Starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. Rated 14A. Opens Friday (May 15)
We’ve all been burned before, so let’s get to the nitty-gritty: Mad Max: Fury Road, thank God, is a spectacular success. Thirty-six years after he made the shoestring crash-’em-up that gave us both Mel Gibson and visual shorthand for every postapocalyptic film following in its long wake, director George Miller returns from a lengthy sojourn with animated penguins to remind us how it’s done.
Fury Road is actually more closely related to the filmmaker’s two previous sequels, The Road Warrior (1981) and Beyond Thunderdome (1985), since it’s essentially one long chase scene set well into the planet’s post-oil collapse. If the original trilogy endures because of its prescience—who hasn’t imagined Bartertown on the horizon now that peak oil is mundane dinner conversation?—Fury Road advances Miller’s vision with newer extinction-event worries.
After losing his V8 Interceptor in an ambush, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy, perfectly cast, obviously) gets dragged off to Citadel, an oasis of sorts in the middle of an irradiated desert. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is the boil-infested despot controlling the water supply and maintaining a cancer-ridden army of religious, meth-addled “war boys”. These kamikaze fuckers are just one of four armadas on the tail of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) after she busts out of Citadel in a tricked-out rig with Joe’s most precious resource: his wives. An uneasy alliance with Max ensues.
And here, amid a masterful, epic symphony of truly insane stuntwork, Miller establishes Fury Road as something much greater than the average blockbuster. Political smarts aside, this maddest of Maxes also retains just enough of the original’s gonzo Ozploitation humour to satisfy the old-timers. As one exasperated ocker puts it as he careens across the desert: “All for a bloody family squabble!”