Published Sep 01, 2015Mad Max: Fury Road is a film about wants and needs. What do fans want from the OG dystopian action franchise? And what does that movie need in order to satisfy both them and the creators behind it?
Returning to the franchise that made his career — and launched a hundred imitators — George Miller keeps things incredibly spare on Fury Road. The entire film's plot can really be boiled down to a chase and a race. Viewers are treated to a quick recap of the events before things really get going: a nuclear holocaust ravaged the world. In the aftermath, Max Rockatansky's family was murdered, causing the franchise's lead to go a bit batty.
With everyone up to speed, Miller quickly sets events in motion. Max is captured by a gang of War Boys who take him to local tyrant Immortan Joe's (Hugh Keays-Byrne) Citadel. As a universal blood donor, he's treated as a blood bag for Nux (Nicholas Hoult), as he and Joe's army set out in pursuit of Imperator Furiosa, who's taken off with Joe's five wives. Freed from his blood bag duties, Max makes his way onto Furiosa's trailer and opts to help her save the women from Joe and deliver them to "the green place."
Though the plot is spare and the dialogue even more so, there's a lot going on visually. Almost every action scene — and there are a lot of them — has an "I've never seen THAT before quality" that's rendered in a viscerally thrilling fashion thanks to the film's much ballyhooed (with good reason) emphasis on practical effects. Given how adept Miller is at filming, crashing and occasionally blowing up visually stunning automobiles, the Fast and Furious franchise should really think about making an offer.
But the film's most important visual cues come from the actors themselves. Freed from the need for dialogue to recap plot points, Tom Hardy, taking over from Mel Gibson as Max, and Charlize Theron as Furiosa (Furiosa's ascent to a new breed of feminist hero is well deserved and worthy of far more words than this review has space for) let their bodies do the talking, revealing as much about their characters and the world they inhabit with their movements as they do with their words.
It's a testament to Miller that the film works so well with so little context. Clues about this world abound — the War Boys' religious fixation on all things mechanical remains an intriguingly underexplored plot thread — but no one has time to slow down and explain the details. The three deleted scenes that grace the film's Blu-ray release don't fill any gaps but similarly help immerse viewers in the Mad Max world, even though Miller is clearly still painting with broad strokes, leaving viewers wanting more. The additional making-of features are also well worth watching; for once it's not a bunch of actors emoting in front of green screens in studios. Rather, we see how the filmmakers managed to stage such mind-blowing stunts without getting anyone seriously hurt or killed in the process.
Mad Max: Fury Road ticks all the boxes a sequel, especially one that comes after a particularly long absence, should. It deepens the experience of an unforgiving world without succumbing to fan service, while updating the franchise's visual aesthetic without losing the kinetic low-budget appeal that drew fans to these films in the first place. Miller claims to have two more sequels up his sleeve. If they can maintain even half of the visceral originality of Fury Road they'll still be heads above 95 percent of the current crop of action flicks.