We have, of course, been there before, but, whether it’s a sequel, a re-imagining or a franchise reboot, the one thing we’re not expecting is new ground being broken. However, we do expect everything else to be broken and boy, does it get broken! The genius of Mad Max: Fury Road (apart from that twee punctuation in a film that piles ! on top of !) is that it gives you exactly what you expect yet still surprises you – or rather, awes you with its spectacle, its self-belief and its refusal to back off, even for a moment.
Max (a taciturn Tom Hardy, more early Clint than early Mel and, perhaps paying a little tribute, without a name until the very end) is still having flashbacks, the ghosts of his lost family still haunting his dreamtime, still on a road to nowhere. This time he’s much more one of a team though, Furiosa (Charlize Theron, who, shorn of her tumbling locks and provided with just Castrol GTX for make-up, has surely never looked more beautiful) his equal in all but his unshakeably nihilistic Weltanschauung. She’s doing the escape from hell into an unseen, unreliable nirvana that animated the Eloi (okay, wrong story, but they were definitely Eloi in MM2 and they are definitely Eloi again in MM:FR), but this time it’s not about the how they will flee, it’s about how they are fleeing.
So how does something that is pretty much a 120 minutes car chase not bore like a 120 second drum solo? Well, partly it’s due to the acting (Hardy and Theron get some great support from Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Keays-Byrne, back for another go after his turn as the Toecutter in MM1) but it’s mostly due to the car choreography and cinematography. Placing CGI at the service of the crew (and not the other way round, as is so often the case) allows director George Miller to deliver scenes of terrible beauty, nodding towards the likes of the legendary Hollywood stuntman, Yakima Canutt, ensuring that the whizzes and bangs never quite overpower the people. And, though it’s a tinge disappointing to know (and see) that the location is not the Australian Outback, teeming with hostile life, but Namibian desert, bereft of anything living, the wide shots are wondrous to behold, and so, so worth investing in a cinema seat rather that waiting for the DVD release, which will be flat beer after this heady brew.
Not everyone will like it – at times I felt the awful prospect of Zardoz looming into sight and there are plenty of parallels with Total Recall, but none of Paul Verhoeven’s wicked wit – but such are mere quibbles about a movie that was costed at $150M and puts every last cent on the screen for us to enjoy.
He’ll be back too, and it won’t take 30 years this time.
You can read my review of MM1 and MM2 here.