Mad Max is a road movie, a ‘Fury Road’ movie. They all chase each other up a dusty track in the desert. And then they all go back the other way. And that’s it. So why is it such a punk-tastic, jaw-dropping, mind-bogglingly enjoyable reboot? Well…
George Miller, who directed the original with Mel Gibson as a lawman gone rogue back in 1979, has pulled off with his stunning reboot what Ridley Scott sadly failed to do with 'Prometheus' - wrench his era-defining franchise, kicking, screaming and punching into the 21st century. And beyond.
With ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, Miller has avoided the obvious prat trap of trying to expand on the simple themes of the original film. The story is linear, almost claustrophobic on paper. Max Rockatansky - played with taciturn, impressive restraint by a sand-tousled Tom Hardy - is taken prisoner by the henchmen of the Citadel. These are post-Apocalyptic times, and King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) plays tyrant over his water-starved people with his fickle hands on the taps, while his hand-picked harem continue to pump out the prized amber nectar of mothers’ milk. Well, of course.
Before long, Max is plotting his escape, which involves reluctantly joining forces with fellow rebel, one-armed warrior Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron who has gone to the opposite end of the physical spectrum from her Oscar-winning Monster, but with equally impressive results. Here, she is all Amazonian strength, rationale and emerging compassion - think Ripley’s natural successor - until the fraught odds of their successful arrival in ‘the green place’ begin to weigh her down.
And they’re off. And Immortan and his army of War Boys give chase. And that’s it. Except it’s so much more, through Miller’s inspired choreography of war on wheels. In one corner, Max, Furiosa and a bunch of rescued handmaidens led by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, in the other an army of chalk-skinned, howling warriors who leap, grunt, howl and, when all else fails, swing on sticks to claim their prey and do their master’s bidding.
In their midst is a wriggly Nicholas Hoult, cackling, crying and wishing for Valhalla, somewhere between Serkis’s Gollum and Ledger’s Joker, and somehow - in the midst of this bonkers battle - surprisingly moving and memorable.
This all occurs to a pumping soundtrack provided by tireless drummers and even some 1980s time-travelling rock guitarist strapped to the front of one war machine, grinding out riffs as if life thereon depends. Which, in this strange universe, it no doubt, does.
It is balletic, batty and brilliant, and even with the caveat that this is by no means my normal ‘thing’ - ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ makes for all-consuming viewing. The plot’s simplicity has enabled Miller to create a loony but logical universe, where people will really go to these ends for a pint of milk and, very soon after opening titles, and unlike Max, Furiosa and their motley brood of comrades, all I could do was surrender.
'Mad Max: Fury Road' is on UK release from this Friday 15 May. Watch the trailer below...