Imagine a summer movie that gets all the details just right: a great cast, a simple but moving story with the kind of jaw-dropping visual feats that reminds its audience just why they go to the movies. Now add explosions, a movie-long car chase across the desert and a bungee cord bouncing guitarist atop of a weaponized truck. Rev your engines and race straight to the wonderfully wacky world of one of the best action movies of the year, if not the decade, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
A captured Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is enlisted in a crazed raid party for the rouge leader Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) after she smuggles out the wives of her commander Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). In the race for survival, Max teams up with the group of warrior women for a chance at greener pastures in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland.
Following in the tire tracks of director George Miller’s 1979 shoestring budget classic “Mad Max” and its incrementally stranger sequels “The Road Warrior” and “Beyond Thunderdome,” “Fury Road” has pumped in millions to create one of the most awe-inspiring live-action movies made in the era of green screens and CGI. Miller seamlessly blends practical stunts, really crashing cars and wielding people on aerial stilts like a Cirque du Soleil show, with stunningly well-choreographed CGI stand-ins for when the tricks become too death-defying.
Even the layers of detail Miller gives to his motorized manhunt is stupefying. From the spiked junk heaps that roll through the desert sands to the delusional religion of Immortan Joe’s minions, nothing in “Mad Max: Fury Road” is in place without a conscious decision. The number of scenes in which Tom Hardy has to climb on moving cars, the enormity of multiple moving explosions and flying guitarist are all included in Miller’s vision of a fringe dystopian society driven mad by lack of resources.
The scrapheaps of leftover humanity that treats each other like scarce commodities is just as frightening as any of the devilish guitarist-wielding cars. Tom Hardy’s Mad Max is not so much the hero as he is the witness to the depravity. Within minutes of the movie’s start, Miller jumpstarts his audience into this wicked world, and even if you’ve never seen a “Mad Max” movie before, the stakes are made immediately clear.
The surprise star of this film is Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, a formidable action hero who’s never sexualized and is in every way Max’s equal. Her story of loss and quest for redemption adds life to Max’s tragic mythos. “Vagina Monologues” author Eve Ensler consulted on the film, and her feminist touch is felt not like a pink wash of established genre classics (think the all-female version of “Ghostbusters”) but in the subtle portrayal of Furiosa’s strength.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is a thrill ride for the ages. This is a great pulpy B-movie infused with A-list talent and the bountiful studio budget to boot. Miller has held to his own little campy Outback indie story for over 30 years and still packs the unique visual flair to leave audience’s mouths agape. Let there be enough affection and ticket sales, so that Warner Bros. should greenlight a few more sequels from the 70-year-old director.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” thunders into theaters May 15.