Any lingering concerns you may have had about another director named George revisiting a trilogy after thirty years have gone by can be laid to rest. “Mad Max Fury Road” is a triumph: a perfect demonstration of how to harness decades’ worth of advancement in filmmaking technology and techniques without losing sight of what made the originals so great in the first place. Take that, other George.
Less of a hard reboot and more of a side-quel, “Fury Road” blends elements of “The Road Warrior” and “Beyond Thunderdome” to tell a whole new story, branching off from the original “Mad Max” and giving us an alternative but not entirely disconnected timeline. To be honest, it’s best not to dwell on it and you won’t really have the time or the inclination.
With greater resources than ever before, Miller’s vision is gloriously realised and the splendid desolation and tribal brutality of his post-apocalyptic wasteland explodes onto screen in a riot of colour and grotesquery. Miller has sacrificed none of his gruesome aesthetic in bringing his hero to modern audiences, with the ravages of primitive barbarity and the legacy of nuclear war fully realised by one of the most visually striking cast of characters ever assembled.
Tom Hardy is a superb choice as our new Max, his madness more angry and defiant than the teetering-on-the-edge craziness of Mel Gibson. Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is every bit the badass equal of Max without stealing the focus of the film. Their slowly evolving partnership along with Nicholas Hoult’s scene stealing turn as Nux creates a wonderfully twisted nightmare version of the family road trip from Hell.
And Hell it is, dominated by the gruesome Immortan Joe and his inbred dynasty and policed by a fleet of monstrous engines of destruction and it’s in the vehicular mayhem that the film doesn’t just raise the bar, it annihilates it. The stunt work is simply breath-taking here, and most of it done without using CGI. The twisting, rending and shredding of gears, pistons and metal is bone-shatteringly visceral and made all the more shocking thanks to Miller’s willingness to literally throw characters under the bus in a way that would make even George R R Martin pause for thought.
Miller’s genius for mechanised mayhem does for car chases what “The Raid 2” did for fight choreography but there’s more to the film than macabre freaks and near non-stop action. There’s a surprising amount of emotional heft to the carnage and ultimately it becomes a story of revolution and redemption disguised as an extended car chase.
Shot superbly against the stunning landscapes of Namibia, this is a film to see on as big a screen as you can find and in as many dimensions as you are able. This is Miller’s masterpiece and it’s not something you watch, it’s something you experience.