, Mad Max’s characters, especially the albino whiteface-looking antagonists, are grotesque caricatures, and pretty much every design choice is a love letter to excess, but Miller manages to extract profound beauty and impressive visual poetry from such ugliness.
John Seale’s awe-inspiring cinematography, soaked in yellow, blue, and even sometimes black-and-white landscapes creates some of the most breathtaking images of the year. Junkie XL’s percussion-driven score, hilariously aided by actually background music provided by the bad guys on a vehicle that sports a mountain of amps and a guitar that would have made any progressive metal fan drool, helps maintain the film’s constant forward momentum.