It isn't everyday that a filmmaker returns to a franchise that they brought to the silver screen decades earlier. However, that's exactly what has happened in the case of writer/director George Miller with his newest entry titled Mad Max: Fury Road. Currently, the majority of action cravings are fulfilled with superhero flicks from Marvel, leaving the R-rated stuff on the sidelines, but Miller welcomes it with open arms in a way that feels both unique and immensely well-utilized. If you're a fan of the genre, then the trailers should have made this one of your most anticipated titles of the year, but I never would have guessed that it would be one of the best action films in decades.
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic desert landscape, humanity has eroded into complete chaos. Max (Tom Hardy) and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) are two rebels with a mission that just might be able to restore order. The former is a man of few words who is simply seeking survival, while the latter is a woman with the desire to return back to her childhood homeland. Despite their differences, they're going to need each other if they hope to have any chance of making a change.
Nostalgia is an inevitable element in Mad Max: Fury Road, but Miller and co-writers Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris have created something spectacular that stands on its own from the original trilogy. Rather than explaining Max's story all over again, his personal demons are ultimately what define many of his motivations. Surprisingly enough, this isn't his story. Max is constantly incorporated into the plot, although this is Imperator Furiosa's story. She's a powerful character who manages to evolve the franchise in a way that is massively successful. Ultimately, both characters grow together as the events continue to unfold, although this is her journey, and she's putting everything on the line to achieve her dreams of returning home. Otherwise, there isn't too much of a plot to speak of, but that isn't necessarily a negative thing. Rather, it's a film about two individuals fighting to achieve something meaningful.
Mad Max: Fury Road is light on the plot, but to call it hollow filmmaking would be incorrect. It's incredibly rich in its themes, which surprisingly never feel heavy-handed. This is a film about differences between salvation and redemption, as they relate to character motivations. Perhaps the strongest of the themes happens to the picture's strong sense of feminism. Few action films take the stand that Mad Max: Fury Road does. Not only does it deliver one of the best female action heroes in recent times, but there's a clear sense of gender equality, which is quite refreshing. The society's attempt to control women is represented by some mean looking chastity belts, although they soon claim their independence by the symbolic removal of the belts in a scene that is subtle, but powerful. The setting may be in post-apocalyptic times, although it feels more relevant than ever.
When it comes to the action itself, it's nearly impossible to get better than Mad Max: Fury Road. It's big, loud, and brutal. Miller has taken the typical car chase that we've come to expect from action flicks, and turned them into something much more intense. Sporting a wide variety of different vehicles for Max and Imperator Furiosa to face, the constant challenges that they must confront never get stale. Much like the vehicle that they're driving, the pacing doesn't take many stops. From the moment the film begins to its conclusion, Miller's newest motion picture is ridiculously smooth and fast-paced. This is two-hours of pure action that is guaranteed to leave your jaw on the theater room floor. An action film hasn't had the ability to have me at the edge of my seat since The Raid 2. Warner Bros. has proven that they have a real winner on their hands that will surely make quite the impression on audiences around the world.
Even with Miller's brilliant hand at work, this film wouldn't be the same without the cast that it managed to get on board. Tom Hardy is an excellent Max Rockatansky. He doesn't have many lines of dialogue, but he still manages to perfectly portray the character in a great way. Even so, Charlize Theron steals the spotlight as Imperator Furiosa. Not only does she display her incredible range as an action star, but she makes this character even more interesting than the role would have been otherwise. The performance is what will ultimately have audiences truly invested in the role. Nicholas Hoult proves to be a highlight as Nux. He contributes a large amount of personality to a character that could have become bland as the story progressed. This is an impressive cast that pulls it all together.
Despite writer/director George Miller's brilliant character and theme decisions, it's his work behind the camera that especially stands out. Mad Max: Fury Road is an absolutely gorgeous piece of cinema, with each frame looking like a painting. John Seale's cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, as the color palette evolves from rich yellows and oranges to a bold blue that perfectly captures the dire situations that Max and Furiosa find themselves in. The audio mixing and editing is just as impressive, as it can best be described as an assault on the ears, but in the best way possible. The sound matches the visuals' massive scale, as roaring engines and huge explosions shake the theater. Needless to say, this should undoubtedly be seen on the big screen.
Forget about The Avengers: Age of Ultron, because Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action films in decades. It's light on story, but heavy on some critical themes that make it feel remarkably relevant. The feature's true sense of feminism (gender equality) is exceptionally refreshing, ultimately making Furiosa one of the most exciting action stars of all time. Meanwhile, this is a solid two-hours of pure adrenaline that is sure to leave you begging for more. It will undoubtedly be the best film in the genre this year. Mad Max: Fury Road is an instant action classic. It belongs in the collection of any action film connoisseur.