Like the other Mad Max sequels, this one begins with Max (Tom Hardy) already in trouble. Not only is he having harrowing flashbacks that are slowly driving him, well, madder, but he has also run afoul of a local warlord, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). In the strange post-apocalyptic world that Miller has created, Max ends up as a human blood bag for one of Joe’s albino war boys, Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Meanwhile, one of Joe’s best transport drivers, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), has driven off her normal route and stolen not only his war rig, but also something very precious to Joe, who calls out a hunting party to go after her. Obsessed with both impressing Joe and securing his place in Valhalla, Nux drags Max with him into the pursuit. When Max finally manages to free himself, he must decide whether to help Furiosa or strike out on his own to escape Immortan Joe and his own demons.
If that short plot set up made zero sense to you, don’t worry. Miller throws the audience right into this world and it is beyond weird, and that’s saying something about a Mad Max film. In fact, I feel that the movie could have used some subtitles at the start in order to ease audience in with some of the stranger speech patterns and wacky dialogue. However, once I got into the groove of the film, it became more wonderfully weird than off-putting weird. It’s hard to know, though, whether this is a straight up reboot of the property or if it follows on from the previous three films. It’s a point that is never made clear by the end of the film. Ultimately, that isn’t really necessary. This should just be seen as another Mad Max adventure, just as the other three were. There was no real cohesion to that trilogy save for Mel Gibson and the post-apocalyptic setting.
With Fury Road, Miller has composed some stunning visuals that are breathtaking and the action is exciting and topnotch. It’s clear that while CGI definitely has its place in Mad Max, there are a ton of practical effects in place as well to make the chase scenes all the more thrilling. And although the world created here is pretty strange, it feels like a fully-realized world. We as the audience may not completely understand what everything means to these people, but the actors convey that their characters know and that’s what’s important. Their reactions help us to decipher what’s going on. One thing that doesn’t work at all is the 3D, as usual. If you go see Mad Max, see it in 2D.
Tom Hardy does a real nice job taking over the role of Max from Mel Gibson. His portrayal is much different, though. Gibson’s Max definitely had demons, but not to the extent Hardy has. These demons have rendered Max almost mute as he keeps his words to an absolute minimum. Theron is very good as Furiosa, displaying a ton of strength in the difficult role. Hoult is both infuriating and likable as Nux and he does a good job playing out the character’s arc. The biggest issue I had with the cast, though, is that there are no real Australian accents in Fury Road. That was a hallmark of the first three Mad Max films and it made them unique in the landscape of action movies.
Overall, Mad Max: Fury Road is probably the strangest film you’ll see this year. It does a great job of capturing the feel of the previous Mad Max films, while creating something wholly new and different. The weirdness of the characters and world Miller builds may be disarming, but it’s well worth it to stick it out. The last thirty minutes or so of the film are absolutely breathtaking and it’s quite a fun ride.