It has been three decades since a new Mad Max movie opened in theaters. Now, writer-director George Miller's brought back the franchise in a huge way. Sure, Mad Max: Fury Road is technically a couple hours of a hectic chase sequence, but what makes it so awesome is the focus on practical effects, some insane stunts, and the huge amount of passion that went into building this weird and crazy post-apocalyptic world.
The plot is pretty simple. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) lives in a place that's run by a cruel warlord named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Fun fact: Hugh played the bad guy, Toecutter, in the first Mad Max movie. Anyway, Joe is holding several of his "wives" against their will and Furiosa, a character holding onto hope in a world where it's incredibly rare, has placed them in a heavily armored War Rig and plans to drive them to a paradise where they'll be free from Joe's control. "Mad" Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) gets caught in all of the craziness because he was previously captured by Joe's forces and he's then brought along in their efforts to chase the War Rig. Unlike Furiosa, Max is a man who's been rundown by this harsh world and he's focused on just one thing: his own survival. And no, you don't need to watch the previous Mad Max movies to enjoy this!
While the overall story may be all kinds of basic, what makes it way more interesting is all of the worldbuilding that's on display. Thanks to ridiculously impressive and detailed character designs, you can tell so many characters have a deeper story, one that isn't being fully revealed to us. And you know what? I love that. I'd much rather have it made crystal clear here and there that each character has way more depth and an interesting past than having this information blatantly fed to us through random displays of exposition. "Yes, I'm sad and here's why, person I just met!" I'm glad Theron's character never stops the story to tell us how she lost her arm, or how Max never spells out his past to his new allies. Things like that just don't need to be said -- not to mention they'd feel unnatural if they're just forced in there -- and when I left the theater, my fiance and I were talking for quite some time about these characters and the world they live in. Mad Max: Fury Road throws you into a place that is so odd yet it feels totally fleshed out and possible; it leaves you thinking about it. The overall story is generic, but the fact everything else is just so interesting and inventive makes up for that and then some.
If you want to witness one absolutely over-the-top and violent chase scene after another, Mad Max: Fury Road has exactly what you're looking for. Stunning amounts of destruction and enormous explosions aren't exactly anything new in action movies, but you can't help but appreciate the chaos in Mad Max: Fury Road way more because apparently a majority of these stunts are practical. That means these cars are actually flipping around and blowing up and people are really tied to polls and what not. It's incredible. CGI is used for things like Theron's arm, some environments and a few especially ridiculous things, but even then, it's all spectacular. For example, things that are blatantly CGI (e.g. a ginormous storm) are still gorgeous in their own twisted way. There's a lot of great shots in this movie and, aside from a couple shots making it a little tough to follow whether a character was killed or just injured, the action is presented consistently well. Simply put, it's a blast and a vast majority of it looks awesome. The focus on shades of orange and grey during the day really hit you with just how barren and depressing this world has become. At night, the striking shades of blue are an excellent contrast to what our eyes are usually experiencing during the movie.
Aside from a few of the calmer, more character-driven moments, the score really, really boosted the energy in a lot of the fast-paced scenes. Plus, where else are you going to see a guy standing on the front of a vehicle, playing an electric guitar that also spews fire? Things like that will have one part of you thinking, "What the hell am I watching?" However, the rest of you will probably be thinking something like, "That's so absurd that it's amazing!"
Even though Mad Max's name is in the title, this really feels like it's Imperator Furiosa's story. Max gets plenty of love, but Imperator's journey serves as our emotional link to the movie. At this point in the universe, Max is emotionally distant and Hardy does a good job seeming detached and relying on basic, almost animalistic instincts at times. He still gets plenty of love and just enough depth, but Imperator is the one we're truly rooting for. She's badass and compelling; you want to see her succeed. She can be just as cold as Max at times, but you can tell the character has a lot of heart and when she finally does let some emotion out, it's handled so effectively. While Hardy's character shows us how this world can break a person and Theron's shows how it can motivate someone to fight even harder, Nicholas Hoult's character, Nux, gives us a look a just how much a tyrannical society can mess someone up and lead them to legitimately believe absolutely ridiculous things. Twists with his role never really surprised me, but it was a cool way to add an interesting character who gives us even more insight into Joe's disturbing society. Hoult gave a solid performance as his character transformed, too.
After delivering so many jaw-dropping shots of madness, the final scene of the chase honestly feels like it's there just for the 3D crowd and it really seemed out of place. It's a brief shot, of course, but it's a disappointing way to conclude so much great fun. Additionally, it's a little bit of a let down the final stretch of the story didn't play out in a more original way. A character's fate is blatantly telegraphed and the ending did come off feeling pretty standard. Also, this won't impact the score because I'm not sure if it was just an issue at my local theater, but some of the dialogue was tough to understand. There were a few lines throughout the film that had me wishing subtitles were on.
Mad Max: Fury Road is two hours full of weird and thrilling craziness. On paper, the overall plot is pretty thin, but the way it's all presented is phenomenal. You're thrown into an impressively creative world and, in its own strange way, it's gorgeous and hits you with a ton of fun and exciting mayhem. Go see Mad Max: Fury Road, people. It's a lovely way to spend two hours.