Although “Mad Max: Fury Road” is, in essence, a two-hour extended car chase, it’s also a surprisingly well plotted, thought-provoking and tense action film. Taking place in the post-apocalyptic Australian desert, the film follows an emotionally unstable drifter Mad Max (Tom Hardy), who finds himself fleeing with a ragtag band of rebels from a psychotic warlord who controls his people by controlling their access to resources. It’s based on the classic 1980s franchise “Mad Max,” known for its “road warrior” mythos and violent action scenes. Reboots of well-loved classics like the “Mad Max” franchise don’t always pay off (remember 2012’s “Total Recall”?), but this time, it works—to the tune of a 98 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating.
First, a confession—I haven’t seen the original “Mad Max” films (I know, I know, it’s going on my movie bucket list). 😉 However, I’m happy to say the film works well on its own, even for those who aren’t familiar with the characters or the setting. It did take me just a bit to adjust to the world (which is a mix of futuristic sci-fi elements and old-fashioned technology, like the modified vehicles seen in the trailers), but once I did, the plot quickly pulled me in.
In the film, Charlize Theron plays Furiosa, one of the warlord’s lackeys who decides to go rogue on a supply run. The warlord sends out a search party to bring her back—which includes Mad Max (against his will). Max escapes and discovers that Furiosa has actually rescued some of the warlord’s “wives” (who are really just slaves) and is trying to transport them to safety. He reluctantly joins their quest, which also eventually includes one of the warlord’s sickly soldier slaves, Nux (Nicholas Hoult).
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this film and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It’s a good all-around action film; there’s a constant sense of tension running through the movie, even in the quieter moments, and you’re never allowed to feel that the characters are “safe.” I liked all the old-fashioned car parts that had been re-purposed into more futuristic war vehicles (my favorite was the hot rod “tank”).
However, as mentioned before, “Fury Road” is also refreshingly thought-provoking with good character development. It’s nice to see major roles for a variety of female characters in an action film. Although Mad Max is the character with his name in the title, Furiosa is just as much a main character as he is (if not more so). The slave wives are treated as little more than property by the warlord, but the film does a nice job showing who they are as individuals and how they begin to discover their own identities on the journey. Helping on the quest also starts to restore some of Mad Max’s humanity, which he had all but lost in the post-apocalyptic desert. I also liked how Nux discovered his humanity too, and realized he had more to live for than just dying in the glory of battle to please the warlord.
My only real complaints about the film were the flame-shooting electric guitar included in the war party (it was just a bit too over-the-top for me), and I also wish we’d seen just a little more character development and screen time for Mad Max. Still, I walked out of the theater very impressed and would definitely like to watch this one again.