Oh what a film, what a lovely film! George Miller's Mad Max franchise is finally back after 30 years, and it's fueled with more energetically mad action than ever before
After being in development hell for 25 years, George Miller somehow still managed to make it happen, and it was well worth the wait. Miller has directed and at least co-written the original trilogy, strangely went on to do family films like Babe (1995) and Happy Feet 2006) which received Oscars awards and nominations and did their sequels as well before finally able to go into production for Mad Max: Fury Road. This is the first film of Miller's highly influential Australian post-apocalyptic action franchise in 30 years since the third instalment, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and what a lovely piece of action epic it is.
Although it is not necessary to watch the first three films before catching this one, they do help provide a better idea on how the world has gradually turned into this mad dystopia, and you could also see how they influenced many films and ripoffs like Waterworld (1995), Hook (1991), The Punisher (2004), Saw (2004) and countless more. Fury Road also briefly referenced some things that were from the original trilogy but they are unlikely to be directly related to this story or the new characters.
The timeline of Mad Max is set in the future where there's nothing much left after the global nuclear wars besides survivors in the deserts with radioactive scraps and scarce resources that uncivilised people would rob and kill for. The titular hero, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), is a former patrol cop who has become an anti-social scavenger after his family was murdered in the first film (1979) but although all he wants to do is to survive and be left alone, he tends to stumble upon strangers who he can't escape from helping. The film opens by briefly explaining what happened to the world and to him before Max gets robbed, again. He's taken to a dessert kingdom called Wasteland that's ruled by a cruel tyrant named King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who needs equipment to help him breathe, like Darth Vader.
Nothing makes sense anymore in this world and innocent minds could easily be manipulated by smarter people who were from the pre-apocalyptic society. Joe's loyal army called the War Boys would die for him like suicide bombers as he made them believe that his hard-to-get approval would bring them to heaven. Due to the conditions that they are in, the War Boys would die young due to their poor health. They are seen to be praying to V8 engines as though they're some sort of a god. George Miller has succeed once again in expanding this mad, mad world to whole new level of crazy.
While being tied up and used as a "universal donor", basically a human blood bag for a War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult), Max meets Furiosa (Charlize Theron) during the War Boys' convoy chase against her as she's attempting to runaway from Joe with his 5 hot wives, whom Joe sees as his properties. With a common enemy at their backs, Max joins forces with Furiosa to escape from Joe and the War Boys.
The performance by Tom Hardy (Child 44) is fine (but what's with his new accent again?) but he lacks the heroic charm and relatability that the original actor, Mel Gibson, was able to give as Max. However, it may be deliberate as it seems that there's a balance of heroic focus between Max and Furiosa. Miller has clearly expressed his intention of producing another sequel titled Mad Max: Furiosa immediately if Fury Road is successful. So it's obvious that Miller wishes to try to move forward with this franchise by going down that path of replacing the male hero with a female one. The portrayal by Charlize Theron (Prometheus) as this tough, courageous one-armed heroine is likable enough, but I'm not sure if I'd want to see her as the standalone protagonist.
Nicholas Hoult's (Warm Bodies) performance is perhaps the most standout one as he portrays the crazy and yet pitifully innocent Nux. The franchise is known to have reoccurring cast members playing different roles. Hugh Keays-Byrne, who plays the role of Immortan Joe here, is the actor who also played the main antagonist, Toecutter, in the very first Mad Max film 36 years ago. But unlike the extremely psychopathic Toecutter, his villainous role this time is limited to just shouting a few lines, moving around slowly and driving. To be fair, the actor is almost 70 years old.
With today's film-making technology at George Miller's disposable including over 10 times of the production budget he's ever had to make a Mad Max film and the return of Rated R violence, it allowed him to create this worthy sequel that's thoroughly entertaining and packed with epic action from beginning to the end in spectacular visuals and special effects that he probably couldn't have done 30 years ago. And with the cinematography by John Seale and music by Junkie XL including a mix of epic classical pieces like Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem, Miller was able to deliver more than what the fans may be expecting. He didn't just maintained the spirit and energy of the previous films, but he pushes it even further by giving the entire film the high-paced violently exciting action that usually only comes in the final act climax in the previous films.
If you're familiar with the Mad Max films, you would know just how fun and thrillingly engaging each action sequence can be in a single scene. It's not just car chasing, gun-fighting, crashes, destruction and explosions, each action scene has a lot something else that's happening concurrently while the vehicles are moving at seemingly high speed, and none of the action is repeated. The choreography and writing are so creative and inspiring that we never dared to hope for in most action films today. With this awesome "renewal", so to speak, the franchise is now ready for Miller to produce more sequels. I can't wait to see how much more he could offer with the franchise using the latest cinematic technology.
The script, co-written by Miller with Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, does not provide much dialogues but it smoothly maneuvers the film straight into the action while revealing the plot in between. Surprisingly, there are also effectively emotional moments, which is quite amazing considering that there isn't really any character development. The design of the vehicles, set and characters have never been a let down in the franchise as well. There is just so much improvements and brilliant madness in this sequel that it's hard to argue that this may be the best instalment in the franchise, and probably deserves to be involved in the coming awards season.
Malaysia censorship: Nothing seems to be cut at the press screening. It's extremely violent but not gory or overly brutal. Pokies (shape of nipples) of the girls in sexy tight white clothes can be seen throughout the movie but since these were edited off from the still images, I wonder if the public release's version of the film would have them censored somehow.
To watch in 3D? The press screening was in normal 2D format only. The film was not filmed in 3D and instead, remastered into IMAX 3D format in post-production. So I'm guessing that there isn't going to be much difference watching it in 2D or 3D.
Second opinion: My girlfriend dislikes most action flicks but she said enjoyed this one very much as the action scenes feel more purposeful.
Verdict: Not only Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action flick of the year thus far, but also the best film of the year thus far, and it's perhaps a tie with Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) for the number one spot in the franchise. Please don't ever take another 30 years to make another instalment, George!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Post-apocalyptic action
Running Time: 120 minutes
Director: George Miller
Screenwriters: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz
Malaysia Release Date: 14 May 2015
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: Kennedy Miller Mitchell, Village Roadshow Pictures
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