16 May 2015

Movie review: Mad Max – Fury Road

12:03 pm on 16 May 2015

Thirty years on from the last Mad Max flick, director George Miller brings his road warrior back with a post-apocalyptic masterpiece.

Movie multiplex schedules are flooded with sequels, prequels and reboots of trusted big budget franchises, usually not as good as they original. In theatres right now you’ll find trailers for Jurassic World and the Encourage movie playing before screenings of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Fast and Furious 7.

The characters are well-worn, and for fans maybe it’s a comfort to see their favourite heroes battle the latest bad guy. For me, it all starts to look like too much of the same to part with $17 for a ticket.

Mad Max is different. For one, I wasn’t born when the first film came out in 1980.

For two, Fury Road is directed by the same guy who co-created the original, George Miller. He knows how to tell a story. As well as the Mad Max films, he’s written and directed Babe, Happy Feet and early-90s tear-jerker Lorenzo’s Oil.

Fury Road opens with Max (Tom Hardy), now a loner haunted by the deaths of those he was unable to save, being chased down captured and by the minions of warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byren) and used as a “blood bag” for one of his ailing war boys, Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

The war boy, out for glory and a trip to Valhalla, takes his blood bag with him on a supply run to Gas Town and Bullet Farm, led by shaven-headed, one-armed Furiosa (Charlize Theron). But she has other plans, hoping to steal herself and the warlord’s five ethereal runaway “wives” to the Green Place, her childhood home.

The stage is set, and Furiosa, Max, Nux and the wives are sent on a ride through hell and back.

Retro-futuristic war machines flip, flame and explode. Blood is spilled in a race for survival across the desert as the ragtag heroes try to out-wit and out-fight their pursuers. It’s finely crafted epic mayhem and it’s spectacular.

Although the characters never speak more than a simple sentence or two at a time, there’s an underlying story of three people brought together in a cruel and unforgiving world, struggling to find redemption and their own humanity. Some of it’s hokey, but its enough to make the movie more than a series of explosive chases.

Hardy might be Max, but Theron’s is equally the hero. This has upset Men’s Rights Activists who are reportedly calling for a boycott of the film because its strong female characters undermine what they expected to be “a straight-up guy flick”.

As well as the attention to detail in the crafting of the sets, costumes and choreography – it’s the female characters that set this story apart from other action flicks. They add depth and the opportunity to tell a different story. When there’s so much that looks the same, this difference stands out.