Thirty-six years ago, George Miller’s Mad Max roared into theaters with its own brand of sadistic brutality and blind vengeance while utterly captivating generations of action buffs. Through two additional and increasingly bizarre sequels, Miller and his Mad Max franchise inspired a global following of die-hard fans. Rarely does a sequel capture the magic of its predecessor (The Godfather: Part II is the foremost exception that proves the rule), and a “reboot” doing so is almost entirely unheard of. Mad Max: Fury Road shows no mercy in its destruction of such a concept and countless other filmmaking conventions.
Somewhat formulaic in its presentation of Mad Max staples, Miller’s Fury Road utilizes these franchise hallmarks as a means of transporting the audience right back into the post-apocalyptic world it abandoned in 1985. Newsreel footage of nuclear tests behind an introductory narration (similar to Harold Baigent’s in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior) set the tone for a movie placed squarely in the heart of a barren, radioactive hellscape. Max Rocktansky, the iconic hero now portrayed by the capable Tom Hardy, is still on the run from bands of War Boys and the ghosts of his past, consumed by a creeping insanity and a distain for all living things. A pursuit is brought to a close when Max’s trusty Interceptor V8 breathes its last; our hero delivered into the bowels of Immortan Joe’s Citadel (an incredible return for Hugh Keays-Byrne).
The narrative leaves Max to his fate in order to follow Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) behind the wheel of her monstrous “war machine” on a run to collect gasoline. Discovering Furiosa has deceived him, Immortan Joe calls upon his war parties to retrieve his stolen property at all costs, and the lucky Max accompanies the marauding hoard as a “blood bag” for the battle-weakened War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult).
A film divided into several breathtaking acts, Mad Max: Fury Road relentlessly endeavors for “pure action.” Each segment becomes an escalating series of audacious stunts and blood-pumping orchestration on a grand scale. Miller concerns himself not with the trivialities of world building, but with the individual character motivations as they pertain to the story. Strong female characters as essential to the plot, as their male counterparts proliferate and are an appreciated addition to a genre long ignorant of women. Each character has their individual arc (along with a ridiculous full name), and each weaves seamlessly into the overall narrative. Superfluity is washed away to pay homage to the all powerful adrenaline rush. A prior understanding of the three previous Mad Max entries is not required to enjoy the fourth installment, only a love for action splendor, and a desire for more.
As outstanding as the direction and script may be, Fury Road‘s monumental vision does not rely on Miller’s talents alone. Striking cinematography from John Seale stresses the bitter extremes of life in Max’s fantastic world, while sun-drenched reds and yellows dominate the daytime palate in dramatic opposition to the cool, vibrant blues that prevail after the sun goes down. Tight, inventive editing from Margaret Sixel and Jason Ballantine capture the immediacy of the endless desert chases without disorientating the audience, and perhaps the most valuable contributions to Miller’s vision are from Junkie XL’s thumping score, matched with some of the most invariably perfect stunts in recent memory.
Going so far as to give pieces of the composition a physical presence in the film (a large tympani and flame-spewing electric guitar speaker mobile), the writers are acutely aware of how influential music can be on the audience. Elevating the vehicular carnage from a beautiful motocross circus to a life or death struggle between good and evil, Junkie XL’s score infuses untold alarm into every action set piece. Inconceivable work from Keir Beck (Stunt/Rigging Coordinator), Marius Botha (Stunt Department Coordinator), Guy Norris (Supervising Stunt Coordinator) and Anna Wood (Stunt Department Coordinator) give Fury Road an entrancing realness through action sequences that are above and beyond anything ever before.
Miller’s refreshing sense of gender equality contrasts an apocalyptic world in stark opposition by promoting an immensely powerful cinematic and real world message. Surpassing expectations and delivering a heaping dose of electrifying visuals, Mad Max: Fury Road is what all blockbuster action movies should strive to be.
Jordan Brooks (@viewtoaqueue) is an increasingly-snobby cinefile based out of sunny San Diego, California. As a contributor to several online publications, including his own blog, he has succeeded in fulfilling his life long dream of imposing strong opinions on others.