In the time of year when movies with big explosions and little else trumps all, director George Miller’s latest film in the Mad Max franchise, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” epitomizes the summer movie blockbuster.
And we are not complaining.
Decades in the making, “Fury Road” is basically Miller’s 1981 “Mad Max” sequel, “The Road Warrior,” pumped with supercharged 3D visuals to provide a fun two-hour escapism experience.
The plot is extremely thin, but if you need one …
Tom Hardy plays Max — the original Mad Max, Mel Gibson, left the project in the early 2000s due to his legal trouble — the one-time cop who is now a desperado roaming the post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. He’s captured by the “War Boys” of a near-by tribe and after a failed, yet thrilling, attempt to escape, is used as a blood transfusion for one of the “Boys,” Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who is on the mend from battle.
While this goes on, the tribe’s leader, Immorten Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), an ageing tyrant who breaths out of a sinister, teeth-designed oxygen tube, has sent off his War Rig driven by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to get the latest shipment of gasoline from the far away refinery. But on the drive there, she suddenly goes rouge and attempts to escape the tribe. Joe sees what she’s doing and unleashes the War Boys, including Nux and Max in tow.
The rest of the film is basically a chase for the War Rig, with Max and Nux soon becoming allies with Furiosa.
Very similar to the incredible chase we see in “The Road Warrior,” this one is extended to span most of the movie.
And again, there’s nothing wrong with that. The cars created for “Fury Road” are visual marvels and the stunts pulled off with them can only be described as thrilling moves you only thought possible back when you played with your Tonka trucks as a kid in the backyard.
And instead of gasoline being what the bad guys want this time the precious cargo are the beautiful five wives (Riley Keough and Zoë Kravitz, among them) of Immorten Joe, who are also trying to escape.
If you’re familiar with the three previous “Mad Max” films (“Mad Max,” “The Road Warrior,” “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”), “Fury Road” is incredible fun that is close to two-hours of non-stop action. And this is only elevated by the fact that at the helm of this reboot is Miller, the brainchild of all the movies in the franchise.
But this is also a summer movie for those who don’t get a rush from the countless superhero adaptations thrust upon us this time of year.
Rated R (and a hard R at that, with loads of violence and gore), “Fury Road” is perfect counter-programming. There are no witty one-liners from the stars (in fact, Hardy doesn’t talk much at all), and no mission to save the universe.
Our “hero,” Max, is a troubled soul who’s gone through a lot and just trying to survive. Hardy does play him with a bit more sentimentality than Gibson did, but Miller is good at keeping those moments brief.
With the “Mad Max” films Miller always seeps in a bigger meaning. Often it’s the world killing itself (like his commentary on our addiction to gasoline in “The Road Warrior”). In “Fury Road,” water is what motivates the characters, as Immorten Joe holds it from his tribe, releasing it sparingly only to keep them in line (perhaps playing on our world’s decrease in water supply). But Miller also explores family. Immorten Joe is determined to get his wives back so he can contine to create his pale War Boys, while Max can’t get the memory of his dead child out of his head.
And then, perhaps what trumps all, are the striking visuals from longtime cinematographer John Seale (“The English Patient,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Harry Potter and the Scorcerer’s Stone”). If possible, find a huge screen to watch this. The wide shots of the desert, the explosive action sequences and the evening scenes with its cool blue glow, are done with an incredibly talented eye.
This is definitely going to be the most beautiful-looking film you’ll see this summer.
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