Has it really been 30 years since Mel Gibson last drove across George Miller’s dystopian desert wasteland in “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”? My how time flies. Between 1979 and 1985 visionary filmmaker Miller gave us three films: the intriguing but lethargic “Mad Max”, the fabulous cult classic “The Road Warrior”, and the fun but commercial “Beyond Thunderdome”. While the second film was the real standout, I have always had a natural soft spot for the entire franchise. So of course I would be enthusiastic when it was announced that a fourth installment was finally seeing the light of day.
For years Miller has toyed with the idea of bringing Max back to the big screen but there were always obstacles that hindered him. Mel Gibson was set to reprise his role and at several points the project seemed good to go. Several years have passed, Tom Hardy replaces the aged Gibson, and “Fury Road” is a reality. What’s truly amazing is that this is the wildest, craziest, and most visually arresting installment yet and all from the mind of its now 70-year old creator.
The first three films had a combined budget of less than $20 million. For “Fury Road” Miller was given $150 million and you will instantly see the benefits. The visuals are an essential component to this film. This is an unapologetic, full-throttle thrill ride, and a textbook lesson on how to make an action movie. Make no mistake, the action in “Fury Road” is intense and relentless. The vehicular carnage is unlike anything most people have seen before. The story is a bit lightweight and clearly intended to serve the plot’s madness. This all may be enough to scare away some people. For me, it was the film’s unflinching, fuel-injected focus that made it the best movie experience I’ve had this year so far.
The film opens with a gruff Hardy saying “My name is Max. My world is fire and blood”. His world is an energy-starved, post-apocalyptic desert wasteland where he is haunted by his past and driven only by survival. Within the first few minutes, the nomadic Max is captured by the army of a savage and wickedly grotesque tyrant named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Max’s capture leads him to cross paths with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who attempts to smuggle Joe’s five enslaved childbearing wives to safety. This invokes the wrath of the maniacal leader who brings his entire army after them. And guess what, Max is caught right in the middle.
I can’t think of a more fitting actor to take on the role of Mad Max than Tom Hardy. His dialogue is sparse and he mainly tells his story through grunts, expressions, and outright physicality. And he does it all to sheer perfection. It’s a very unorthodox role. He’s not asked to say much and he spends a good third of the movie with his face partially obscured by a metal contraption. But he masterfully sells us this tough, surly, and untrusting Max character. But the real surprise was watching Charlize Theron match his toughness punch for punch and bullet for bullet. She is so good here.
But of course the true star and the main attraction is George Miller and his insanely energetic action and presentation. “Fury Road” is a visual delight – a movie filled with “wow” moments, unbelievable stunts, and mind-blowing vehicle action sequences. Miller shoots his action with a chaotic precision and cinematic fluidity. Many modern action directors should take notes. But equally impressive are the stunning amount of practical effects used. When mixed with the top-notch CGI, it makes this one amazing looking film. And going along with the stellar visuals is Junkie XL’s vibrant and invigorating score.
Some of us had given up on Mad Max ever returning to the big screen. After 30 years it was a reasonable conclusion. But after seeing “Fury Road” I can boldly say it was worth the wait. George Miller has given us an installment that stands right there with (and probably an inch or two above) his phenomenal “The Road Warrior”. This is pure action cinema – a beautiful mixture of old-school style and modern movie technology. And after this taste of Miller’s vision, I can only hope he has more Mad Max movies plan for the future.
VERDICT – 5 STARS
So it didn’t bother you there was no story or dialogue? Just adrenaline?
There was definitely a story. It was just very basic which would definitely disappoint those wanting something deeper. I was perfectly fine with that.
You are in good company. Only a very few were disappointed. Most everyone loved this film. I’m glad you enjoyed the adrenaline rush!
To be honest I’m really surprised at the huge positive reaction to it. I mean it is 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. Never anticipated that.
My favorite film of the year so far. This is how an action film ought to work. I am not disappointed in Hardy, I just don’t think he jumps off the screen the way Mel did, and as the character is almost a secondary foil in the conflict here. that made Max less the focus than I thought he would be. The sequences and visualizations are terrific. I know Hollywood is ageist (at least against anyone not named Marty or Clint) but this shows why visionaries are more important than fresh faces. Sometimes you have to invent a world and inhabit it to be able to get it right.
My favorite too. I left on such a high. Good straightforward story that sets up some of the coolest action sequences I have seen in a while. I really liked Hardy but I do get what you’re saying about him.
One of my favorites of the year, no doubt.
Same here. Talk about a wild ride.
Also loved this and gave it the same score. To be honest I think I might head to the cinema again to watch this one….amazing experience.
Wasn’t it fabulous? A full blown adrenalin rush. So much fun.
Great work here Keith! I am so amped to see this and your review gets me even more excited. Lots of good reviews. I hope it doesn’t disappoint!
It’s pure action and I loved it. Buckle up and take off. You’re gonna have a lot of fun.
Great review Keith! I cannot wait to experience Fury Road!
Thanks. It’s full blown insanity and I mean that in a very good way! 😉
So I gather! Can’t wait!
Great review. This was such a wild ride! Normally I can’t stand Charlize Theron but I was really impressed with her here.
I appreciate it. I can really take or leave Charlize but she blew me away here. Tough as nails.
Good review Keith. Fun, exciting and furious as any summer blockbuster should be. Sadly, too often of them actually are.
Furious is a great description of it. Insanely fun!
I enjoyed this movie way more than I expected to. It’s exciting and extremely rare to see a big budget summer blockbuster with such a personal vision (and executed so well) brought the big screen. Definitely my favorite of the year so far.
Same here! Honestly, I expected to like it a lot but I didn’t expect to love it the way I did. This was good, crazy fun. I left the theater on such a high.
Excellent review! It goes without saying that action cinema this singular in scale and scope is rare, and Miller’s conviction in bringing this fourth installment of his brainchild to life has yielded quite the exceptional result.
Thanks so much. I agree with you. There is a lot of conviction behind Miller and his vision for this film. And man what a ride.
I went and saw it today. Absolutely nuts. I loved every minute of it. It’s probably my favorite action movie of the year. I certainly think it’s better than Ultron in every single way. It’s a shame they don’t make movies like this very often, and certainly not the way that George Miller does it. But I will be seeing it again, that’s for sure. The soundtrack is amazing too. With Tom Hardy signed on for three more movies, I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
Yes!!!! So fun. I think Miller is such a visionary and his eye for action is superb. This thing was crazy and I loved how he never dialed back the madness. Can’t wait to watch it again.
Oh, I’m definitely going to see it again as well. I also loved the fact that they didn’t use the shaky-cam technique unless it was inside the vehicles. As far as action movies go, Mad Max: Fury Road has set the bar very high this year. I don’t see anything else that’s going to top it in terms of sheer adrenaline.
You bring up a great point that I meant to mention in the review. The lack of the annoying shaky-cam was so refreshing. I get annoyed at the technique. So many directors should take note.
I absolutely adored it. First 10/10 I gave this year and it may be the greatest action movie I’ve seen. It was just relentless!
Unashamed relentless action and I are it up!!! There is such a wild style on display and I just couldn’t get enough. Bravo George Miller!
As an old school Mad Max fan I was sceptical about Fury Road, but after reading your review, colour me excited!
It’s an absolute blast and that’s coming from a huge fan of The Road Warrior. Definitely give it a look.
Great review Keith, I had such a great time watching this film.
Ooooh man, it was so much fun, wasn’t it. I’m really anxious to see it again.
never ending action in this movie. really u can get tired while watching but i didnt see very well our max u know. Mel Gibson is better crazy, i think he’s in life crazy. Tom Hardy is just silent cool guy.
It’s non-stop action for sure. I really liked it and can’t wait to see it again.
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Keith you probably already know this, but Miller’s wife did the editing and won an Academy Award for it. I read a really good article about it way back when it came out but can’t find it. Here is an excellent NPR piece on it:
I love that! I was so proud the Academy recognized the movie the way it did. There was a time when it would have never gotten the consideration it deserved.
I have to say it’s now one of my favorite movies. So much to love about it. The details are meticulous and inventive. The “kid” who decides to help them is one of my favorite characters. Can’t remember his name.