Released 2015. Director: George Miller
DIRECTOR GEORGE MILLER RETURNS TO THE NAME that put him on the movie world map. 30 years after the last Mad Max movie (third in the series), what is new this time? Was it even worth the trouble of revisiting this setting of one man versus an apocalyptic world?
Let’s start with the character of Max Rockatanski, which made Mel Gibson, then aged 23, a global name. In 2015 Mel is past his prime to reprise the role and the mantle is passed to Tom Hardy. But the passing of time has turned Max into an ageless icon. Like James Bond, Mad Max is now a brand which can be modeled by different actors. Timeline, in this nuclear wasteland, does not matter, or exists, for that matter.
Does Fury Road follow the three previous Mad Max movies? Does it matter? Hardy has the physicality of a gladiator and looks like the kind of man who could survive anything. If he has any charisma, however, it’s kept under a lid and Max is completely eclipsed by Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, clearly the apex fighter on Fury Road. Furiosa, head shaven, eyes hard as steel, is an amputee who could wallop Max’s arse any day. Driving a heavily modified tanker, Furiosa is secretly transporting a harem of nubile and fertile concubines escaping Citadel and their tyrant ruler Immortan Joe.
Max, as a prisoner of Joe, gets caught up in the chase across the desert. And what a chase. Miller directs with his cameras forced-fed with Red Bull as the view soars across a speeding convoy, zips alongside vehicles with demented modifications. The editing of the action sequences is seamless and coherent, none of the muddling bullshit fast cuts. Mad Max throttles into a new dimension with this injection of vitality and good old-fashioned pyrotechnics. The explosions and crashes have the heat and shuddering effect absent from most CGI visuals that over-emphasize slickness. Fury Road is drenched in an unearthly vibrant colour scheme. Stark blue, fiery red, deep ochre, the flames, sand, rocks and storms contrast with the soft white of the flowy fabrics and grubby leather gear. It’s as if Miller has taken Mad Max from a black-and-white to a colour TV.
The most significant change has to be the role reversal. Max is not the only hero to save the day. The movie, though still bearing his name, is no longer seen solely through his eyes. Max passing a weapon to Furiosa at one point is more than symbolic of a passing of the torch. This is more significant than Tina Turner playing the role of Aunty Entity in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Furiosa is a survivor who plots the escape of the most precious humans in the wasteland, to transport them to a place run by women. Furiosa returns to Citadel in triumph whereas Max ends up as an accomplice, then, literally, slips into oblivion.
Fury Road is an update of the times, looking back on a decades-old blueprint, and rework a familiar template with ideas and methods both old and new.