Long-awaited sequels are nothing new: Jurassic World, Live Free or Die Hard, Rocky Balboa, and the infamous crowd-polarizer Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. And yet they keep coming. Why? Because people (like me: guilty) want the familiar. Remakes or reboots are also nothing new: Batman Begins, Casino Royale, The Amazing Spider-Man, and the woefully underrated Dredd. Sequels are better than remakes in my opinion. Whereas remakes are easier to ignore, sequels at least have a chance to make my childhood movies relevant again. Why would I want them to go down this road? I’m so happy you said road! (Actually I said it, but read on.)
Mad Max: Fury Road. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that this is the fourth entry in the Mad Max film franchise, made exactly 30 years after the previous entry. Only something is different. Mel Gibson is out, and Tom Hardy is in. Some said this movie would be completely reliant on Tom Hardy, others said it would be reliant on the deft filmmaking of series director George Miller. But it’s actually both as well as neither. Mad Max: Fury Road works! Not because of Tom, not because of George, but because everyone involved made the best movie they could possibly make. This movie works!
It starts off in the familiar post-apocalyptic Australian desert, where Max Rockatansky (now played by series newcomer Tom Hardy) is captured by bandits and sentenced to be a “blood bag” for a sick young man named Nux (played by Nicholas Hoult). Meanwhile, villainous Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) allows the multitudes of thirsty people who live beneath him to finally drink some water (while telling them not to get dependent on it, for they will resent it when it’s gone — a true tyrant!). Then his lieutenant Furiosa (bald-headed Charlize Theron) takes a big-rig truck-thing to go get some gasoline, but smuggled in the back are Immortan Joe’s five carefully-chosen wives (one of whom is pregnant with his child) who are attempting escape. When Immortan Joe finds out, he sends his whole army after them, including Nux who brings his “blood bag” Max along so he can be healthy enough for the chase. “What a day! WHAT A LOVELY DAY!”
A movie called Fury Road had better deliver on both those words, and man does it ever. This movie is basically one great big epic car chase, complete with explosions, impalements, and freakish vehicular amalgamations. Even when a massive sandstorm hits, the chase continues. It’s also probably the most colorful of all the Mad Max movies, particularly the fire-spewing guitar, which I couldn’t believe was a fully-functioning practical effect! The movie also detracts from certain Hollywood blockbuster stereotypes. For example the decision NOT to have a romance between Max and Furiosa. I never even thought about it during the movie, but when it was over it suddenly hit me, and I was pleasantly surprised. Furiosa is NOT a love interest. She’s too strong a character for that.
Like all Mad Max movies, the character of Max doesn’t say all that much. He’s there, he’s resourceful, and everyone around him quietly discovers his true value throughout the movie. And Tom Hardy is great. Does he make the character his own? In a subtle way, yes. He never tries to be Mel Gibson, and he never tries NOT to be Mel Gibson either. He’s Max, through and through. And while some could argue that Charlize Theron’s Furiosa is the true protagonist this time around, the final moments of the movie leave you thinking of Max and what his next adventure will be.
I don’t know if this is my favorite Mad Max movie, but it’s a pretty damn great one. It’s also never made clear whether it’s a true sequel, a spiritual sequel, or a reboot. Any one of those interpretations works here. That’s how well-crafted the movie is. Personally, I think of it as a true sequel; the fourth official Mad Max adventure, with a new actor in place of course. And with the rumors that a fifth and beyond are currently in the works, I think I’m far too excited to wait another 30 years for the next one.
4 out of 5